NFC Championship Shows It’s Time To Bring Back 3rd Quarterback Rule

Videos by OutKick

What an absolute dud of an NFC Championship.

It started as a highly anticipated matchup between the No. 1-seeded Philadelphia Eagles and the Mr. Irrelevant-led San Francisco 49ers. It ended in a 31-7 beatdown by the Eagles on their home turf.

Not to take anything away from Philadelphia, but the game might have been different if not for San Francisco’s quarterback woes.

Rookie starter Brock Purdy (already San Francisco’s third-stringer) exited the game with an elbow injury in the game’s first possession. Fourth stringer Josh Johnson got the nod after that. Johnson went down with a concussion in the third quarter.

With no other option, the 49ers almost had to finish the game with running back Christian McCaffrey under center.

The NFL Needs To Bring Back The Third Quarterback Rule
Brock Purdy walks into the medical tent after suffering an injury during the first quarter of the NFC Championship. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)

The NFL used to have a solution for this quarterback debacle.

From 1990 until 2010, NFL rules governed the use of an emergency third quarterback in addition to the starter and backup.

It worked like this: Each team could dress 45 players. If it had two quarterbacks dressed for the game, it could also dress a third quarterback who did not count toward that limit.

However, if that third quarterback entered the game for any reason before the end of the third quarter, both the starter and the backup became ineligible.

Full text of the rule:

Teams will be permitted an Active List of 45 players and an Inactive List of eight players for each regular-season and postseason game. Provided, that if a club has two quarterbacks on its 45-player Active List, a third quarterback from its Inactive List is permitted to dress for the game, but if he enters the game during the first three quarters, the other two quarterbacks are thereafter prohibited from playing.

Official NFL Rulebook

The NFL abolished the third quarterback rule in 2011 and increased the roster size to allow 46 players to dress for the game.

The NFC Championship showcased the need for an emergency third quarterback.

OutKick founder Clay Travis said it’s time to bring the rule back. The real question, he asked, is “Why did they ever end it in the first place?”

Well, the answer is unclear. But most analysts agree that the third quarterback rule was always needlessly complicated.

For most teams, having extra depth at another position would have been more useful than the ability to insert the third quarterback into the game whenever they please. So players and owners collectively agreed to abolish the rule.

But that decision might have been a mistake. And Clay isn’t the only one who thinks so.

To be fair, every team still has the option to dress a third QB — he would just count as one of their 46. But most teams opt to have an extra position player available instead.

It’s a risk-reward strategy, I suppose. And one might argue that if you’re down to your third quarterback, you’re probably screwed anyway.

But tell that to QB3 Brock Purdy.

Written by Amber Harding

Amber is a Midwestern transplant living in Murfreesboro, TN. She spends most of her time taking pictures of her dog, explaining why real-life situations are exactly like "this one time on South Park," and being disappointed by the Tennessee Volunteers.

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