The Ascension of the African-American Quarterback

“Black as the Pit from Pole to Pole”


                It is certain that the current look of the National Football League does not match the look of the NFL from your childhood. Quick! Name all the starting Black Quarterbacks during your 7th grade year of middle school. Are you done? Great! I’m sure that didn’t take long. Also, I’m quite sure you were probably able to name them all one hand. Depending on your age, you may not have required any fingers for that tally.

In the true spirit of accounting, to tally the number of starting Black Quarterbacks in the 2013 NFL season, one would require both hands. This season, as many as 9 Black Quarterbacks started week 1 in the NFL. Somewhere in Texas, Charlie Ward is building a time machine. A winner of the 1993 Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, and Davey O’Brien Award, Ward to date is the only Heisman Trophy winner to play in the NBA. Yes, you read that correctly; He played in the NBA. Unfortunately, for professional football fans, Ward was thought to be too small to play professional football in the NFL. The fact that de did not play in a pro style offense also was to his detriment. After a stellar collegiate career at Florida State University as a multi-sport student athlete, Ward decided that if he was not selected in the first round of the NFL draft, he would not play football professionally. Ironically enough, Ward was drafted with the 28th pick in the first round of the NBA draft by the New York Knicks. Even though he never played baseball collegiately, he was also drafted in the 1993 and 1994 Major League Baseball drafts. Sadly, the closest Ward got to the NFL was an offer to back up Joe Montana during the twilight of the legend’s career with the Kansas City Chiefs. You see, during the early 90s, a mobile strong armed Quarterback with a considerable amount of melanin was not as desirable as it is today.

Today, nonconventional offenses like the Pistol and Spread have found their way to the National Football League. As a result, franchises are now in the market for Quarterbacks who can beat defenders one on one in the open field. In essence, franchises are in the market for the next Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, or Russell Wilson. These Black men represent the current face of the NFL Quarterback.  During the 90s, former Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Randall Cunningham was thought to be too undisciplined to run Rich Kotite’sversion of the West Coast offense, because of his desire to run out of the pocket. Forget the fact that this style of play earned Cunningham four Pro Bowl nominations (1988, 1989, 1990, 1998), one AP First Team All-Pro nomination (1998), three NFL MVPs (1988, 1990, 1998), one NFC player of the year (1990), one NFL Comeback Player of the Year (1998), and an induction into the Philadelphia Eagle Hall of Fame (2009) among many other career accolades. Any Quarterback in today’s NFL would be a first ballot Hall of Fame inductee with these statistics.

Popular culture icon Shawn Carter once told us that numbers don’t lie. Well, the statistics report that the National Football League is finally catching up to the rest of society and the American Civil Rights movement. Blacks are now considered intelligent enough to become Head Coaches and Quarterbacks. This weekend, The Super bowl will feature a young Black Quarterback who defies the numbers in regard to his measurements and style of play. Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks will literally face the face of the old guard National Football League Quarterback Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. No matter the outcome of the game, it is clear that the Black Quarterback is finally here to stay. However, a Seattle win may cause a “Black Out”.