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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Good news for Jose Altuve. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

One never knows how things will play out but of the known General Manager candidates, Jim Crane nailed it in hiring Dana Brown out of the Atlanta Braves' organization where he was Vice President of Scouting. The 55-year-old Brown's scouting and development pedigree is stellar. The Braves have been a talent-producing machine in recent years. Obviously all the credit isn't Brown's but his four years with the Braves preceded by a productive pipeline he was part of in Toronto speak highly of him. Not that it was or should have been the guiding principle to Crane's decision-making, but the Astros now have the only African-American General Manager in Major League Baseball (Ken Williams is Executive Vice President of the Chicago White Sox).

Brad Ausmus is a super-smart guy, but if had he gotten the GM gig it would have been in large part because he was teammate besties with Jeff Bagwell. While “It's not what you know it's who you know” plays a role in many, many hires, it would have been a poor rationale for tabbing Ausmus. Maybe Ausmus would have done a great job. Maybe Brown does a lousy job. Brown was the much more strongly credentialed candidate. While Bagwell has moved way up Crane's confidante list, Brown played college baseball with Craig Biggio at Seton Hall.

Speaking of Halls…

If I could tell you as absolute fact that exactly two members of the 2023 Houston Astros will someday make the Baseball Hall of Fame, who are you picking? Jose Altuve isn’t a lock just yet but he is obvious pick number one. So for the second spot are you going with Alex Bregman or Yordan Alvarez? We’ll get back to this a couple of paragraphs down.

As was basically a given, former Astro (and Phillie, Met, Red Sox, and Brave) Billy Wagner was not elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week, but as I suggested last week the voting returns were very favorable toward Wagner making the Hall next year, or if not next year in his final year of eligibility on the Baseball Writers Association ballot for the Class of 2025. “Wags” in the Class of ’24 is looking good. Wagner jumped from 51 percent to 68 percent “put him in” votes. The only guy this year to get the necessary 75 percent for election is worthy third baseman Scott Rolen. Two years ago Rolen got 53 percent of the votes needed, last year 63 percent, before getting the call to Cooperstown with 76.5 percent this year. Wagner going from 51 to 68 to 75-plus looks likely. Of course it’s not as if Wagner can pad his case with a good 2023 season, but this is how the process works. The other ballot returnee well positioned to make it next year is former Colorado first baseman Todd Helton. Unlike this year there’s a sure-fire first time ballot guy going in next year. Third baseman Adrian Beltre will undoubtedly wear a Texas Rangers cap on his plaque.

As expected Carlos Beltran didn’t come close to election in his first year of eligibility, but drawing 46 percent of the votes sets him up well to eventually get the Cooperstown call. Beltran was a fabulous player and his Hall credentials are solid. However, no one reasonable would argue that Carlos Beltran was as good or better than Barry Bonds. In his first year of eligibility back in 2013 Bonds garnered 36 percent of the vote. There has been some turnover in the voter pool over the last decade, but it's clear that Beltran’s central role in the Astros’ sign stealing scheme was not held against him to the extent that PED use (actual and/or suspected) was held against Bonds and Roger Clemens. And Alex Rodriguez. And Sammy Sosa. And Manny Ramirez. And others. Foremost right now that’s encouraging for Beltran, but it’s also encouraging down the line for fellow Astros of 2017-18.

What does this mean for Jose Altuve?

If Jose Altuve retired today (perish the thought!) he’d have a good case for the Hall. He had superstar seasons in 2016, 2017, and 2022, and has five other seasons that while not in the realm of his three best certainly rate as excellent. If you judge a player by his five best seasons, there aren’t 10 second basemen in the history of the sport who’d rank ahead of Altuve. Among those who clearly would: Joe Morgan, Rogers Hornsby, Eddie Collins, and Nap Lajoie. Among those four only Morgan played more recently than 1937. Then there’s a group of arguable guys like Jackie Robinson, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, and yes Craig Biggio. Altuve has had the prime of a Hall of Famer. What sort of final numbers will he accrue? In late May or early June he should reach the 2000 hit plateau. How many more prime years does Altuve have left before inevitable decline? His career batting average is .307. Four years ago it was .316. Will Altuve retire a .300 hitter?

Bregman or Alvarez? Bregman gets extra points for being an everyday third baseman as opposed to a left fielder-designated hitter, but by age alone Yordan is the better play. Bregman turns 29 on opening day this year. Yordan doesn’t turn 26 until late June. When Bregman was 25 (2019 season) he put up a season more valuable than Alvarez’s tremendous 2022. In the three years since Bregman hasn’t approached that level, though his big second half last season could be a springboard back to that stratosphere. Yordan is in that stratosphere and figures to stay there for a while if his health holds up.

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Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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