New Roster Rules Mean Broncos Don’t Have to Name a Second-String QB

Quinn and Tebow

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Broncos will have a No. 2 and No. 3 quarterback heading into the Week 1 clash with the Oakland Raiders. Just don’t expect them to share which role will belong to which backup.

For that matter, don’t be surprised if the Broncos aren’t the only team to be reticent over declaring a clear-cut backup. With the rules regarding an emergency No. 3 quarterback tossed aside as part of the new collective bargaining agreement, there’s little reason to do so.

“It’s a competitive disadvantage to announce that just from the standpoint of different strengths and weaknesses by particular quarterbacks,” said Broncos coach John Fox, who added that the new rules were entirely responsible for that decision.

In previous years, the entry of the No. 3 quarterback into the game prior to the fourth quarter instantly rendered the other two quarterbacks ineligible to play.

The most famous example of a crisis caused by this rule was for the New York Jets in their 1999 season opener against the New England Patriots. Their starter, Vinny Testaverde, tore an Achilles tendon in the first half, forcing combination punter/quarterback Tom Tupa into service. The Jets’ true backup quarterback was Rick Mirer, but as the emergency No. 3 quarterback, his entry in the first three quarters would have left the Jets without a punter, since he would have instantly rendered Tupa ineligible.

When the fourth quarter began, Mirer could step under center. Of course, that turned into a disaster; Tupa had thrown two touchdown passes on 6-of-10 passing and racked up a 143.8 rating, while Mirer promptly went 4-of-11, threw two interceptions and posted a 5.3 rating.

Last year, the issue was occasionally a conundrum for then-Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, who actually named Brady Quinn as the No. 2 quarterback for the Week 3 game against the Indianapolis Colts. For Kyle Orton’s other 12 starts, Tim Tebow was the No. 2 quarterback, because he could be used in goal-line and short-yardage situations.

Now, Fox doesn’t have to make that call. Quinn might be the Broncos’ second-teamer — but unless Orton is injured, fans and opponents alike might be kept guessing.

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About Andrew Mason

Andrew Mason has covered the NFL since 1999, when he worked as an editor on when the site was managed by He worked six seasons (2002-07) covering the Broncos on their official website and two (2008-09) on the Panthers' site. He began in 2010 and now contributes to, The Sporting News and The New York Times.
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6 Responses

  1. I don’t know enough about Fox to know if he would do it, but the one situation where Fox would name a number two is if he chooses to roll the dice and only dress two QBs on game day.

  2. I think that this rule change, and our unique QB situation, creates a nice little advantage for the Broncos, as well as some other teams (Bills come to mind) who have QBs who are multi-talented.

    • This might give run-intensive quarterbacks a new path into the league, knowing they can be legitimately used as change-of-pace players for 3-5 plays a game. In the future, I can see guys who would have otherwise been ticketed for the CFL (because of the wider field and greater emphasis on free-lancing) playing out their careers as situational QBs in the NFL.

  3. I can not see a coach wasting a game day slot by carring all three QB’s. That would be just dump.
    If you take away the hyperhole, then there is no question who the better QB is to come in for KO, Brady Quinn easyly.

    • Wasting a spot? It’s actually no different than previous years except that you can actually put the No. 3 QB in without having to worry about losing eligibility on two other players.


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