As the NFL prepares for a return to action in the coming months amid the coronavirus pandemic, numerous measures will be put in place to try and ensure the safety of the players. Testing and forcing separation in locker rooms will be essential to stopping or limiting the potential spread of the virus.
However, even with the protocols, there is still a chance that a player could test positive, which then brings up many concerns. One being: What happens if a positive test spreads and a position runs thin? Specifically, what happens if it spreads in the quarterback room and a team has no options under center?
That exact scenario is something Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians is considering, and he hasn't ruled out the idea of keeping one quarterback away from the others. On former NFL player Chris Long's "Green Light" podcast, Arians explained his rationale.
"Yeah, that's one of the things I've been pondering the last two or three weeks, as we set the protocols. From what I'm understanding is if you test positive, you get quarantined for two weeks. Now, if you have no symptoms, I don't know what that means -- is it a false (positive)? Is it... there is so much to learn and still explore with this thing," Arians said. "But I've thought about keeping the third quarterback on the roster out of the room. We have two guys [Ryan Griffin and Blaine Gabbert] that have been in our system, really sharp. So, I might have to quarantine a quarterback just in case of a quarantine."
Looking at the local NFL teams who are faced with the same dilemma, is this something that could work for the Ravens or Redskins?
Examining Baltimore's situation, the team does have a deep quarterback depth chart that makes it possible, but considering rookie Tyler Huntley has no NFL experience, he's not a big part of the equation. Leaving him out is risky because if it were to come down to him playing, he'd be very much in the dark. Quarantining another backup option seems more likely.
When it comes to whether Robert Griffin III or Trace McSorley goes, it's not a clear-cut decision. Based on the depth chart, McSorley being third makes it seem like he's the better option to hold out so that Griffin can continue to work with Lamar Jackson and gain reps.
However -- if both were to test positive -- is McSorley the player the Ravens would want under center? A second-year passer with no real experience that is still grasping the system and has now been away from the team during training camp and film room sessions is not exactly what you want. If Griffin is quarantined from the other quarterbacks, he at least has experience as a starter and a stronger comprehension of the Ravens offense.
Therefore, if Baltimore wanted to enact this strategy, it makes more sense for Griffin to be on his own in case he needs to assume the starting role.
As for the Redskins, the decision is even harder based on lack of experience. Though there is hope Alex Smith can once again return, Washington only has Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen and Steven Montez for now. Haskins is the starter entering camp, so do you send Allen away?
That seems unrealistic even though the quarterback does have experience in Scott Turner's system from his time with the Carolina Panthers. He's young and is joining a new team; leaving him on the outside would put him in a tough position should he have to play. Arians believes it could work because two of his quarterbacks have a lot of experience in the system, the Redskins don't have that luxury.
But if Allen stays and the QB room becomes an infection zone, what happens then? Does Montez, an undrafted free agent, become your starting quarterback if he is kept separate? Does 2-for-2 lifetime passer/punter Tress Way give it a go? Your head begins to spin just thinking about all the scenarios.
Arians' idea is something that all teams will have to address given the circumstances. Some may opt to try it out, others may feel its better to have all their quarterbacks with them. The Ravens are better off than the Redskins, but that doesn't make the decision any easier.
The 2020 NFL season will most likely be like nothing anyone has dealt with before in the league, meaning coaches will have to continue to navigate headache-inducing decisions like these.
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