clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The 5 O’Clock Club: The ‘emergency’ quarterback - who gets cut from the 53 to keep Jake Fromm on the roster?

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Minnesota Vikings v Washington Commanders Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club is published from time to time during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

CLICK HERE to see the full 5 o’clock club archive

So, in case you missed it, last month, the NFL voted to pass ‘the Brock Purdy’ rule, which allows teams to have an “emergency quarterback” dressed and available for each game.

Many fans will remember that the league had a similar rule years ago that was scrapped as part of roster expansion that happened in 2011. In 2010, teams could have 45 players active for a game. If they had two quarterbacks active, they were allowed to dress a third quarterback who did not count toward that limit. However, if the third quarterback entered the game at any position before the third quarter ended, the starter and backup quarterbacks became ineligible to play for the rest of the game. The third quarterback, however, could play in the fourth quarter while preserving the eligibility of the starter and backup.

With the 2011 CBA, teams were given flexibility to have 46 active players instead of 45, and to use the extra roster spot on whatever position the coaches wanted. Thus, the old emergency quarterback rule was scrapped at the end of the 2010 season, and nobody seemed to miss it until the NFC Championship game earlier this year, when the 49ers had to put an injured Brock Purdy back out on the field shortly after halftime when backup Josh Johnson was knocked out of the game.

As a result of that debacle (in a conference championship game no less) the rule has now made a comeback, and it is similar to the old rule, but not its identical twin. Here is the explanation of the 2023 version of the rule from Sporting News:

NFL emergency QB rule change

The quarterback will only be allowed to enter the game if the quarterbacks in front of him are injured and cannot play. If the team dictates that the two quarterbacks ahead of the emergency QB can play, then the emergency QB will not be permitted back on the field.

In a nutshell:

— Teams who are carrying two quarterbacks on their active roster on game day may carry a third, emergency quarterback (from the 53-man roster) who does not count against the team’s game day roster;

— The emergency QB will not be allowed into the game unless the two active quarterbacks are injured or disqualified from the game;

— The emergency quarterback must be removed from the game if either quarterback is medically cleared to return to play;

— Teams that choose to have three quarterbacks on their active roster on game day may not utilize an emergency quarterback.

One key item to note here is that the emergency quarterback has to be on the 53-man roster. The only real concession in this rule from what was in effect in 2022 is that the designated emergency quarterback doesn’t have to be on the active roster to get into the game.

Ron Rivera carried three quarterbacks for parts of the 2020 season when he had Haskins, Allen and Alex Smith, and he kept 3 signal callers on the roster last season except when Carson Wentz was on injured reserve. In 2021, however, the coach opted to have 2 QBs on the roster, with Kyle Shurmur on the practice squad, Rivera’s confidence in Shurmur must not have been very high; he chose to sign Garrett Gilbert off the street to start a Week 15 game against the Eagles rather than rely on Shurmur, who had spent nearly the entire season with Washington.

Going into the 2023 season, if the head coach wants to make use of the emergency quarterback rule, then he will need to keep a 3rd QB on the roster as he did for most of the 2020 and 2022 seasons. Absent any surprising changes between now and September, that 3rd guy would most likely be the 24-year-old 4th-year QB Jake Fromm.

The decision to have 3 quarterbacks on the roster instead of, say, carrying Fromm on the practice squad, would mean having one less player in another position group on the 53-man roster.

It seems reasonable to wonder if the Commanders might not be equally well-served by having a limited package of plays for Logan Thomas to run if a 3rd quarterback were needed in an emergency in order to allow the team to carry just two quarterbacks on the regular roster. Thomas, after all, is a fairly competent passer and he knows the offense.

But, if we assume that the coaches decide to take advantage of the new emergency quarterback rule by carrying Fromm on the active roster, which position group would you look to for cutting the 54th player from the roster?


From which position group would you cut a player to keep a 3rd QB?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Offensive Line
    (29 votes)
  • 4%
    Defensive Line
    (46 votes)
  • 9%
    Wide Receivers
    (91 votes)
  • 5%
    Defensive Backs
    (47 votes)
  • 9%
    Tight Ends
    (85 votes)
  • 3%
    (31 votes)
  • 13%
    Running Backs
    (121 votes)
  • 51%
    I wouldn’t keep a 3rd QB
    (478 votes)
928 votes total Vote Now


Which approach would you prefer?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    If two starters get injured, rely on Logan Thomas to finish the game at QB
    (556 votes)
  • 28%
    Carry a 3rd signal caller on the roster as the ‘emergency QB’
    (221 votes)
777 votes total Vote Now