Black quarterbacks are still invisible for their intellectual potential
When The Athletic’s Mike Sando published his annual NFL Quarterback Tiers article, in which he spoke to 50 NFL coaches and executives to get a sense of how insiders view the men in the most important position From the game, it was clear that Black quarterbacks still face an evaluation gauntlet that White quarterbacks typically don’t have. We’re used to old-school opinions that black quarterbacks were seen as more athletic and white quarterbacks as more cerebral. If you think we’re past that point, we’ll start with a reviewer’s opinion of Patrick Mahomes.
“We love Mahomes because of his unorthodox throws, not because of his natural pocket presence,” an unnamed source told Sando. “And when that goes away, that’s when they lose games. I don’t think it’s a 1. I think it’s a 2. Nothing against the guy. I like the kid But take away his first reading and what does he do?He runs, he scrambles and he plays streetball.
For Josh Allen, a quarterback who shares many of the “streetball” characteristics of Mahomes and Jackson, there seems to be automatic assurance that he’ll get it.
“Josh Allen is a better version of Lamar, and I love him as a football player,” a defensive coordinator said. “I still think he’s erratic as a pitcher and so he doesn’t scare me the same way Rodgers does. But he goes up.
“Some guys, you just have to give credit for being big, talented guys who can overcome a lot,” one reviewer said. “He may not be perfect, but he’s so big and so talented that he carries the team. It’s a monster. He’s not going to expertly handle outright passing situations, but he doesn’t have to do that often. He can have five guys hanging on to him and still finish him off.
Somehow, we don’t think the evaluator would be as enthusiastic about Cam Newton’s athletic potential when Cam was the 2015 Offensive Player of the Year and NFL Most Valuable Player. Allen and Newton share a similar overall playing profile.
Mahomes? He seems to be stuck in what these people think he’s stuck in now.
“It’s like they’re playing NBA iso ball and just trying to get enough space for a game against Kelce or a game against Tyreek,” another defensive caller said. “If Mahomes has a ‘flaw’ I don’t think he’s the best to diagnose, but he’s so talented with his arm, his release and the way they run their attack, it’s just pick your best game. and go work on that. If you’re a game-oriented team and you lose one of your best players like that, it’s going to affect the way you play. Maybe he has to adapt a bit, but I think he has all the makeup to do it.
Mahomes isn’t the best at diagnosing? We’ll come back to that in a minute. Let’s visit the rating of Justin Herbert, another AFC West quarterback who reached Tier 1.
“Man, I was so impressed with him live,” an attacking coach said. “He has a chance to do something special. He is the best pure pitcher of the three youngsters. I didn’t know he was so athletic. One of our studs was chasing him and he walked around him and laughed at him the whole time. The competitive spirit, the athletic ability, I saw a fucking stud in our game.”
“I didn’t know he was so athletic” is a bit of a dead giveaway, but again, we praise Herbert’s competitive spirit and athletic ability, assuming whatever it takes to be a very good quarterback will fall into place.
Clearly, opinions about Lamar Jackson’s game have caused the most heat. Jackson didn’t make it to Level 1. He regressed as a pure football pitcher in 2021, and there are all sorts of reasons for that. Some were Jackson’s fault. Some were not. But this quote from a defensive coordinator makes it pretty clear that there are people in the league who have an idea about Jackson, and he can’t do anything to change it.
“If he has to pass to win the game, they don’t win the game. He’s so unique as an athlete and he’s a really good football player, but I don’t know if he wins the title of 12 time league MVP I don’t think he will ever be a 1 as a quarterback He will be a 1 as a football player but not as a quarterback So many games come down at two minutes, and that’s why they struggle to advance even when they’re good on defense. The playoffs are tight. You have to be able to throw the ball, and he’s so inconsistent when throwing the ball. is risky.”
Well, Jackson threw four interceptions in two-minute situations last season — with two minutes or less left in either half of regulation time. Tom Brady threw six interceptions in these situations in 2021, leading the league, and you hear nothing about this. But when you have a guy who insists that Jackson could win 12 MFL MVP awards, and it doesn’t matter because he’ll never be one of the best in the game in his position… that feels like a jury. rigged.
Mahomes spoke about it after the Chiefs’ training camp practice on Friday.
Mahomes’ head coach also had something to say about it.
Does Mahomes engage in improvisational tactics on the pitch? Absolutely. Does that mean he can’t understand a complicated game or read a complicated defense? Absolutely not. When I watched the tape with Mahomes before he was drafted by the Chiefs in 2017, I asked him about the most complicated play call he had at Texas Tech.
Probably “Green Rug Rock Pop 2 East Bill Log 95 Z Post B Will”. Pop is action play, and the formation is Green Rug Rock – it’s back behind me. All in means back B is on the line of scrimmage. We have our ‘Y’ receiver in play, and our ‘Z’ receiver, and the H-back is out. “Pop 2 East Bill Log” means we’re going to simulate our outside zone to the right, with the B-back blocking in front. We’ll pretend. ‘Log’ means the back tackle will lock out at the end, and ’95’ is our concept of the game. We label a Z Post, and for the B-back we label a ‘Will’. .
It didn’t matter then to those who were obsessed with the idea of Mahomes as a one-round Air-Raid quarterback, and it probably wouldn’t matter now to those who in mind that if Mahomes can’t play “streetball,” he’s sunk. Had Herbert or Allen given such an answer before they were written, it would no doubt have been taken as absolute proof of their intellectual dominance. With Mahomes, and others like him, it went in favor of preconception.
It’s a shameful reality, and it may never completely go away. There are too many people in positions of power in the NFL who refuse to believe that black quarterbacks can master the game mentally in the same way as their white peers. Never mind the empirical evidence. It’s the dictionary definition of racism, and the fact that so many people are so open about it is a stain on the league.
It is now, and it always has been.