Opinion: The rise of black quarterbacks has been a long time coming

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  • Elijah Jackson, senior journalism major, is the Sports Editor for the George-Anne.

Elijah Jackson

With the end of the Super Bowl, and Patrick Mahomes being named the Super Bowl MVP after leading the Chiefs to their first NFL championship since 1970, it truly put a stamp on a NFL season that was historic for black quarterbacks which showed that the rise of the black QBs had been a long time coming.

As an African-American male myself, I have been a fan of the NFL all my life. Growing up, Michael Vick, Steve McNair and Donavan McNabb were the only successful black quarterbacks in the league.

But while those guys were all good in the prime of their careers, stereotypes in the NFL prevented them from having good lengthy careers.

The stereotypes start in college and come to a full circle during the NFL draft process.

Stereotyping in the NFL Draft has always been a thing that has negatively impacted black QBs in the sports media. For example, Dante Culpepper and Tee Martin who were both black quarterbacks were described more as “physical specimen” and “impressive specimen” while the white quarterbacks are usually described as “good signal callers” and “real students of the game.”

Why weren’t Culpepper or Martin described as good signal callers or students of the game? Culpepper was drafted in the 1999 NFL draft in the first round as the 11th pick. In college, he had 11,412 yards and 84 TDs, while also having over 1,000 rushing yards. He went on to become a three time Pro-Bowl player while setting the then single record for most total yards produced by a QB in a season in 2004 with 5,123.

Martin led the Tennessee Volunteers to a 1998 National Championship. If those aren’t students of the game or good signal callers, then I don’t know what one is.

Nowadays, when it comes to scouting reports black QBs are still treated with the same typical stereotypes that they used back in the day. The difference is that now they have the audacity to tell the players that they aren’t good enough to play QB in the NFL and that they should switch positions.

My favorite example of this is when Lamar Jackson was coming out of college for the 2018 NFL Draft. Former NFL General Manager and Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Polian said on a radio show that Jackson should switch to wide receiver because “the accuracy isn’t there” and that Jackson is “short” and “slight”.

The audacity to say that about a guy who won the Heisman Trophy, and about the same guy who broke countless records at Louisville is unspeakable. This was only said due to the color of his skin.

Michael Vick once said, “A lot of us aren’t viewed as passers, we’re viewed as athletes. I think it’s unfair and unfortunate.”

In my opinion this stereotype is dumb because we have seen countless guys be signed or drafted over black QBs who were worse passers than the black QBs.

I feel that if teams would stop using the stereotypes against the black QBs and actually use those stereotypes to help the black QBs succeed, in my opinion there would be a lot more black starting QBs.

This was thing that happened for Lamar Jackson, the Ravens went from a passing offense to a run first offense while taking advantage of Lamar’s strengths to make his weakness look transparent.

Polian hasn’t said a peep since Lamar has gone on to shock the world after setting the season record for rushing yards in a season by a QB with 1,206 and winning the NFL MVP in his second year while being the second-ever unanimous selection for the award.

Lamar became the fourth African American QB to win the MVP award joining Mahomes, Newton and McNair.

Out of the 12 teams in the playoffs this year, four of those teams were led by a black QB.

Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, Jackson, Kyler Murray and Cam Newton are all modern black starting QBs who have broken the mold and have performed beyond the expectations set for them and broken the stereotypes of them not being able to last long in the NFL as passers or that they needed to have switched positions.

I hope that with this season and postseason in the history books, the NFL will stop putting all of the usual stereotypes onto black QBs and give them more chances as starters in the league.

There are plenty of black QBs that if given the chance can be just as good as the next guy.