QUARTERBLACK

There’s an interesting blog on Black Sports Digest – “Game Changers: Celebrating the Impact of Black Athletes in the NFL” (here). Interestingly, there’s not a single quarterback among the ten players listed. So let’s look at some of the best from the past and those still playing.

The Best Black Quarterbacks

Hmm. In sports, it’s easy to say, “The Best Whatever.” But how do you base that judgment? In one-to-one sports such as golf, boxing, tennis, and so on, if the same name frequently appears in a top position, that’s a starting point. Think Woods, Ali, Williams (OK, OK, opinions differ!)

But with team sports? Can a mediocre player be carried by superior teammates to collect gold? On the other hand, can a star player keep his less-than-top-quality team alive yet not win anything?

What about timespan? Did the player soar and sparkle like an Independence Day rocket, then sink like its stick? Or did the achievements relentlessly stack up, year on year?

The Best Black Quarterbacks? Best by what measure?! There’s a lot of info about the various stats here. Suitable for a math genius. No, me neither.

Assessing the Players

Without wanting to start an argument (oh, go on then), surely “moving the team forward” is the simplest measure? Don’t we say things like, “Look, guys, we’ve been working hard on this, discussing it… but we’re not moving the ball forward”?

So – let’s measure on a combination of passing and rushing yards per game. It’s almost totally independent of other players’ performance. The QB can’t help it if the receiver can’t avoid a tackle and doesn’t score. It’s not by any means the QB’s sole responsibility if he gets sacked. Same with interceptions – the receiver misreads the play, for example, or tips the ball into an opponent’s hands.

But speed, agility, a powerful and accurate arm? Undeniably these are a QB’s innate strength and skill. So, passing plus rushing yards per game is the chosen measure.

One problem… It’s easy to get total yards per game for players who have retired from the sport. But their stats are for their whole career, while those still playing have only told part of their story, and so can easily be left off the radar – or included prematurely.

So here we go, Super Bowl era, season plus postseason, ranked by total yards per game’ the NFL top 5 black quarterbacks who have retired (minimum 100 games), and the top 5 currently active who have been in the NFL for a minimum of 5 seasons.

Retired Black Quarterbacks 

1st. Cam Newton (b. 1989, Atlanta, GA.) (Active 2011-2021)

QUARTER BLACK

Average yards 259: Passing yards: 34,203. Rushing yards: 5,886. Total Yards 40,089. Games: 155

Played for Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots.

After retirement: Fashion line, motivational speaking, cigar restaurant.

Factoid: 

Cameron starts his day at 4:20 am!

2nd. Daunte Culpepper (b. 1977, Ocala, FL.) (Active 1999-2009)

Average yards 255: Passing yards: 24,153. Rushing yards: 2,652. Total Yards 26,805. Games: 105

Played for Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions

After retirement: Lives in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and is active in charity work.

Factoid: 

Daunte appeared on the cover of the video game Madden NFL 2002. 2002 was a very bad year for him, and some attribute that to “The Madden Curse”… read about it here. But… see the entry for Patrick Mahomes below.

3rd.  Warren Moon (b. 1956, Los Angeles, CA.) (Active 1984-2000)

Average yards 248: Passing yards: 52,195. Rushing yards: 1,850. Total Yards 54,045. Games: 218

Played for Houston Oilers, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs.

After retirement: Lives in Redmond, WA. Much involved with charity work; sports commentator.

Factoid: 

Warren is the only black quarterback in the NFL Hall of Fame.

4th. Donovan McNabb (b. 1976, Chicago, IL.) (Active 1999-2011)

Average yards 244: Passing yards: 37,276. Rushing yards: 3,459. Total Yards 40,735. Games: 167

Played for Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings.

After retirement: Sports commentator 2012-2017. This ended in 2018 amid sexual harassment allegations. Lives between Moorestown, NJ, and Chandler, AZ.

Factoid: 

Donovan appeared in commercials for Campbell’s Chunky Soup

5th. Randall Cunningham (b. 1963, Santa Barbara, CA.) (Active 1985-2001)

Average yards 217: Passing yards: 29,979. Rushing yards: 4,928. Total Yards 34,907. Games: 161

Played for Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens.

After retirement: Became an ordained Protestant minister. Lives in Las Vegas, NV.

Factoids: 

His daughter Vashti competed in the high jump at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, placing sixth.

Maybe the best-ever play (OK, OK, opinions differ): under pressure, 60-yard pass for a 95-yard TD here.

Currently Active Black Quarterbacks 

1st. Patrick Mahomes (b. 1995, Tyler, TX) (Active since 2017)

QUARTERBLACK

Average yards 322: Passing yards: 25,788. Rushing yards: 4,467. Total Yards 30,255. Games: 94

Plays for Kansas City Chiefs

Factoid: 

Patrick appeared on the cover of Madden NFL 20, but so far, he has avoided the “Madden curse!”

2nd. Deshaun Watson (b. 1995, Gainesville, GA.) (Active since 2017)

Average yards 294: Passing yards: 16,511. Rushing yards: 2,020. Total Yards 18,531. Games: 63

Played for Houston Texans, now with Cleveland Browns

Factoid: 

Deshaun is currently suspended for 11 games following sexual assault allegations.

3rd. Dak Prescott (b. 1993, Sulphur, LA.) (Active since 2016)

Average yards 274: Passing yards: 26,502. Rushing yards: 1,760. Total Yards 28,262. Games: 103

Plays for Dallas Cowboys

Factoid: 

The Faith Fight Finish Foundation by Dak Prescott was founded to honor Dak’s mother, who died of colon cancer in 2013

4th. Russell Wilson (b. 1988, Cincinnati, OH.) (Active since 2012)

Average yards 264: Passing yards: 44,369. Rushing yards: 5,493. Total Yards 49,862. Games: 189

Played for Seattle Seahawks, now for Denver Broncos

Factoid: 

In 2021-2022, Russell and wife Ciara co-wrote and published “Why Not You”, an inspirational book for children.

5th. Lamar Jackson (b. 1997, Pompano Beach, FL.) (Active since 2018)

Average yards 242: Passing yards: 13,109. Rushing yards: 4,804. Total Yards 17,913. Games: 74

Plays for Baltimore Ravens

Factoid: 

When he was 8 years old, Jackson could throw a football 20 yards. In high school, Jackson threw a football 100 yards.

Finally

 “The Best Of” articles are always interesting, if not controversial(!) Hopefully our lists of the best black quarterbacks are something a bit different. If you’re into MLB, you might be interested in “MLB Records: Remembering 5 Highly Regarded Baseball Legends” on Black Sports Digest. Thumbnails for Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson, and the like. See here.