Jordan Sernoff ‘20, Staff Writer

Super Bowl 22 featured possibly the greatest Super Bowl performance of all time. On January 31, 1988 the world of quarterbacking in the NFL changed forever. Doug Williams a journeyman quarterback who had not been in the NFL in 1986 won Super Bowl MVP in a 42-10 win over the Denver Broncos. Williams threw for four touchdowns in the first half of the game, something nobody had ever done in the Super Bowl. Even more impressively he completed this feat entirely in the second quarter. This was one more thing no QB had ever done in the Super Bowl. He had also just become the first black quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl and a Super Bowl MVP.  Unfortunately, this was pretty much all Doug Williams would accomplish over his career. However, he had opened the door for future generations of black Quarterbacks. Super Bowl 22 showed the rest of the league that black QBs were capable of winning in the NFL. One that was in the league along with Williams would rewrite the record books.


Warren Moon was a successful college QB but due to the racial beliefs of the time Moon would go undrafted by the NFL after he refused to change positions. Many did not believe a black QB could ever be as successful of a thrower as the white quarterbacks of the time or the legends of yesteryear. Moon knew this and embraced it. This idea of forcing black quarterbacks to switch positions to “better” utilize their athleticism still has roots today. Moon going undrafted by the NFL highlights the power that one misguided idea can truly hold. So, he went to the one place that would allow him to play QB. Moon would travel to Canada and become one of the greatest Canadian Football league players of all time. In Canada, he became the first professional Quarterback ever to pass for 5000 yards when he passed for 5000 yards exactly in 1982. The next year he passed for 5,648 yards and had pretty much accomplished all he could in Canada (Moon, CFL statistics). By 1983 the NFL could no longer ignore Moon’s talents and a bidding war began between the teams. The Houston Oilers’ (now the Tennessee Titans) head coach was Moon’s head coach for a time while he played in Canada and soon Moon was in the Oilers’ baby blue uniforms.

Over the course of the next 14 years, Warren Moon rewrote the NFL passing record book. When he retired, at the young age of 44, he held or was within the top five in every passing category in the NFL. Warren Moon proved to the entire football world that black quarterbacks can have just as much success, if not more than a white quarterback could. Moon understood the gravity of what he was doing to the NFL. “Throughout my career, I was never able to relax; I always had to go on the field with another responsibility. I felt like I was playing, not just for my team, but for my race” (Warren Moon Quotes, A-Z quotes).

Moon was a trailblazing force for black players across the NFL not just at QB. Since he concluded his career Moon has been a mentor to many black quarterbacks that have entered the league, including first round picks Cam Newton and Deshaun Watson and future Hall of Famer Russell Wilson. To this day Warren Moon is the first and only black QB in the NFL Hall of Fame.

In 2001 the Michael Vick experience was unleashed on the NFL. Vick would become the first black Quarterback taken with the 1st overall pick in the NFL. Surprisingly, on the day before the draft the Atlanta Falcons would swap their picks with the then San Diego chargers. In the end Michael Vick had been traded for future Hall of Fame running back LaDanian Tomlinson (Throwback: Falcons Trade Up with Chargers, Draft Michael Vick First Overall). Vick would go on to become the first QB to rush for over 1000 yards in a single NFL season. Vick was the most athletic QB anyone had seen to this point and packed an absolute cannon of an arm too. His highlights in Atlanta are legendary and influenced not only another generation of QB’s but a generation of football players and athletes.

For the first six years of his career aka the Michael Vick Experience Vick was a terror on the league as a runner and was able to make plays with his arm but was not nearly as proficiently. Nike went so far as to create an ad that features a theme park esque ride that mimics the motions and athleticism that Vick displayed weekly on the field (Remembering Nike’s classic ‘The Michael Vick Experience’ commercial you wanted to be real, Harry Lyles Jr.). Unfortunately, Vick would have legal issues that took him out of the league for two years. Upon his return with the Philadelphia Eagles Vick had developed as a passer but still carried his legendary athleticism. This next evolution of Vick would win comeback player of the year, and he would have his best year as a quarterback. Vick’s career would be hampered by injury from then on, but he had already made more than an impact on the NFL.

