By Charles Glover, Jr.
Year after year football fans were reminded that the only African-American starting quarterback to win the National Football League (NFL) Super Bowl was Doug Williams in 1988. It was more than just reciting a fact, it was like a trivia question on some historical event unlikely to be matched. To date, there have been 48 Super Bowls and 96 starting quarterbacks. Five of the starting quarterbacks have been black, including last year’s runner-up Colin Kaepernick and this year’s winner Russell Wilson.
Wilson’s success will definitely have an impact on the league going forward. Kurt Badenhausen, writer for Forbes.com, points out that “[Joe] Flacco…,[Aaron] Rodgers…, and [Drew] Brees signed a $100 million deal,” shortly after winning the Super Bowl. He also highlights that, “Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks are the most marketable players in the NFL.” While there have been a good number of African-American quarterbacks to start and succeed in the NFL, Williams and Wilson continue to change the narrative so that black quarterbacks should be viewed as winners as well.
Yet there are many who believe Wilson joining the illustrious company of Super Bowl- winning quarterbacks is insignificant. ESPN’s Michael Smith on his show Numbers Never Lie (NNL), the day after the Super Bowl stated, “I would like to think we have moved past the point where the color of the skin matters…when it comes to quarterbacks.” He would go on to point out the number of black quarterbacks in the league currently and the high probability that highly touted college prospects Teddy Bridgewater and Jameis Winston will also join that list. There are clearly more starting opportunities given to black quarterbacks now than there ever have been in the NFL.
However, the number of African-Americans that are deemed “franchise quarterbacks” is quite small. Franchise quarterbacks are not only given an opportunity to start for their team but are given long-term contracts worth $100 million dollars or more. These rewards come to quarterbacks whose teams feel are the long-term solution for the quarterback position, and who generate confidence of a Super Bowl victory. In this regard, there is still significant room for improvement for racial equality as it appears the determination of franchise quarterback is still easier to achieve for white quarterbacks than anyone else.
Currently, the only black quarterback in the NFL who has signed a $50 million dollar guaranteed contract (or contract extension) or greater since the 2010 season is Michael Vick. In the meantime, there have been at least six of those types of contracts signed by white quarterbacks since the end of the 2012 season alone. Franchises show their belief in the future of the players by signing them to long-term lucrative contracts, not just giving them a chance to prove themselves on the field.
Wilson and Colin Kaepernick are both signed to rookie contracts that paid them less than a million dollars for this entire season ($526,220 and $740,840 respectively). ESPN NFL Insider Dan Graziano explains, “When you’re still a couple of years from really having to pay your franchise quarterback…your GM’s offseason priority list becomes a lot more fun.” With their recent success, there is little doubt that their teams will sign them to lucrative deals in the future.
The true test of the evaluation of the black quarterbacks will come when other young black quarterbacks with less success than Wilson and Kaepernick, but showing just as much promise, are available for contract extensions. Will Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, and Geno Smith be given the same faith by their franchises with long-term contracts as Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan, or Jay Cutler? Black quarterbacks are beyond the point of proving that they deserve an opportunity. At this point, if the franchises truly believe in these young men, they will show them the money.–OnPointPress.net–
Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.