NFL — 26 April 2012
Is There Pressure on Robert Griffin III to Beat the Black Quarterback Stereotype?

“What black quarterback stereotype?” Surely, you jest.

Of all sports, and for whatever the reason, football has always seemed to typically be segregated by position. It’s true. Your wide receivers are usually black. So are your defensive linemen and halfbacks. Defensive backs too, while the O-line and linebackers tend to be a mixed bag, and kickers are generally white. But usually, of course, the quarterback –the most glamorous position in all of team sports– is white.

The aforementioned aren’t my opinion. They are facts. But again, the key word is “typically.”

When you rattle off the best quarterbacks in NFL history, a fair amount of time elapses before you even think about mentioning a black one, let alone identify who that may be. Warren Moon? Randall Cunningham? Doug Williams? Hell, Donovan McNabb or Michael Vick? I’m not sure, and quite frankly it doesn’t really matter. What matters, to me anyway, is the state of the black quarterback in the NFL today. More specifically, the way he is perceived.

He is viewed as extremely fast, very quick, blessed with God-given gifts, and more prone to tuck the ball and run rather than go through his reads. This is because they generally aren’t cerebral enough to stand in the pocket and pick apart the defense. Oh, that isn’t a declarative statement, necessarily. This is just me explaining the stereotype to those who may be unaware.

Don’t get me wrong. Guys such as JaMarcus Russell certainly didn’t do much to disprove this theory. However, his flaw was one stereotype that I omitted: laziness.

Got all that?

Now, because of these perceived hindrances of black quarterbacks, many never even get a chance to prove themselves in the NFL. West Virginia’s Pat White is an example. Sure, Pat was plenty fast and did considerable damage with his legs as a Mountaineer, but so did Tim Tebow with the Gators. Believe me, I am not trying to turn this into a “can Tim Tebow be a starting quarterback in the NFL?” debate because my head may explode. In fact, I was pleased to see him perform to the degree in which he did last season. My sole reason in bringing him into this discussion is to state that, without a doubt, he did not earn the right be named the starting quarterback of an NFL team. After all, I mean, he was quick, had God-given gifts and is more prone to tuck the ball and run rather than go through his reads.

For the most part, white NFL quarterback prospects are generally perceived as more cerebral players. Translation: smarter. Even the ones that aren’t. Again, that’s not my opinion. Have there been more qualified white QB prospects than black QB prospects? Perhaps, but the disparity may not be as large as we all think.

That brings us to Robert Griffin III. Heisman trophy winning Robert Griffin III. Funky sock-wearing Robert Griffin III. Charismatic, electric personality possessing, “well-spoken” Robert Griffin III.

Now, there are highly touted black collegiate quarterbacks most years (see Cam Newton), but there’s something starkly different about the way Griffin is perceived. Despite Cam Newton setting an NFL rookie record with 422 passing yards in his very first game, before throwing for 400+ the following week for good measure, Cam had the same “he runs too much” critique attached to his name. Then he went ahead and set the NFL’s single-season record for rushing TD’s by a quarterback (all QBs, not just rookies), which made it seem as if “I told you so.”

But Griffin is a pocket passer who, by the way, has 4.4 speed. He is extremely fundamentally sound, has excellent form, touch, a quick release, and has a big arm. He somehow seems to be void of every single black quarterback stereotype for the most part. Even for the black quarterbacks that came before him who were not fleet of foot (like, say, a Byron Leftwich), who had to make their living in the pocket, Griffin is a better pocket passer than them at this stage of his career. All of them. He’s better than Vick and Newton were at this stage of their respective careers, according to many.

So yes, there is unofficial pressure on RGIII to kill this stereotype and prove that this is possible. Of course, he shouldn’t be concerned with that. Nor should he be cognizant of it. He just needs to worry about turning the Redskins into a contender. But whether he realizes it or not, alot is riding on his success or failure. After all, we are talking about the #2 pick who is far more hyped and more talked about than the #1 pick. In fact, Griffin is so good that he had Colts brass hemming and hawing for weeks.

Based on that very fact, I must ask this rhetorical question: if Andrew Luck is supposed to be the best collegiate quarterback prospect since John Elway (or possibly ever), why isn’t Griffin afforded that very same praise given the fact that the Colts looked long and hard at RGIII, and that you truly have to split hairs to determine which of the two is better? Food for thought.

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Kevin Burke

(1) Reader Comment

  1. hey football star

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