The San Francisco 49ers’ dilemma from the NFC Championship in January has led the NFL to approve a rule change before the 2023 season.
The 49ers were plagued with quarterback troubles during their NFC Championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles, which quickly turned into a blowout when Brock Purdy tore his UCL and his backup, Josh Johnson, got a concussion.
Purdy was forced back into the game despite not having the ability to throw the ball, so the Eagles simply teed off on the 49ers’ run game which was a simple defensive call. They waltzed to the Super Bowl, while San Francisco had nothing they could do to put up more of a fight.
This season, though, the NFL has a way of alleviating that situation for teams if it happens on game day. A bylaw was approved on Monday, according to multiple reports, that states a team is allowed to have an "emergency" quarterback on game days.
So, if two active quarterbacks can’t play due to injury or disqualification, the third quarterback can play.
"Each club may also designate one emergency third quarterback from its 53-play Active/Inactive List (i.e., elevated players are not eligible for designation) who will be eligible to be activated during the game, if the club’s first two quarterbacks on its game day Active List are not able to participate in the game due to injury or disqualification (activation cannot be a result of a head coach’s in-game decision to remove a player from the game due to performance or conduct)."
The rule also states that in the event one of the two quarterbacks is cleared by the medical staff following an injury check, "the emergency third quarterback must be removed from the game and is not permitted to continue to play quarterback or any other position, but is eligible to return to the game to play quarterback if another emergency third quarterback situation arises."
This new bylaw came at the May owners’ meetings.
One of those owners, Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones, spoke about such a rule to Yahoo Sports in February.
"That’s the best way to initiate and the best way to make decisions is when you have examples at, I would say, very sensitive times," he noted regarding rules that could impact playoff games. "And boy, we don’t want teams without quarterbacks in these games where 50 million people are watching."
While it is unlikely to happen again, especially with a conference championship on the line, the 49ers and the rest of the league can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they won’t be out of options if their quarterbacks go down in the same game.