The 49ers didn't have an active third quarterback in the NFC Championship loss to the Eagles. But with the new rule change, could it have mattered?
There's a new NFL rule in town, one that's becoming known as the "Brock Purdy rule" in light of the injury he suffered during the San Francisco 49ers' loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship game last January.
For the context, Purdy exited with what turned into a UCL tear in his throwing elbow, which gave way to backup quarterback Josh Johnson entering the game midway through the first half. But Johnson suffered a concussion not long therafter. Since the Niners had no other quarterbacks rostered, Purdy had to re-enter the game and was essentially nothing more than a glorified hand-offer on run-only plays for the rest of the tilt.
San Francisco lost 31-7.
The new rule, one which allows teams to carry a third quarterback without impacting the 46-man active gameday roster, went into effect during the offseason.
Interestingly enough, statements like the one below are actually incorrect:
It was actually the Detroit Lions, not the 49ers who proposed the rule change. Not kidding.
Naturally, the new rule has created something of a stir. There are arguments in favor of it, saying the NFC Championship game would have at least been more competitive and interesting if a non-injured quarterback was able to play instead of a hobbling Purdy.
At the same time, others have criticized it and pointed out that it wouldn't have made a difference, including Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.
Well, is Kelce right? Could the Niners have won the game if they were carrying a third quarterback behind Purdy and Johnson?
Would 49ers win NFC Championship game if they had a 3rd quarterback?
Again, a necessary disclaimer: What-if scenarios are silly, because "what ifs?" don't actually exist in reality.
However, we all do them. "What if San Francisco drafted quarterback Aaron Rodgers instead of quarterback Alex Smith way back in 2005?" Heard that one before, right?
Anyway, it's fair to ask whether or not the 49ers could have won that game in Philly against the Eagles despite losing both Purdy and Johnson.
The answer? Probably not.
Sure, the below gif would apply here:
But in all reality, the Niners would have probably still lost, and it still would have been a one-sided affair.
Backup quarterbacks rarely get any first-team reps during practices leading up to a game, and slim are the chances they take over in a playoff scenario and have much success. Case in point, during the NFC Championship, Johnson went 7-of-13 for 74 yards and was sacked twice before his game-ending concussion.
A third-string quarterback would've had even fewer (if any) reps in practice leading up to the week. The only advantage is that he'd be more adept at actually throwing a football as opposed to one of San Francisco's "emergency" quarterbacks on the roster, fullback Kyle Juszczyk or running back Christian McCaffrey, the latter having actually attempted a pass during the game.
Still, the rule does make some sense. Had the 49ers carried an extra quarterback, the threat of a passing game would have modestly been there, and the game probably would have been slightly more entertaining if not still nearly impossible for the Niners to win.
If the NFL is all about entertainment, the rule makes sense. Even if San Francisco would have lost anyway.