It was an interesting Sunday afternoon for the Denver Broncos, to say the least, but Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones believes he can relate. Ahead of their Week 12 matchup with the New Orleans Saints, the Broncos were forced by the NFL to place all of their quarterbacks on the COVID/Reserve list. The league deemed Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles as high-risk close contacts to third-string quarterback Jeff Driskel, with the latter testing positive for COVID-19 and the former three having allegedly opted against wearing masks while in each other's company.
The sweeping move by the league forced the Broncos into a frenzy, landing on practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton as their starter, and creating a massive disadvantage competitively that played out on the field as everyone projected it would. Hinton did his best with a bad situation but, for Jones' part, he feels the situation the Broncos were thrust into is equivalent to when the Cowboys named rookie seventh-round pick Ben DiNucci as starter against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 8.
In a Tuesday morning interview with 105.3FM the Fan, the Hall of Fame owner used the comparison to crutch a point regarding the integrity of the game, and his belief that competitive disadvantages still exist in a season ravaged by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"I don't know that Denver had any more of a challenge than we've had with [Ben] DiNucci or with the young quarterbacks that we've had," Jones said. "And, by the way, two or three of those [Broncos] quarterbacks will be back from the [COVID/Reserve list]."
It's a bold comparison, if not a downright inaccurate one that takes a swipe in both directions, seeing as the Broncos wished they had a QB of any sort to take on the Saints, while DiNucci would rather not be compared to a practice squad wide receiver.
The numbers bear this out in a big way, seeing as Hinton finished the game with just one completion for 13 yards on nine attempts, along with two interceptions and a passer rating of 0.0, while DiNucci's start yielded 21 completions on 40 attempts for 180 yards and a passer rating of 64.6. One week prior, in stepping in for a concussed Andy Dalton, DiNucci threw two completions for 39 yards in 12 offensive snaps. It's almost like DiNucci is actually a quarterback, or something. Additionally, Dalton is 33 and Garrett Gilbert will be 30 this summer, so the Cowboys have actually only played one "young" quarterback whose name wasn't Dak Prescott.
Good news arrived in Denver with Lock, Rypien and Bortles having all consistently tested negative for the novel coronavirus, putting them on track to potentially return to play as early as Week 13. Many are crying foul though, pointing at how the NFL forced the Broncos to play their scheduled game without any QBs while having now postponed the Ravens' bout with the Pittsburgh Steelers multiple times due to an outbreak in the Baltimore clubhouse. Whatever your stance, the fact is the NFL entered the season and determine the outcome of games, but while Jones acknowledges the impact of COVID-19 on the 2020 regular season, he's standing firm on what he feels about the integrity of NFL football right now.
If anything, he's harkening back to a point he made when it was the Tennessee Titans fighting through an outbreak earlier in the season -- .
"Boy, we have been schooled in the NFL -- the teams have been schooled [by COVID-19]," he said. "You had really better pay attention to your protocols. You better manage. Don't just give it lip service.
"Don't just roll your eyes back and say, 'That happens to them. That doesn't happen to me.' ... And I don't mean to be trite about it, but that happens in football. Better be ready to have somebody come in there. All teams are advised that do logical things relative to separation, relative to having your players available when you got COVID challenge and do those things -- because it could make a difference in scoring points or make a difference in how you defend somebody.
"That's part of coaching. That's part of managing the game."
The problem is, this isn't a version of the game anyone's ever seen before and, again, wide receivers aren't quarterbacks.