2020 has been a doozy, for more reasons than would be explicable within 1 blog. The 2020 NFL season is approaching and bound to be one with unique circumstances. One new idea that made the rounds this week was NFL teams rostering an additional backup quarterback kept in quarantine to maintain their health. ‘The Green with Chris Long’, a podcast with former defensive-lineman Chris Long, posed this ‘quarantine QB’ hypothetical. This week, Bruce Arians, the always interesting head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, made a guest appearance with Long. Arians made some headlines with his comments as considering the idea of holding a QB in quarantine.
— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) June 10, 2020
Where’d this idea come from?
To be fair, the first mention I saw of such a concept was back in May, by Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. Twitter’s initial reception to Florio’s suggestion was… pretty dismissive to say the least. As many of us know, Twitter can be a dangerous place for nuanced methods of thinking. But now Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians is pondering the concept. As a result, the tides of public perception are changing on the concept!
Talking about COVID-19 related roster strategy in May felt a little early to me, but it remains something I totally support. As Fall nears, the realities and logistics of the upcoming 2020 NFL season will become clearer. Will there be fans in the stands? How many team personnel will be around the team? Could team travel be limited or done in a different fashion? Will some players with high-risk conditions sit out or be under extra careful circumstances? Things are very much up in the air as the league and health officials monitor the COVID-19 trends, testing methods, and a potential vaccine. While we can only speculate on much of this at the moment, teams should be thinking creatively given the unprecedented circumstances.
Does it make sense?
Personally, I fully support the rostering of a 3rd (or potentially 4th for some teams) quarterback in isolation from the rest of the team. This ‘Quarantine QB’ or ‘QQB’ could be the ultimate failsafe in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak. Especially if that outbreak occurs within the QB position-group. The word is that if a player tests positive for COVID-19, they’d have to be in quarantine for 2 weeks. That’s regardless of showing symptoms, and possibly even if it were a false positive. That’s a MAJOR factor for teams to consider.
Consider this ‘QQB’ as the designated survivor of the team’s QB depth chart. It’s clearly not going to be their best QB, given teams would be putting said player on ‘ice’ in many ways. But, for a team planning to contend in 2020, paying a premium for a high-quality 3rd string QB for this role is a creative insurance policy. Jay Cutler’s ears are already ringing – he was BORN for a lucrative role like this. Why not? Especially if you have enough cap space! Sign a guy like Jay Cutler as a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ QB, and pray you won’t need him. Teams can mess with the money to where it’s incentive-laden. Minimize guaranteed money and offer a higher payday should the QQB see the field or be active in 2020.
Before the naysayers poke holes in this idea, it’s obviously not an infallible plan. Let’s address some of the core arguments behind opposing opinions:
How will this ‘Quarantine QB’ practice and prepare for gameplans?
Teams will likely have players participate team and position-group meetings/game planning occur on a virtual basis, or at least in socially distant circumstances. So the ‘QQB’ shouldn’t miss a whole lot on that front. But not participating in actual practices and missing reps could devastate the ability to develop a rapport with teammates, and be ready for actual play.
Why not just keep a free agent QB in mind, or someone cut from another team?
First, being up to speed with the offense matters, obviously. Bringing someone off the street could be a risky move when it comes to an on-field product. Additionally, teams are likely to exercise ultra-cautious behavior when it comes to personnel. The desired 2 week (roughly) window of not showing symptoms of COVID is an additional wrinkle to factor in. If that’s still the norm when the NFL season begins, adding free agents or players from other teams could become a much more complicated process. As a result, the usual player-carousel could be totally turned upside down this season. Yet another facet of the typical NFL season that might be handled much differently in years past. Something to consider.
If a team has a large number of COVID-19 cases, does it even matter that they have a healthy QB?
Fair question. If 25% of the roster has the virus, pretty safe to say that team might not be able to field a team in the next 2 weeks, if not longer. In theory, no, it wouldn’t matter if the team was inundated with the coronavirus. But, many expect testing to be frequent, so if a player brings the virus to the facility, ideally, it wouldn’t be spread rapidly across the entire roster. However, no one truly knows what’s fair to actually expect. For now, it’ll be a waiting game to see what sort of precautionary health measures NFL teams make for players and team employees.
What to expect next?
Well first, I would anticipate more coaches and front office executives to be asked about this idea. Many are likely to deflect and say they’re looking into it, without committing one way or the other. It could be a quiet stale-mate for now, before the first domino falls. If a few teams sign 1 or 2 more QBs than usual for the preseason slate, teams would likely rush to grab the best backup QBs available.
Personally, I’m fascinated by ideas like this for navigating the risks and challenges of a season with COVID-19 still very much in play. Coach Arians is clearing forward-thinking enough to be open to it, but I’m sure he’s not alone.
How much is an insurance plan for the 2020 NFL season worth to some of these franchises? I guess we just may find out soon enough.
Also: BUY JAY CUTLER STOCK ASAP.
-Mike Gilligan (@BigGilli, @VerbalCommitPod and @SmallStateTakes Podcast) – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/small-state-big-takes/id1432138166 / https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/verbally-committed/id1516871465