Cheated by COVID or Goodell?


Denver Broncos quarterback Kendall Hilton against the New Orleans Saints during NFL football game on Novermber 29, 2020.

Recent positive COVID-19 cases within two National Football League (NFL) teams, the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos, have brought about great controversy. The Ravens had a major outbreak on their team, causing their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers to be postponed three times. The Broncos’ four quarterbacks, meanwhile, were all fined for violating COVID-19 protocols.

Although the NFL had postponed the Ravens’ game, they decided to have the Broncos play their next game against the Saints. With none of their quarterbacks able to play, the Broncos had to substitute in their practice squad’s wide-receiver, Kendall Hinton. The Broncos lost to the Saints 3-31, and Hinton completed just one pass.

The inconsistencies with the NFL’s decisions to postpone games when teams have active COVID-19 cases have called the NFL’s equity into question. Many people find it unfair that the Broncos’ next game was not postponed, and they were not given a chance to perform at their highest level.

Others believe, however, that the Broncos’ and Ravens’ situations were quite different, justifying the postponement of the Ravens game. The Broncos only had one actual positive COVID-19 case. being their starting quarterback, Jeff Driskel. Since the other quarterbacks were in close contact with him while neglecting COVID-19 safety precautions, the NFL deemed all four unable to play. The Ravens received positive COVID-19 tests every day, so the NFL decided the virus was not contained and had to postpone their game.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter explains that the contrasting decisions were “because the league believed the virus was identified, isolated and contained in Denver, whereas it wasn’t in Baltimore. And that’s why that game keeps shifting.”

Still, others like Gian Martinez (I), a Boston Latin School student, are quite upset about the NFL’s decision. He says that it was a “blatant display of favoritism.” There are more claims that the fact that the Ravens have a better chance of making it to the playoffs than the Broncos could have influenced the NFL’s decision.

Martinez agreed with this, saying “That [the Ravens’ chances to make it to the playoffs], coupled with the new youngest star in the NFL and quarterback for the Ravens, Lamar Jackson, being the NFL’s money-maker, surely swayed the NFL in their decision making.”

On the contrary, sports fans such as BLS football coach and mathematics teacher, Mr. Timothy McQuade, believe that the team’s records and playoff hopes had no bearing on the postponements. Mr. McQuade states that “I don’t think that the Ravens’ and Broncos’ records were a determining factor in whether the games were postponed or not.”

The high stakes of clinching a playoff seed are only perpetuating the NFL’s role in this controversy, and the desperation of the teams. Another interesting aspect of this controversy is the Broncos’ solution to their no-quarterback dilemma by trying to sign two of their young assistant coaches as players. Both offensive quality control coach Rob Calabrese and Justin Rascati were suggested to the NFL as potential starters by the Broncos’ staff to fill the void of the four missing quarterbacks.

The NFL declined both proposals, but as Mr. McQuade puts it, “I thought [the coach substitution was] the most interesting story that came out of the Broncos’ situation. […] That would have been quite a story for those guys to tell if it had happened!”

When the final whistle blows, this crazy year seems to leave every team a yard or two short. Every week poses a new challenge for the league to tackle, and, sometimes, some teams fall through the cracks. The play is still under review, however, as to whether the Broncos were cheated of a chance to win, or if the two situations are too different to compare.