While Super Bowl LVII marks the first time that two Black quarterbacks will compete for the NFL championship, the league still has a ways to go.
By Chris Murray
For the Philadelphia Sunday SUN
ABOVE PHOTO: Eagles’ quarterback Jalen Hurts speaks at last week’s press conference. Photo by Webster Riddick
When the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs take the field this Sunday in Super Bowl LVII, sports fans will see something that’s never been done before.
For the first time in Super Bowl history, two Black quarterbacks — Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes — will be battling for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Since the Super Bowl’s inception 57 years ago, only eight Black quarterbacks — Doug Williams, Steve McNair, Donovan McNabb, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Mahomes and Hurts — have played in football’s biggest game. Of that eight, Williams, Wilson and Mahomes are the only ones to win the game.
On the one hand, you can celebrate this as progress, especially when you consider that it has taken a long, long time for NFL scouts and coaches to get out of this mindset that Black athletes can play every other position but quarterback.
Unless you count your Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles have been the most progressive franchise in the NFL when it comes to giving Black quarterbacks a shot. Randall Cunningham, McNabb, Rodney Peete, Jeff Blake (who backed up McNabb in 2004) Michael Vick, and Vince Young have spent time under center for the Birds.
As someone who has been watching football as both a fan and a journalist for over 50 years, I have heard all the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that the “football intelligence” of Black quarterbacks, re: the ability to read NFL defenses and understand the nuances of the professional game, is questioned.
And these assumptions wind up being something that with few exceptions Black quarterbacks spend a whole lot of time trying to disprove. For example, pundits and fans used it as a reason why Hurts wasn’t a franchise quarterback. While he managed to lead an Eagles squad that’s a shadow of the current crew into the playoffs, the team’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card round was proof to some that Hurts just wasn’t capable of leading the team to playoff success.
This year, Hurts, a candidate for the NFL’s MVP award, proved all his critics wrong. He picked opposing defenses apart in the air and on the ground. He passed for 3,701 yards completed 66% of his passes, threw 22 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He led them to the best record in the NFL and to the Super Bowl.
Not bad for a guy who was questioned on his ability to read NFL defenses.
At the end of the day, the success of African American quarterbacks in the NFL over the last 30 years has destroyed any notion that Black quarterbacks lack the intellectual ability to pick apart defenses — whether you’re talking about how Doug Williams torched the Denver Broncos’ defense in Super Bowl XXII or Mahomes leading a comeback against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV.
I hope that Sunday’s clash between Hurts and Mahomes in Super Bowl LVII will finally convince fans, scouts, coaches, front-office, and ownership personnel to come away from their unconscious biases based on race when it comes to leadership positions like quarterbacks and head coaches.
And just in case you’ve been in a monastery over the last two weeks, your Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs will be taking the field for Super Bowl LVII on Sunday. Coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. on Fox-29 and kickoff is scheduled for 6:30pm.
Join Eagles beat writer Chris Murray and sports photographer Webster Riddick as they cover Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
The Philadelphia Sunday SUN’s coverage of Super Bowl LVII is sponsored by Philadelphia Hall Monitor. Co-hosts Larry McGlynn, Denise Clay-Murray and Lance Haver guide you through City Hall and everything going on there. Come join us on Wednesday nights at 6 p.m. on WPPM 106.5 or on PhillyCam.org.
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