Repesentation matters, which is why two starting Black quarterbacks in the Super Bowl is groundbreaking – The Mercury News



Super Bowl LVII will pit the Kansas City Chiefs versus the Philadelphia Eagles.

But that is just a tiny part of what Sunday’s game represents for Blacks across the globe.

For the first time in Super Bowl history, both teams will start a Black quarterback. Jalen Hurts of the Eagles will be the eighth different quarterback to start in a Super Bowl. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes will start his third Super Bowl, winning in 2019 and being the runner-up to the Buccaneers in 2020.

This year, 11 Black quarterbacks began the season as their team’s starter. Considering where the league currently is, it could be challenging to imagine a time when there were few Black quarterbacks in the NFL. But that time was during some of our lifetimes.

After initially banning Blacks from the NFL during The Great Depression in the 1930s, Kenny Washington broke the color barrier, the first black player in the NFL. The league began to integrate a few years after during the 1950s.

However, it wasn’t until 1968, when the Denver Broncos started Marlin Briscoe, that a Black quarterback would start a professional football game. Denver wanted Briscoe to convert him to cornerback, but he was thrusted under center following an injury to starter Steve Tensi and backup Joe DiVito was ineffective.

Despite setting a then-Broncos franchise record for passing yards in a game (335), a record that stood until John Elway broke it in 1983, Briscoe didn’t get an opportunity to remain the team’s starting quarterback. After asking for his release and it being granted, Briscoe bounced around the league but mostly played receiver for the Bills, Dolphins, Chargers, Lions and Patriots before retiring after the 1976 season.

Growing up in Los Angeles, another Black football player Warren Moon inspired to be a quarterback like Briscoe. But he also had challenges and roadblocks along the way.

At the University of Washington, Moon led the Huskies to the Pac-8 championship and a victory in the Rose Bowl against Michigan in 1978. He was also named the game’s MVP after accounting for three total touchdowns.

But there was no interest in Moon coming out of college as he headed to the Canadian Football League for six years, where he led the Edmonton Eskimos to five consecutive Gray Cup titles. Only then did Moon receive an opportunity to play in the NFL for the Houston Oilers from Hugh Campbell, his coach in Edmonton for five seasons.

All Moon did once he reached the NFL was become a nine-time Pro Bowler, an NFL Offensive Player of the Year award and win two passing titles.

“I’m so proud to see Jalen and Patrick as the first 2 African American QBs to face each other in the Super Bowl,” Moon tweeted after the Eagles and Chiefs advanced to the Super Bowl. “We have come a long way.”

Moon and Washington quarterback Doug Williams are considered two of the pioneers for Black quarterbacks. Williams was the first Black quarterback selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. He was also the first Black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl as Williams helped lead Washington to a 42-10 victory over the Broncos. Williams was also the first Black quarterback to be named Super Bowl MVP after throwing for 340 yards and four touchdowns.

Williams couldn’t maintain similar success afterward, as his injuries plagued the rest of his career before benching replaced as Washington’s starter by Mark Rypien and later released after the 1989 season. Many thought the 1990s and 2000s would bring about change to the quarterback position following Williams’ Super Bowl run, but that certainly wasn’t the case.

Although Black quarterbacks were becoming more commonplace in the NFL with Randall Cunningham and later Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper, Michael Vick and Steve McNair, who was the first Black NFL MVP, there was still a stigma associated with them. Black quarterbacks were considered less intelligent and didn’t have the leadership qualities their white counterparts did. But Black quarterbacks were thought to be more athletic, which is why many college quarterbacks who were Black were persuaded to change positions if they wanted to enter the NFL.

That stigma remained during the 2018 draft class. Many criticized Lamar Jackson, coming out of college despite being a Heisman Trophy Award winner at Louisville and throwing for 9,043 yards, 69 touchdowns against 27 interceptions.

Former NFL executive with the Bills and Colts Bill Polian said Jackson was “Short and a little bit slight and “clearly, not the thrower the other guys are. The accuracy isn’t there.” Polian also thought Jackson should play receiver in the league.

At 6-foot-3, Jackson is taller than Aaron Rodgers as he eventually proved he could win an MVP as well on 2019. This season, Jackson finished with 3,127 yards passing, 36 touchdowns while completing 66.1% of his passes. Polian eventually apologized for his comments, but he joined a long list of former executives who have been wrong about Black quarterbacks in the league.

A lot has changed in 2023 regarding quarterbacks. Five of the 14 playoff teams were led by a Black quarterback and the Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa is Samoan. However, the NFL still has a long way to go regarding Black quarterbacks, not to mention Black coaches around the league.

Black quarterbacks also started 29% of all games, which was an all-time high. In 2022, 15 of the NFL’s 32 teams started a black quarterback in at least one game.

There are just three Black coaches in the league, Mike Tomlin of the Steelers, Todd Bowles of the Buccaneers and DeMeco Ryans, who the Texans just hired. Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said he identifies as biracial.

No matter what happens this weekend, a Black quarterback will hoist the Lombardi Trophy following the game. I watched Doug Williams win the MVP award in Super Bowl XXII as a kid. I didn’t know the significance as a small child, but I knew it was a monumental moment in American history.

Mahomes won his second career NFL MVP Thursday night during NFL Honors as he’s one of the faces of the league and is playing in his third Super Bowl in four years in just his fifth year as a starter. Hurts was one of the electric players during the 2022 season as he helped lead the Eagles, who was the most talented team in the league to their first Super Bowl in five seasons.

Representation is always important, which is why Super Bowl LVII is groundbreaking with two quarterbacks on both teams. Somewhere, there will be a Black child watching the game Sunday who inspires to be like Mahomes and Hurts, and that same child will know their dreams are attainable.

“It’s special,” Mahomes said earlier this week. “It’s been way long overdue.

“You have seen a lot of quarterbacks that haven’t had this opportunity that we’ve had. It took quarterbacks before us to pave the way. For us to be in this moment and this stage and be able to show where we’ve come as a league, this will be the start of it, the beginning of it.

“We want to set the stage for future generations to come.”

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