Black Quarterbacks Changing Perceptions as NFL Playoffs Near

Quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick (Stacy Revere/Getty Images) Robert Griffin III. (Rob Carr/Getty Images) & Russell Wilson (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick (Stacy Revere/Getty Images) Robert Griffin III. (Rob Carr/Getty Images) & Russell Wilson (Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Young quarterbacks have been the dominant storyline of the 2013 season.  Of the 12 NFL playoff teams, six start quarterbacks that are either in their first or second year. The days of needing an established veteran at the quarterback position may be over.

Of those five young starting quarterbacks, three are African-American. Rookies Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson will play each other in the premier wildcard game this weekend, with the Washington Redskins hosting the Seattle Seahawks Sunday afternoon. Colin Kaepernick gets a week off, as he helped lead his San Francisco 49ers to a bye.

And while our common notions of the how much experience is needed for a quarterback to to lead a team to the Super Bowl may be changing, the notions that many have for the black quarterback may finally begin to change too. RGIII, Wilson and Kaepernick have shown just how far black quarterbacks have come.

In the last two decades, most black quarterbacks were known for their running ability, athleticism, or physical gifts much more than their accuracy, efficiency or leadership. Players like Michael Vick, Daunte Culpepper, Kordell Stewart, Akili Smith, Aaron Brooks, Vince Young, Tarvaris Jackson and Jamarcus Russell all fit nicely into that stereotype. Even smart leaders – like Steve McNair and Donovan McNabb – were never lauded for their brains the way their white counterparts were.

Kaepernick, RGIII and Wilson are all leading their teams differently. They all can (and have) hurt opponents with their feet. But it’s what they’re doing with their arms and heads that have put their teams in the playoffs this year.

Check the trio’s quarterback average quarterback rating this season: 100.2.

News flash — let’s go beyond “they’re great with their legs” kind of praise.

After sitting on the bench most of his rookie year, Kaepernick started the final seven weeks of the regular season after an Alex Smith injury (Kaepernick actually saw playing time in all 16 games though). Smith was having a career year before the injury, but coach John Harbaugh stuck with Kaepernick even after Smith was healthy because of how dangerous the 49ers offense is with Kaepernick at the helm.

He’s a frightening runner, but what scares opposing defensive coordinators more is his accuracy. He’s got nice touch on deep balls — he’s 13 of 24 for balls thrown 20-plus yards – and allows playmakers like Vernon Davis and Randy Moss to display their big-play ability. Smith was a solid quarterback, but Kaepernick makes San Francisco a legitimate Super Bowl contender.


RGIII has somehow exceeded the completely unrealistic expectations that were put on him before the season began. He has changed the culture of the Redskins while becoming the most exciting player in the league.

He has flashed his track star running ability several times this year, and it’s been one of the reasons the Redskins have the No. 1 ranked rushing offense. But what has really impressed is just how deadly RGIII has run the newly-implemented pistol offense.

RGIII has been playing with a sprained PCL for the last two weeks, an injury that has robbed him of his explosion. But he has still been effective because he’s so deceptive running the read option with Alfred Morris, so accurate finding receivers on short outs and slants, and so smart in not turning the ball over. The efficiency that RGIII displays in the Redskins’ offense is the main reason why the Redskins are on a seven-game winning streak.

Wilson has proven everyone wrong this year. He’s shown detractors who questioned his height that he has some Drew Brees in him. He’s proven the 29 teams that passed on him (and 26 passed on him multiple times, including his own Seahawks), that you could find franchise quarterbacks in the third round. He’s shown that black quarterbacks’ strengths can be described with the words “leader” and “intangibles.”

From the day Wilson showed up, everyone who met him said he had something that couldn’t be taught. He walked in a leader from Day 1. After the Seahawks paid millions for Matt Flynn in the off season, he convinced Pete Carroll in four weeks of preseason football that he should be the starter. And after coming into the league less heralded than RGIII or No. 1 pick Andrew Luck, he’s in the driver’s seat to win Offensive Rookie of the Year.

These three young stars are also three of the most exciting players in the league. They’re all known for being freak athletes, having explosive speed, and possessing the elusiveness of a running back while playing the quarterback position.

But they’re all better known for the other qualities they bring to the position. And those qualities are re-defining the way people look at black quarterbacks.

article by Stefen Lovelace via

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