In the NFC Championship Game in January, the San Francisco 49ers couldn’t protect their quarterbacks from the Philadelphia Eagles’ pass rush. As a result, the Niners’ only two quarterbacks on the roster — Brock Purdy and Josh Johnson — got hurt, and the game became non-competitive in the second half because they didn’t have anyone left who could throw the football.
In the aftermath of their blowout loss in Philadelphia, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, general manager John Lynch, and numerous high-profile players — including Deebo Samuel, Christian McCaffrey, and Brandon Aiyuk — have whined to varying degrees for the last four months about how they feel that they were robbed of a chance to go to the Super Bowl.
One of their many complaints was that the NFL should have an “emergency quarterback,” AKA a third quarterback who is allowed to enter the game if the first two quarterbacks get knocked out. Of course, the NFL used to have an emergency quarterback rule, which they abolished in 2011, instead allowing teams to use that extra “emergency quarterback” roster spot for any position they’d like. To be clear though, there was/is no rule prohibiting teams from dressing three, four, five, six, or more quarterbacks for a game.
On Monday, the NFL passed a rule to bring back the emergency quarterback:
It should be noted that the emergency quarterback rule was technically proposed by the Lions, even if the clear impetus for it was the 49ers’ complaints. Detroit’s proposal allowed for a quarterback on the practice squad to serve as the emergency quarterback. However, if you read the rule change announcement above closely, you’ll see that the owners voted that the third quarterback must be on the 53-man roster. He cannot be a practice squad call-up.
Some teams carry a third quarterback on their rosters. Some don’t. The Niners didn’t even have a third quarterback on their practice squad, much less their 53-man roster, heading into the NFC Championship Game. Meanwhile, the Lions have carried just two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster in the two years of the Brad Holmes / Dan Campbell era. Their No. 2 quarterback in 2021 was David Blough. In 2022 it was Nate Sudfeld. Those guys aren’t exactly Steve Young backing up Joe Montana. They feel like an odd team to have championed this rule change.
Anyway, now that we have properly revisited why this rule change came to be…
What does it mean for the Eagles?
It’s good! While there have been times that the Eagles only carried two quarterbacks on their roster because they didn’t have a third guy worthy of a roster spot, they prefer to carry three. In training camp this upcoming summer, sixth-round rookie Tanner McKee will battle it out with 2022 waiver claim Ian Book for the QB3 job.
Book was able to stick on the Eagles’ roster for the entirety of the 2022 season, but his services were not needed. Whether it’s McKee or Book (McKee is probably the favorite), it felt clear that the Eagles would carry three quarterbacks anyway, even with a loaded roster. Their No. 3 quarterback is almost always listed among the inactives on gameday, so from now on they’ll get a freebie.
If you’ll recall, there was once a time when the Eagles could have used an emergency quarterback. In the 2019 playoffs, Carson Wentz got speared by Jadeveon Clowney, and was forced to leave the game with a concussion. Josh McCown entered and promptly tore a hamstring, but remained in the game. He was ineffective playing on one leg, and the Eagles couldn’t get anything going on offense, much like the Niners in the NFC Championship Game. The key difference is that Eagles players, coaches, and front office personnel didn’t endlessly complain about their loss until the NFL changed the rules.
On the “potential lolz” front, it will be interesting to see how the Niners utilize their emergency quarterback spot to begin the season. Currently they employ four roster-worthy quarterbacks in Purdy, Trey Lance, Sam Darnold, and Brandon Allen. Purdy is recovering from the torn UCL he suffered in the NFC Championship Game, and there is a scenario in which he isn’t medically cleared for the start of the regular season, but is on the initial 53-man roster. Would the 49ers carry four quarterbacks on their 53-man roster just so that they can have an emergency quarterback on game day? That would be a hilarious overcorrection. Or would they dare to only dress two quarterbacks and not even have an emergency quarterback after bitching about the lack of one all offseason?
Oh, and Thursday Night Football is now flexible 👎
The NFL approved a new television rule that will allow for Sunday games to be flexed to Thursday night.
The CliffsNotes on the above are that the league can flex Sunday games into Thursday nights from Weeks 13-17 with at least 28 days notice. No team can play more than two Thursday night games in one season, nor can they be flexed into Thursday night more than once per season.
This is another reminder that the league cares WAY more about squeezing every last dollar out of their product than they do about fans who buy tickets to attend games.
It should be noted that Jeffrey Lurie voted to pass this new rule.
Lurie was asked about flex scheduling at the NFL Owners Meetings in March.
“It’s an ongoing discussion as you may know,” Lurie said. “It was brought up. It’s a big jump to have an NFL package on streaming. We know that we’re headed to a very digital universe. More and more people are watching games through streaming. I think we know that that’s where it’s all headed. And so there’s an attempt to want to make the Thursday night package even more attractive. There are ways of doing that. We could allow teams to be on there more than once, and not require every team to have to be on there, so that you can create some matchups in May when you’re doing the schedule, and try to have a better series of matchups for Amazon and for the ratings and the fans watching on Thursday night. Flex scheduling, we’ll have to see. There’s more talk on that. Nothing has been resolved for flex scheduling on Thursday.”
It would be refreshing if the owners just said, “Look, Amazon is paying us a butt ton of money to televise Thursday night games, so we kind of have to give them good ones, and their money matters more than people who buy tickets to see games.”