History has been made this season. Or, at the very least, we’ve got one helluva factoid. There are nine Black starting quarterbacks in the NFL this season, more than ever before. It’s the sort of moment that makes observers stop and think about how far we’ve come. It shouldn’t, of course. That’s an increase from before, but it’s still just over a quarter of the starters in a league that’s majority Black. Perhaps it’s a step toward desegregation, but it’s not a time for pats on backs. Instead, it’s time to see what happens. It’s not like this is the first of these sorts of milestones we’ve seen.
The 1999 NFL Draft saw three Black quarterbacks go in the first round, two of whom — Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper — were elite at their peaks. But from 2001-2009, just six Black quarterbacks were taken in the first round (out of 25) . These things ebb and flow. And seeing how all of the current Black starters got their jobs since 2009, six have been tagged with the backhanded label “running quarterback,” and no less than six owe their jobs to a very recent expansion of the quarterbacking paradigm, it’s worth considering the current state of affairs before declaring this as anything more an interesting moment in league history.
Sure, we’re past the point where Black quarterbacks, assuming they’re athletic enough, are automatically converted to different positions. But we’re still at a point where Black quarterbacks struggle to get jobs if they can’t run — only one of Rivals’ top 30 “pro-style” quarterbacks, Manny Wilkins, appears to be Black — and might be assumed to be fast because, yanno, they’re Black. Hell, even EA Sports is marginalizing two of the most effective quarterbacks in the league as “running quarterbacks,” even though one of them, Russell Wilson, ran for more yards his rookie season than he did in any of his four years as a college starter. Running isn’t Wilson’s thing.