Top 5 Black Quarterbacks of All Time
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Today, African-Americans represent the majority of the playing population in the National Football League. However, despite notable strides in recent history, there is no significant position that remains less populated by impact players than the quarterback position.
This topic is controversial, because most fans either do not acknowledge this as an issue, or are bothered by the fact that it still is a recognizable problem in the 21st century.
Those who write off this mysterious lack of black franchise quarterbacks in the NFL will almost always claim that this is simply a symptom of very few black quarterbacks possessing the necessary skill set and leadership qualities to man this high-profile position.
Those that are hyper-sensitive to the plight of black quarterbacks will always point towards the age-old problem of college quarterbacks being inevitably funneled to other positions on the field or being labeled as an “athlete” instead of a quarterback prospect like most of their white counterparts are without similar scrutiny.
They see injustice in this and for those that do make it to the next level and play are highly scrutinized and expected to be beyond good.
Furthermore, they must also conform to the prototype of a pocket passer to be recognized as a solid pro that deserves to start in the National Football League over an extended period of time.
With that said, it is a little bit easier to come up with a short list of the best black quarterbacks of all time. There should be some debate over the order, but for the most part, you would be hard pressed to legitimately make an argument for more than seven or eight players who should make this list.
Here are my five…
5. Randall Cunningham
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Randall Cunningham was probably the first of the recent batch of ultra-athletic running quarterbacks to establish themselves as franchise quarterbacks who could throw the ball from the pocket and lead a team, while constantly being a threat in the running game as a result of their superior athletic talent.
Prior to him playing, it was simply unheard of to see a quarterback leaping over people, scoring on helicopter hits and outrunning pass rushers on a regular basis.
One of his most notable accomplishments was his orchestration of one of the best offensive machines in NFL history in 1998 with the Minnesota Vikings.
Additionally, he was a four-time All-Pro, four-time Pro Bowler, and 1990 NFL MVP who threw for almost 30,000 yards and over 200 TDs during his career.
4. Michael Vick
Michael Vick can make a case for #1 late in his career if he can sustain his high level of play.
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Michael Vick may very well be the best athlete to play the quarterback position of all time. He possesses elite speed and, especially earlier in his career, was regarded as one of the most explosive players in the league (regardless of position).
Early in his career, his leadership and quarterbacking skills were fairly questioned, especially due to his reluctance to work as hard at the craft as most of his peers did, but there has never been any reason to question his arm talent and ability to make plays with his feet.
In Atlanta, he was as big a star as the league had to offer most of last decade. Now he is coming off of his best season as a pro in which he embraced the full essence of the quarterback position and matured into a quarterback that will hurt you from the pocket first and kill you with his great athleticism as a last resort.
He came in second to Tom Brady last year in MVP voting and is poised to lead one of the NFL’s favorites to win the Super Bowl this year. Vick has rushed for 1,000 yards as a QB one year in Atlanta, and come close another year, yet in an incomplete season last year threw for 3,000 yards last year.
That combination is simply unheard of out of one player at the quarterback position. He is a four-time Pro Bowler closing in on 100 Passing TDs for his career and has led teams into the playoffs three times in his career including one NFC Championship appearance.
3. Steve McNair
Steve McNair epitomized toughness
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Steve McNair, despite the fact that he can hurt you with his legs, and possessed the strength to routinely extend plays under pressure is about as pure a passer as you will find in this group.
During his time with the Oilers/Titans organization, he was as dangerous as any player in the league through the air, and his statistics were evident.
Coming from Alcorn State, a Division 1-AA SWAC school, Steve defied all stereotypes with his ability to light up the scoreboard through the air and was as good a leader as there was in the league on many accounts.
His career climaxed as co-MVP in 2003 for the Titans along with Peyton Manning and was All-Pro in the same year. He made three Pro Bowls, led the Titans and Ravens to four playoff appearances total and was within inches of being a Super Bowl champion in 1999.
He threw for 31,000 yards in his career and added 3 seasons of 20 TDs or more. He ended his career as the Titans all-time leading passer.
His untimely death was unfortunate, but few questioned his ability regardless of color to lead a team and play winning football from the quarterback position.
In many ways, he did as much for eliminating color from the discussion as any other QB in this group as you rarely heard people question his ability to play the position traditionally.
2. Donovan McNabb
Donovan may be the most underappreciated QB of his time.
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Donovan McNabb may be one of the most underappreciated quarterbacks ever to play the game of football. The critics are not completely unjustified because Donovan has been erratic with his accuracy, made timely errors and committed some odd mental errors at crucial times.
However, at the end of the day, Donovan has had the resume of a top tier quarterback for a large portion of his career yet been questioned by members of his own organization and fans every step of the way.
Prior to his arrival the Eagles had made it to zero conference championships since their lone trip to the Super Bowl in 1980, yet McNabb led them to four straight and five overall during his tenure as QB of the Eagles.
He holds the third highest winning percentage among active quarterbacks behind Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
The Eagles all-time leading passer has thrown for well over 35,000 yards and has exactly double the amount of touchdowns in comparison to interceptions (230-115).
He holds the distinction of being the first player to throw for 30 TDs and throw less than 10 interceptions in the same year, and holds the fourth lowest interception percentage of all time as well.
Throw in 6 Pro Bowls, 1 All-Pro selection and NFC offensive player of the year award in 2004 with a Super Bowl appearance, and it’s almost baffling as to why this quarterback has been marked by booing and criticism since he was drafted in 1999.
What is most impressive about Donovan in regards to this subject is that despite how hard he tries to overcome the stereotype of black quarterbacks relying too much on their legs by staying in the pocket as much as possible, he still has managed to score almost 30 rushing touchdowns and rushed for 3,400 yards.
His ability to make athletic moves to extend plays and rip off long runs has always been his most dangerous asset whether he likes to admit it or not.
1. Warren Moon
Warren is the lone Hall-of-Famer in this group
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He may not have won like Donovan McNabb did or been as tough or as good of a leader as Steve McNair, but Warren Moon came into the league when black quarterbacks, such as Tony Dungy and others, were blatantly misdirected to other positions for primitive and legitimate football skill reasons.
Warren however, did not give up. After getting doors closed on him early after a great career at the University of Washington, he took the backdoor route to NFL stardom starting out in the CFL.
His combined stats in both leagues are almost unfathomable. He threw for over 70,000 yards and 435 TDs. Even without the CFL numbers, he still stacks up quite handsomely with just under 50,000 yards and 300 TDs.
He completed well over 5,000 passes in both leagues and just under 4,000 in the NFL. He eclipsed 4,000 yards in a season four times including back to back years over 4,600 in 1990 and 1991.
His stats were well beyond respectable and he should have single-handedly ended any false perceptions that blacks were not capable of effectively playing the quarterback position. Instead, he may have been seen as an exception in the 1980s and 90s.
He is a 9-time pro bowler, 3 time all pro, 1-time NFL MVP, and a 5-time Grey Cup champion (CFL championship). He ended his career in top 5 all time in several NFL passing categories including passing yards, TD, passing attempts and completions.
He never did win a Super Bowl, and did not have a ton of success in the playoffs, but his success as a quarterback in this league is unquestioned. He is the only black quarterback to currently be enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame.
It seems like a lifetime ago, but at one point Culpepper was a star in this league
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Daunte Culpepper, Doug Williams and David Garrard