2006 and 2007 would see a major step back for Black quarterbacks. Vince young out of Texas and Jamarcus Russell from LSU were taken with the 3rd overall and 1st overall picks respectively in back-to back drafts. Highly touted and labeled with possible the strongest arm in NFL history, Russell had lofty expectations. Unfortunately, Jamarcus highlighted every bad quality that a QB could have and lived right up to beliefs that many still held about black quarterbacks throughout the years. He was lazy, disrespectful, hard to coach, did not work out, and only lasted three years in the NFL.

Russell is synonymous with the terrible record that his Oakland Raiders had and to this day is a horror story for not only scouts and teams when it comes to the draft but is a shining example of how not to conduct yourself during an NFL career. Vince Young was a superstar in college and had led his team to an incredible win over USC who had won back-to back national championships. Young would come into the league hot winning rookie of the year but would lose his starting job within the next two years. Young was forced to win his job back but was never the same after a knee injury ended his season in 2008. Young is now infamously remembered for uttering one phrase that to this today lives in infamy. In 2011 having a brand new start with the Philadelphia Eagles who had just made a host of big offseason acquisitions, Young called the Eagles a “Dream Team” (Vince Young declares the Eagles to be a “Dream Team”, Mike Florio). The Eagles finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. This would be Young’s last official chance to play in the NFL. Both quarterbacks had attitude problems and were never truly franchise quarterback material.

They would serve are harsh reminders for quarterbacks of the future, especially black QBs who would now be compared to these two at the slightest sign of problems.


Since 2010, an amazing number of black quarterbacks have taken over the league. By next season at least 13 teams could have black quarterbacks leading their teams on Sundays. That’s almost half the league. Russell Wilson is the QB for the Seattle Seahawks and has already been to two Super Bowls, winning one with the legendary Legion of Boom defense in Seattle. Wilson has been the starting quarterback for Seattle for the past eight years and has been a revolutionary quarterback in multiple ways. Wilson is 5’11, tiny for a quarterback who most people prefer to be around 6’3 or taller. Wilson can make up for this with a level of athleticism that allows him to avoid tackles and sacks on every play.

What makes Wilson so different from Michael Vick is that Wilson is one of the best pure passers the NFL has ever seen. He is second all-time in passer rating (a stat given to every QB after every game rating their performance) to only Aaron Rodgers a legend who is known for rarely giving up the ball (NFL Passer Rating Career Leaders, Pro-football reference). Some believe Wilson is the one who truly broke the final color barrier for Quarterbacks. Before Wilson many still believed that black Quarterbacks could not carry franchises to a Super Bowl like many other QBs had done throughout history. They were complementary, while the rest of the team did the bulk of the work. Wilson saved the Seahawks from making a terrible disaster as they had just given Matt Flynn a massive new contract that was about to ruin Seattle for the foreseeable future. Wilson would take over for Flynn, lead the Seahawks to back-to back Super Bowl appearances and the rest is history.

Patrick MaHomes, Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, and Dak Prescott are both the future and the present of the black QB. All four have very different styles of play but all four have been very successful in their young careers with Prescott leading the way with two division titles. However, Patrick MaHomes has taken the league over and if he continues his current pace will rewrite the NFL passing record book. In his first year starting and his second year in the league overall MaHomes passed for 5,000 yards and 50 TDs in an MVP winning season.

Only six other quarterbacks have passed for 5000 yards in an NFL season. Only one has done it multiple times (Drew Brees) but Mahomes has more than a chance to do it multiple times over his career. However, only one other Quarterback has ever passed for 5,000 yards and 50 TDs. Peyton Manning did so in 2014, one of the most amazing seasons ever seen by an offense and one no one believed that we would ever see again. Unfortunately, Manning’s offense ran into Russell Wilson Legion of Boom and were embarrassed in the Super Bowl. MaHomes continues his insane pace into the 2019-2020 season but is currently dealing with a defense that forces him into constant shootouts and in the end is holding him back from making a run to a Super Bowl . Deshaun Watson was on his way to be the rookie sensation that MaHomes was in his second year before a torn ACL suffered in practice ended his season.

