Bias and the Black QB in the NFL

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about the historic nature in which the NFL had Black men as starting quarterbacks. I talked, with guarded optimism, about how the associated biases and stigmas that were unfairly levied against Black quarterbacks since the beginning, were finally starting to subside. This new age, this Golden age, of the Black QB was here (finally!) and there was no turning back. But then today told me otherwise. The Washington Football Team, who by the way, should not surprise anyone by their decision considering their history of decision making, decided to bench Dwayne Haskins. Haskins, who was the team’s first round pick last season at fifteen, was expected to be the face and future of the franchise. But it appears that that plan has been unceremoniously ended. And that, quite honestly, is some bulls***. Whatever happened to the days of giving a young guy a chance to develop and work through his growing pains? Whatever happened to giving a young guy a chance to learn from his mistakes and having the opportunity to fight through the tough times? Absolutely damn nothing happened to them, you just not afforded those same chances when you are Black.

Washington Football Team Quarterback Dwayne Haskins

Sam Darnold of the New York Jets has played absolutely terrible this season. He has thrown for less yards, less touchdowns, and more interceptions than Haskins. He also has a lower quarterback rating, completion percentage, and less wins. But better personnel around him. Daniel Jones of the New York Giants, who was drafted ahead of Haskins, has played just as bad as Sam. Neither one of them, however, is going anywhere, and we all know why. Now for those who may try justify the play of those aforementioned guys with the excuses of they are a product of their environment and don’t have the right personnel around them to thrive, while also saying that Washington Football Team was right, I implore you to take a long hard look at not only yourselves in the mirror, but also look at what Dwayne is working with. With only 13 starts in his career, he is on his second head coach, offensive coordinator, and playbook in as many seasons. His starting rookie running back is a converted wide receiver. His starting tight end is a former quarterback. His top wide receiver is in his second year. And his starting offensive line is ranked 29th out of 32 according according to PFF. And they were bad enough last season to have the second pick of the draft for this season. So how again is Dwayne the problem?

In today’s climate it is easy to view things through the lenses of race and racism. So much so, that when we attempt to talk about it, our voices are stifled and our claims are dismissed as playing the victim or playing the race card to cover our own faults. Well this situation is not that. What I’m saying is as real today as it was a hundred years ago.

There has always been unwritten rules surrounding Blacks playing the quarterback position, especially in the NFL. The most widely used claimed was we lacked leadership capabilities. Another widely used fallacy was that we lack the mental wherewithal needed to be successful. I remember reading something a long time ago that stated it should be “whites up the middle.” This means that only whites should play in the positions that required players to think: quarterback, strong safety and middle linebacker. Due to dynamic speed and athleticism, the latter two positions quickly conceded that racist ideal a long time ago and continues to do so. But the white patriarchy would not let the quarterback position, the face of the franchise, go that easily. Black men as quarterbacks have to be exceptional talents. They have to be undeniably better than their white counterparts and incapable of being average for an extended period of time.

The list of names who have defied the odds all fit that criteria at some point. From Fritz Pollard to Warren Moon to Randall Cunningham. As we get closer to the present day, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair, Michael Vick and Dante Culpepper capped off another era. Currently, Russell, Lamar, Deshaun, Patrick and Kyler are all exceptional and dynamic at what they do and will not be denied, although they tried it with Lamar. But the amount that succeeded in spite of the names mentioned pales in comparison to those who were deemed failures because of these double standards . Amazingly enough, it took the league until December 3, 2017 before every single team had a Black starting quarterback when Gene Smith took the field for the New York Giants. For those who were average to good, like Geno and so many others, the leash was short; the excuses were few; the support was minimal; and the margin of error was almost non-existent, which brings me back to today.

I would be lying to you all and downright shady if I denied or failed to mention that things have gotten better. But what Washington has shown me is that Haskin’s talent still isn’t enough. Not only did they bench Haskins in favor of a guy who is less talented and honestly not that good, they slapped him in the face by demoting him all the way to third string. They basically denied him a chance to win his job back. Now how is that fair to him? Trust me, it isn’t. And it’s not right. It’s just the NFL and the way they have always done business when it comes to Black quarterbacks. And while I’m thinking about it, those white analysts play their parts, too, with their veiled language and coded words disparaging Black quarterbacks. But I’ll save that for another time. Listen, in a league with a handful of Black head coaches, even less Black general managers and front office guys, and ZERO Black owners, the expectations of fairness and players having teams do right by them is minute. And until those things change, it will remain that way. I just hate seeing so many talented young Black men paying the price of others ignorance and fragility….

Tyrus Kennedy is a full time content creator for Black With No Chaser and the MFer in charge of Black With No Chaser Sports. He is currently in an entanglement between writing, video content creating and podcasting. Needless to say that he gets around.

Tyrus Kennedy

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