By Rickey Hampton, For TheAfricanAmericanAthlete.com
Russell Wilson’s epic performance in the Seattle Seahawks’ thrilling 27-24 overtime win over previously unbeaten San Francisco Monday night, makes him the leading candidate for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award.
If Wilson goes on to win the MVP he will follow Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, the 2018 season winner.
It will also be the first time in the 100-year history of the NFL that black quarterbacks have won the MVP award in consecutive seasons.
But more importantly, the play of these outstanding players signals the emergence of black quarterbacks playing dominate roles in the NFL.
You can argue that Wilson, Mahomes and Houston’s Deshaun Watson and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson (also MVP candidates) are considered to be among the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Dallas’ Dak Prescott sent Tony Romo into retirement when he was drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, and is now working on should be a huge contract extension with the Cowboys.
In just his second season out of Louisville, Jackson has been extraordinary. His playmaking ability is the catalyst of the Ravens’ 7-2 record. Jackson can make breathtaking plays with his arm and his legs, similar to the plays Michael Vick made during his career. Meanwhile, Watson has the Texans in first place in the AFC South and is only in his third season.
Wilson, Mahomes, Watson, and Jackson are just four of the nine black quarterbacks that are currently starting for NFL teams.
It has been a long journey to this point, going back to 1968, when Tennessee State’s Eldridge Dickey was drafted in the first round by the Oakland Raiders, and promptly moved to wide receiver. That same year Marlon Briscoe started five games for the Denver Broncos.
Grambling’s James ‘Shack’ Harris became the first black quarterback to be a fulltime starter in Buffalo in 1969. Five years later TSU’s Joe Gilliam beat out Terry Bradshaw in Pittsburgh as the starter in 1974. History was made when Doug Williams led Washington to the Super Bowl XXII triumph.
Throughout the history of the NFL, there have been great black quarterbacks s like Warren Moon, the Pro Football Hall of Famer. Moon played in the Canadian League early in his career because the NFL simply wasn’t looking for a black quarterback. Moon passed for nearly 50,00 yards and tossed 231 touchdown passes. By the way, Moon led Edmonton to five consecutive championships. He is also in the CFL Hall of Fame.
Randall Cunningham (1985-2001) made some spectacular plays during his career as a starter in Philly and Minnesota. Donovan McNabb and Steve McNair (2003 MVP) took the Eagles and Titans to the Super Bowl, as did Cam Newton (2015 MVP), and Colin Kaepernick (49ers).
These are just some of the black quarterbacks who had significant accomplishments in the NFL. Practically all of them fought some perception or stereotype about being a black quarterback.
Fast forward from 1968 to today, and those perceptions still exist.
Former NFL general manager Bill Polian said that Jackson should switch to wide receiver. Draft guru Mel Kiper didn’t think Jackson was a first-rounder because he wasn’t an accurate passer. But in the Ravens’ win over Cincinnati last week Jackson completed 88 percent of his passes and turned in his second perfect (158.2) quarterback rating.
Jackson continues to make both Polian and Kiper look silly.
It is fitting that Baltimore’s Ozzie Newsome, one of the pioneers for black general managers in the NFL, selected Jackson with the 32nd pick in the first round in the 2018 draft.
Black quarterbacks are making noise across the NFL. Youngsters like Arizona’s rookie Kyler Murray, and Washington’s rookie Dwayne Haskins Jr., who has just been named the starter for the remainder of the season, have bright futures.
And let’s not forget in Tampa, Jameis Winston is only 25. He has all the talent to be an elite quarterback.
This weekend nine black men are expected to start at quarterback. If Newton were healthy it would be 10.
I can see the day when most of the 32 starting quarterback jobs in the National Football League will be held by black men.