Over last season and the beginning of this season Watson has shown to be a great leader and although his is very unconventional he manages to pull out wins from improbable situations. As recently as this past Sunday Watson made a highlight touchdown throw after being spun around in the pocket by a defender and kicked in the face. These kinds of amazing plays are made every week by MaHomes and Watson. Both are great passers who are mobile enough to avoid the blitz and make an extremely accurate throughs down field. They will be battling for MVP’s for seasons to come.

Finally, we have Lamar Jackson and Dak Prescott. Both are not on the same passing level as Wilson, Watson, or MaHomes but they are both winners. Jackson is the second coming of Mike Vick but is already a better thrower and has been able to protect himself better than Vick as well. Much like black QB’s of the past many in and around the NFL did not believe Jackson was an NFL caliber QB and wanted him to switch positions. For much of his first year Lamar was not the starter and only came into the game as a wildcat QB. Under these conditions he is not truly a quarterback and the play would require a run from Jackson with no options to pass. After an injury to starter Joe Flacco Jackson proved himself to be a capable passer who can make most of the throws required by the NFL even if he couldn’t do it consistently. Coming into this season this was the biggest question mark about Lamar Jackson. Would he be a strong enough thrower to be successful in the NFL. Jackson responded with a five TD performance against the Miami Dolphins in week one. Over one offseason Jackson has already shown great improvement as a passer and is also on pace to rush for over 1000 yards, which would be the second time ever a QB has done so. To put this in comparison Tom Brady reached 1000 career rushing yards last season, in his 19th year in the NFL (Tom Brady surpasses 1,000 career rushing yards in 19th season, Mike Reiss). Lamar Jackson has set the NFL on fire this season and is currently on a strong track to becoming the 2012-2020 NFL MVP.

Dak Prescott is the QB and face of the Dallas Cowboys. This alone is a major accomplishment as the Cowboys are the most recognized team in sports. They are the most valuable team in sports and no matter their level of success have a loyal and delusional fan base that puts them at the very heart of the NFL’s media coverage. Prescott is inconsistent like Jackson but is a better thrower overall. Prescott does not do any one thing better than any of the QB’s mentioned so far but he is a warrior who will fight to the very last snap of the game and often does so in a winning effort. Since 2016 when came into the league Dak trails only Tom Brady for both wins and game winning drives. Prescott is liable to throw two interceptions before half time but then throw for 200 plus yards and score two or three touchdowns in the second to come back and win it. Similar to Watson Prescott is just a winner and a strong leader.

He will never be a statistical monster like MaHomes or even Jackson, but he has already been more successful than both and has a strong enough team around him to go all the way to multiple Super Bowls.

Source: The Washington Post

Black quarterbacks have always brought a unique element to the position. They always have an element of athleticism that allows them to be a different beast to go against. Over the course of this piece I have highlighted the ones I believe have made the biggest difference for both the race and the position. One I have not mentioned is Cam Newton. Newton was the 1st overall pick in 2011. He has embodied all the qualities a QB should and shouldn’t have. Of every quarterback mentioned in this piece Newton has the strongest personality and this has become a serious part of his game. Newton is not just an athletic anomaly, but he is also a fashion icon. His unique post-game looks have become major talking points around the NFL and opened the door for athletes to be more expressive on all matters that they deem important. There are also a couple like Donovan McNabb or Randall Cunningham that I did not mention but were also very important in their times. However, McNabb was very similar to Wilson skill wise but was never able to obtain the success Wilson has. Cunningham was the original Vick. Both athletic freaks who were able to improve their passing towards the end of their careers and produce incredible seasons as a result.

Dante Culpepper is another example who was never able to be consistent enough to stay as a starter. However, he also falls into this mold. Athletic enough to move away from defenders with a cannon of an arm. This is the mold of the almost every black QB that has come across the NFL. This athleticism has gone from an impediment to a necessity as this is also the desired mold of QB’s in the NFL now regardless of race. It has been over 30 years since Doug Williams’s incredible Super Bowl performance that has still been unmatched. However, over the course of those 30 years the NFL has not only accepted the black quarterback, it has embraced it. Like I said previously, almost half the league’s starters next year could be black. It is truly incredible to watch and experience this rise to superstardom and acceptance.

Source: Sport’s Illustrated