Are Black Quarterbacks Smart Enough for the NFL?

Randall Cunningham

I recently watched a documentary about Warren Moon and an interesting point that was discussed was the stereotyping of black quarterbacks. Anyone that’s been following football and particularly the NFL for the past 20 or more years has heard this debate numerous times.

It was once said that black quarterbacks weren’t smart enough to play the position in the NFL but for some reason people seem to forget about Warren Moon. Because of the stigma that’s placed on black quarterbacks he had to prove himself in the Canadian League first before he went to the NFL. Moon went on to exceeded expectations and even though he had a Hall of Fame career and put up some really impressive numbers, his critics will still point out the fact that he never won a championship.

During the Warren Moon era there was also a guy in Philadelphia named Randall Cunningham and he was one of the most exciting players in the NFL. Because of his style and the fact that he never won a championship either, he too never got the respect that other top tier quarterbacks received in the NFL.

A third black quarterback that had success during this era was Doug Williams. He actually won a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins and had a couple of pretty solid seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he was never able to cement himself as a perennial pro bowl quarterback.

Fans of Moon and Cunningham and even Doug Williams would try to debate the fact that blacks could play the position at a high level but it seemed to always fall on deaf ears. I often times asked myself what the problem was. I’m sure I don’t know the ends and outs of football as well as the guys that have played and coached on the highest levels but I have dealt with people on daily basis outside of sports from all races.

I don’t buy the notion that blacks aren’t smart enough to play a certain position in sports when blacks have had success in so many other arenas. I thought about this topic a little bit longer and it occurred to me that there have been way more white quarterbacks to fail at being a quarterback than blacks.

The conclusion that I came to is that it’s a numbers game.  If you pay attention to how the game is played at the youth or Pop Warner level up to high school, you’ll see how and why the game has been played the way it has for so many years. There are more young white quarterbacks working on skills and reading defenses.

When it comes to black quarterbacks, youth coaches in the black community usually put their best athletes at quarterback and when a kid knows that he is more athletic than everyone else on the field, he’s a little reluctant to learn how to sit in the pocket and risk getting hit when he knows he can take off and outrun everyone on the field.

By the time both kids get to the college level , the kid that learned to read defenses, sit in the pocket and is more mechanically sound as a passer is probably going to be a better fit to lead the team. The kid that was accustomed to outrunning everyone and creating in space are moved to running back, receiver or even defensive back. I don’t think it’s really a black or white thing at all; it’s more of a common sense thing if you ask me.

Today’s Game

Today’s game has evolved. Even though it’s more of a passing league, more offenses are going to the read option. Quarterbacks are asked to not only read defenses but they are also asked to run the ball more. This seems to be a mix of the quarterbacks in different communities or should I use the word more well-rounded?

Today there is room in the college and NFL game for guys like Jared Goff who is primarily a pocket passer and guys like Dak Prescott who can do a little of both.

Tell me what you think. Leave a comment below.

@GeeStubbs