The NFL's 180 at the Most Important Position in Sports

How this new era of QBs has changed the NFL forever

Photo by Getty Images and composite image by Jack Brame.

Being a Caucasian male, writing about African-American quarterbacks in 2020 can be like dodging landmines with each typed consonant or vowel. This is a league that once believed that African-American men weren't smart enough to take on the position, not too long ago. There were only three starting quarterbacks of color in 1990. 30 years ago it was Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham and Rodney Peete holding down the starting quarterback position for NFL franchises. Despite the fact that Moon and Cunningham were both ranked among the top five in QB Rating that season, the league didn't see a heavy influx of African-American starting quarterbacks until decades later.

African-American quarterbacks would routinely get classified as "dual-threat" quarterbacks when they were coming out of high school. College coaches would tend to lean towards their athletic side by running triple options and leaning on the bulk of their athleticism, instead of continuing to develop them as pocket-passers.

In recent years, these players have been taking part in 7-on-7 drills, passing camps, etc. Now, we see coaches utilize these athletic assets in unison with a continuous development towards becoming better passers. The league is flourishing because of it. The use of RPOs or run-pass option plays have made the more accurate, athletic passer, all the more dangerous.

For the first time that I can remember, the NFL has an abundance of starting quarterbacks. The heavy passing attacks in college have help expedite the proficiency of these young passers. While it's helped the development of the quarterback position, it's hindered that of their offensive tackles, so much so, that I believe for the first time in history, it's harder to find a franchise offensive tackle than it is to find a franchise quarterback.

The NFL was slow to adapt to the African-American signal-caller. Warren Moon was the first African-American quarterback for four different franchises. They were the Houston Oilers, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings. Now, in the cities where three of those four franchises played, their teams, now, all employ African-American quarterbacks that are considered among the best at their positions.

While Patrick Mahomes is multi-racial, he'll be classified as an African-American, both as a quarterback and a human. I've often been curious to why this is, but I don't make the rules and my kids aren't omitted from this classification. My kids are all multi-racial and despite their genetic make-up coming from Caucasian, Asian and African ancestors, they will be referred to as "black," predominantly in their life.

Prior to 2010, there were only three African-American quarterbacks to even play in the Super Bowl. Doug Williams did so in 1988, Steve McNair in 2000 and Donovan McNabb in 2005. Since 2010, rather, since 2013, there's been four. Colin Kaepernick in 2013, Russell Wilson in 2014 and 2015, with Cam Newton in 2016 and Patrick Mahomes in 2020.

Also prior to 2010, there was only one African-American quarterback to win the MVP award and actually, his win was a tie. In 2003 Steve McNair and Peyton Manning won co-MVP awards. In the last five years, there's been three African-American quarterbacks to win the MVP award. Cam Newton did so in 2015 with Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson going back-to-back in 2018 and 2019.

When you look at the top performing, young quarterbacks from last season, you start to see what the landscape of the NFL will start to look like for the years to come. Below, I list the top six quarterbacks under the age of 28 and where they ranked in 2019 statistically.

NAMEAGEQB Rating (Ranking)Comp % (Ranking)
Lamar Jackson23113.3 (1st)66.8 (3rd)
Patrick Mahomes24105.3 (2nd)65.9 (4th)
Dak Prescott26 99.7 (3rd)65.1 (5th)
Teddy Bridgewater27 99.1 (4th)67.9 (1st)
Deshaun Watson24 98.0 (5th)67.3 (2nd)
Carson Wentz27 93.1 (6th)63.9 (8th)


Here are all of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL under the age of 28 and some others that may move into a starting role over the years to come.

Patrick Mahomes (24)
Deshaun Watson (24)
Lamar Jackson (23)
Dak Prescott (26)
Teddy Bridgewater (27)
Kyler Murray (22)
Dwayne Haskins (23)
Jalen Hurts (21)
PJ Walker (25)
Jameis Winston (26)
Jacoby Brissett (27)

Carson Wentz (27)
Jared Goff (25)
Baker Mayfield (25)
Sam Darnold (23)
Joe Burrow (23)
Josh Allen (24)
Mitch Trubisky (25)
Gardner Minshew (24)
Drew Lock (23)
Jarrett Stidham (23)
Daniel Jones (23)
Tua Tagovailoa (22)
Justin Herbert (22)
Jordan Love (21)
Marcus Mariota (26)

Soon Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger will hang it up with Aaron Rodgers not too far behind. When that happens, the league that shunned African-American quarterbacks for decades will spend the foreseeable future being led by them. The early steps are already being taken as Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes are talking to their franchises about paydays in the range of $35-45 million per year.

Now, it should only be 30 more years before the NFL has an African-American owner and start to equally employ African-American men as coaches and general managers as well.

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Composite image by Jack Brame.

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