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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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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