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Quarterback Rule Change: The 49ers Have Their Wish Granted by the NFL

Never again will a situation that the 49ers faced in the NFC Championship game against the Eagles take place thanks to the NFL.

The NFC Championship between the 49ers and Eagles was a complete disaster.

It was supposed to be a vicious battle between the two best teams in the conference, yet it never got close to its potential when Brock Purdy was injured on the opening drive. This forced backup quarterback Josh Johnson to fill in, but he would only last for a stretch as he would sustain a concussion that would not allow him back into the game.

A game like that is where the 49ers were wishing they could have had a third quarterback to step in. Well, the 49ers have their wish granted by the NFL as the league is officially allowing three quarterbacks to be active on game day. The 49ers will never again face a situation like that where they have no one on the game day roster who can sufficiently throw and run the offense. 

“Yeah, I definitely would be in favor of it," said Kyle Shanahan at his exit press conference in February. "We were scared to death when that rule ended, whatever many years ago that was, but you kind of forget about it since you just don't see anyone have to go through it, but then you get reminded of how quickly a football game is over once that happens, so I think that would be a very smart thing to have.”

Below is the new language regarding the inactive/active list for an emergency third quarterback by the NFL. 

One hour and 30 minutes prior to kickoff, each club is required to establish its 45-player Active List for the game by notifying the Referee of the players on its Inactive List for that game. Each club may also designate one emergency third quarterback from its 53-player 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). If either of the injured quarterbacks is cleared by the medical staff to return to play, 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.

A club is not eligible to use these procedures if it carries three quarterbacks on its game day Active List [47- or 48-players in 2023].

Each club may also identify one player on its Inactive List who may dress for the game, provided that (1) such player is a quarterback; (2) the club has two quarterbacks on its 45-player Active List; (3) if the third quarterback enters the game during the first three periods, he must replace one of the club's other two quarterbacks, neither of whom may thereafter return to the game under any circumstances; and (4) if the third quarterback enters the game during the fourth period or any overtime period, he must replace one of the club's other two quarterbacks, either of whom is permitted to return to the gam

The 49ers may have been an advocate for this rule, but the NFL is wise to amend this rule. A tremendous matchup in the NFC Championship was ruined because the 49ers could not function on offense. And while a third quarterback doesn't drastically improve the 49ers' odds of winning that game, it does make them sufficient on offense in theory. 

It had to have been an embarrassing moment for the NFL that this occurred at the pinnacle of their playoff games before the Super Bowl. Had this taken place in the regular season, I doubt the NFL does anything, especially if it was a game between two low-end market teams. But since it was a conference championship game with so many people watching, it entices them more to make that amendment to avoid that disaster. Hopefully no team ever has to endure that again so that the product doesn't diminish.