The Washington Times - September 22, 2011, 02:43PM

The Cowboys’ Tony Romo has a cracked rib and punctured lung. The Eagles’ Michael Vick is trying to shake off the effects of a concussion. The Colts’ Peyton Manning is still on the sideline after undergoing neck surgery. Shall I go on?

The Bengals’ Andy Dalton (helmet to right forearm) and the Rams’ Sam Bradford (nerve injury in right forefinger) were knocked out of their openers. The Falcons’ Matt Ryan (knee), the Raiders’ Jason Campbell (foot) and the Colts’ Kerry Collins (shoulder) have been limited in practice this week.


The Bears’ Jay Cutler, after getting sacked six times and kicked in the throat Sunday by the Saints, answered “I don’t know” to the question: Can you survive the rest of the season if you continue to absorb this kind of abuse? And Philadelphia, let’s not forget, played its No. 3 QB in Week 2 – after Vick had his bell rung – because backup Vince Young was inactive with a balky hamstring.

And it’s only the third weekend of the season.

I bring this up because there was a fair amount of discussion hereabouts when the Redskins made their final cuts and kept just two quarterbacks, Rex Grossman and John Beck. Kellen Clemens and Matt Gutierrez, both of whom have spent some time in the NFL, were sent packing, and Jonathan Crompton, who has passed through several organizations without finding a home – the most recent being the Bucs – was signed to the practice squad. (Clemens and Gutierrez were ineligible.)

Mike Shanahan said the decision had much to do with the new rule that expands game-day rosters to 46 (instead of 45 plus an emergency quarterback). After all, he argued, the emergency QB rarely plays, whereas the 46th man might contribute on special teams, as a situational player or just by adding an extra guy to a rotation. The coach also said he wouldn’t be surprised if plenty of other teams took advantage of the rule change and carried only two quarterbacks.

A quick scan of opening day rosters reveals that 20 clubs kept three QBs and 12 kept two. This was just a slight difference from Week 1 last year, when 22 clubs – including the Redskins (Donovan McNabb, Grossman and Beck) – kept three QBs and10 kept two. Plenty of other clubs, in other words, didn’t take advantage of the rule change. But the Redskins did and, depending on how you look at it, were able to hang onto either an eighth wide receiver or a ninth linebacker.

Obviously, it’s a calculated risk. It’s just riskier in this era of empty backfields, stripped-down pass protection and blitz-crazy defenses. Every season, it seems, the league passes another piece of legislation aimed at protecting quarterbacks. Carrying only two of them is, well, kind of tempting the fates.

For the record, just 12 quarterbacks started all 16 games a year ago (Sam Bradford, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Josh Freeman, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Mark Sanchez, Matt Schaub). Nine teams, on the other hand, started two different quarterbacks and 11 started three. Here are the unlucky 11:

● Bills – Ryan Fitzpatrick (13 starts), Trent Edwards (2), Brian Brohm (1).

● Browns – Colt McCoy (8), Jake Delhomme (4), Seneca Wallace (4).

● Cardinals – Derek Anderson (9), John Skelton (4), Max Hall (3).

● Cowboys – Jon Kitna (9), Tony Romo (6), Stephen McGee (1).

● Dolphins – Chad Henne (14), Chad Pennington (1), Tyler Thigpen (1).

● Jaguars – David Garrard (14), Trent Edwards (1), Todd Bouman (1).

● Lions – Shaun Hill (10), Matt Stafford (3), Drew Stanton (3).

● Panthers – Jimmy Clausen (10), Matt Moore (5), Brian St. Pierre (1).

● Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger (12), Charlie Batch (2), Dennis Dixon (2).

● Titans – Vince Young (8), Kerry Collins (7), Rusty Smith (1).

● Vikings – Brett Favre (13), Joe Webb (2), Tarvaris Jackson (1).

That’s right. The Steelers, who went to the Super Bowl, might not have gotten there if Batch, their No. 3 QB, hadn’t helped them beat the Titans and Bucs early in the season (when Big Ben was suspended).

Do the math and you realize that nearly two-thirds of the clubs (62.5 percent) either started a third quarterback or had him A Heartbeat Away from starting. That’s enough of a reason to keep three QBs. (We won’t even talk about the fact that it’s the most important position on the field.) But beyond that, seven players are still inactive every week, and some rarely if ever suit up. How is that any different from a clipboard-carrying No. 3 QB?

OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now. I just look at some of the hits Grossman is taking – and some of the quarterback casualties around the league – and wonder about the logic of keeping just two QBs. Sometimes, I’m convinced, coaches are too smart for themselves.