We need to talk about the significance of two black quarterbacks going head to head in the Super Bowl.
For so long, black quarterbacks weren’t even given the opportunity to sink or swim at their chosen position. And in a way, that’s still true, because I’m sitting here talking about the best of the best. One of which, Jalen Hurts, was asked at the NFL Combine just a handful of years ago if he’d consider switching positions, and had articles written about him saying a position switch was the only way he’d make an impact in the NFL.
Now it’s true that every so often a white quarterback will make that type of transition from college to the NFL. Julian Edelman did it. I had a teammate in Jacksonville do it. Matt Jones. And we all remember Tim Tebow getting charity reps at Tight End last year.
And I’ll admit that I spent the first two years of Josh Allen’s career calling him a running back. I got a lot of pushback on that. And while this was one of the RARE occasions that I was wrong, it was interesting to see predominantly white fans get in their feelings about my perceived mischaracterization of Allen’s abilities. Now if I can only get them to make the connection that the emotion they felt in defense of Josh Allen is something we have to go through almost every single time, as people continue to fail to see past the athleticism of someone with dark skin. Lamar Jackson. Justin Fields. Jalen Hurts. The list goes on.
Jalen Hurts vs Patrick Mahomes is another milestone of progress, but it shouldn’t always be about excellence. True equality looks like a mid-round black quarterback throwing five interceptions in a single half and still being a backup in the league four years later. But I digress.
Now, none of this means black quarterbacks can’t be criticized. I interviewed Jalen Hurts and his father, Averion, and even they’ll tell you a lot of progress had to be made as a passer to get the Eagles offense where it is today. And that brings me to the part of being a black quarterback that doesn’t get talked about- the energy and resources that are put into developing young black men as passers, instead of coaches relying upon these players to “athlete” their way to wins. A big part of development is patience. Maybe the biggest part.
There is no Peyton Manning without the patience to ride out his record-setting 28 interception rookie season. And before you say to yourself, Peyton Manning is one of one, let me hit you with this interesting statistic:
Since Peyton Manning’s rookie season, there have been eight quarterbacks to come into the NFL as rookies and throw at least 18 interceptions in their first year. On one side of that statistic, you have Carson Palmer, Matt Stafford, Andrew Luck, and Mark Sanchez. Every single one of them was given a multitude of chances to figure it out. On the other side, you have DeShone Kizer, Josh Freeman and Geno Smith. Kizer never started a single game after his rookie season. Freeman ended up out of the league at 27-years old in large part thanks to Greg Schiano, and Geno Smith had to wait six years to prove himself again after the Jets gave up on him. If you’re a black QB with a high draft grade that comes in and struggles early, you might as well come into the league at 29-years old, which was the age of the only white QB on this list who wasn’t given a long leash to prove himself.
Shout out to Chris Weinke.
Look at the JETS and Zach Wilson, and all the “we aren’t giving up on him” talk.
As a parent of quarterbacks, I want my sons to absorb all of the lessons this Super Bowl has to offer. I want them to understand that development matters over the logo on the side of the helmet, and I want them to value coaches and organizations that show patience. Neither the Chiefs nor the Eagles put the entire weight of their franchise on these guys as rookies.
More than anything, I just want my sons to see two black quarterbacks on the field, because for most of us, seeing is believing.
I’ve had a black teammate tell me they prefer white quarterbacks for the simple reason that he hadn’t seen enough successful black quarterbacks.
If we’re thinking that way in our own communities, it goes a long way to explain how people that aren’t in our communities view what we’re capable of.
But on Sunday, a hundred million people are going to see something new. And that means a good portion of them are going to believe something new.
And belief is the start of change.
So for every black father of sons out there. For every football coach of any race:
Let *this* sink in.
As an aside, I want to Shack Harris, Marlin Briscoe, Doug Williams, Fritz Pollard, George Taliaferro, Willie Thrower, Charlie Brakins, Warren Moon, Rodney Peete, Mike Vick, Randall Cunningham and all the other black quarterbacks that made this historic moment possible.