Thursday, January 16, 2014

Great Black QB's

While many athletic black quarterbacks have shown a lot of promise, so many more have fallen by the wayside than became great NFL signal-callers. Jamarcus Russell is a prime example, leaving LSU early with great promise but little experience. Perhaps it is a misnomer to even label a QB as black these days, but I am an old fart. The label could be a compliment. Some might say Johnny Manziel plays like a black QB.

1. Randall Cunningham was a great quarterback who unfortunately played for mediocre teams. He almost led the Vikings to the Super Bowl. Cunningham still holds the Eagles record for the longest punt. Until RGIII displaces him, Cunningham is the greatest ever black NFL QB.

2. Donovan McNabb was prolific at Syracuse, and led the Eagles to the Super Bowl. He has been the most successful black NFL QB, though he is a step or two below the level of elite QB's like Brady, Peyton, Montana, Young, Staubach, Bradshaw, Unitas, and Graham.

3. Doug Williams showcased his tremendous talent in his Super Bowl win. Even then he had to overcome a sprained knee suffered early in the game. Drafted by the fledgling Buccaneers, Williams was never able to achieve sustained brilliance as a pro. He did have a great college career at Grambling.

4. Michael Vick left Virginia Tech early, and has suffered through an injury-riddled NFL career. His talent is unquestioned, though his maturity while playing for the Falcons was quite suspect. After a triumphant return with the Eagles, injuries have continued to sideline Vick.

5. Russell Wilson is very quickly establishing himself as one of the best.

6. Robert Griffin may very well be the greatest-ever black college quarterback. A great resume was capped by his Heisman Trophy win. Let's hope his NFL career is not cut short due to injuries.

7. Byron Leftwich passed for more yards in college than any other black QB, playing for pass-happy Marshall. In college he did miss time from injuries, and had the misfortune to have been drafted in the early years of the Jacksonville Jaguars franchise. After a spate of injuries he eventually roamed the NFL as a backup. His large size and immobility contributed to his demise: great arm, bad body.   

8. Dante Culpepper was a star at Central Florida. Saw him play at Grant Field. He was successful for the Vikings, but not all-world.

9. Jefferson Street Joe Gilliam had great talent, but never really got the chance to play much once Terry Bradshaw blossomed.

10. James Harris was the first black starting QB in the NFL, so he had to be good. Though solid, Harris was unspectacular.  

QB's like Tommy Frazier and Charlie Ward were great leaders and ran their offenses well, but were not prolific passers. Despite winning the Heisman, Ward knew his best career path was the NBA. My idea was to compare the current crop of great black college QB's.

Teddy Bridgewater is expected to be a top draft pick. I love his high completion percentage. Teddy seems hesitant to me, as opposed to all-out like RGIII. I could be wrong, but I just don’t see him becoming a winning NFL QB.

Tajh Boyd finally won a big game in the Orange Bowl. He posted great numbers against inferior opponents, then stumbled in big games. This caused Heisman hopes and draft position to fall. His size, mobility, and attitude will help him, but the simple mistakes Boyd so often makes will keep him from making it big in the NFL. I doubt superior coaching will help.

This fall Jameis Winston set the world on fire. He seems to have it all: a strong arm, size, mobility, leadership, competitive fire, and a passion for study. It helps that Winston runs only as a last resort. Unlike Bridgewater and Boyd, some day Winston could challenge RGIII and Cunningham as the greatest ever black QB. But that's years in the future.

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