Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

06 Feb 2014

Deadspin's Big Book of Black Quarterbacks

This is Deadspin's attempt to not only create a comprehensive list of African-American quarterbacks in the NFL, but to give them each a biography, ranging from one or two sentences about guys who washed out quickly to long, detailed discussion of men like Fritz Pollard, Michael Vick, and Steve McNair. They literally had to have the Gawker technical people raise the character limit for a post to make this thing publishable. From a personal perspective, you'll find some discussion of how Football Outsiders dubbed Russell Wilson "The Asterisk" as well as an excerpt from a piece I wrote about Byron Leftwich for The New Republic all the way back in 2004.

One interesting point that is sort of insinuated but not stated in here: Can you imagine if JaMarcus Russell had been one of the first couple of black guys given an opportunity to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, and had sucked that badly? Oh my, it would be like a racist holiday. It would have set back African-American football players 10 or 15 years. Luckily, by the time Russell came in and stunk up the joint, nobody used him as evidence black guys couldn't play quarterback. We just used him as evidence that fat guys couldn't play quarterback -- except for Jared Lorenzen, apparently, who has magic powers.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 06 Feb 2014

34 comments, Last at 12 Feb 2014, 10:50am by Kevin from Philly


by The Ninjalectual :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 4:20am

Who said Jared Lorenzen can play quarterback?

by Insancipitory :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 5:26am

Every fat guy in a recliner on Sunday, who wants to turn on the game, close his eyes, and believe.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 6:26am

Maybe not in the NFL, but he's apparently doing well in one of those minor football leagues. There was an article somewhere about how he looks like he gained even more weight, yet still has a decent arm and can even scramble a bit (which must look like a defensive lineman returning a fumble)

by Hurt Bones :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 10:59am

As one of the commenters on Deadspin wrote Lorenzen is a whole chapter in the Black Book of Big Quarterbacks.


by Travis :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 1:42pm

The picture of Lorenzen in the River Monsters' uniform is incredible.


by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 3:32pm

The GIF's of him moving around the pocket to avoid a heavy rush, Russell Wilson-style, before throwing, is mesmerizing. It's like my eyes are showing me something my brain knows is impossible.

by Theo :: Sat, 02/08/2014 - 8:57pm

It truly is.
It's like they put Aaron Rodgers with the fat suit from the whatever-commercial on a football field just to see what would happen.

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 5:04am

In cunningham section menyions game vs Bills 1990 ane Novembe4 afternoon. Remember game being December 2.

by bubqr :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 7:42am

Raiderjoe, you are one of the greatest mystery of life. Of mine at least.

by Marko :: Mon, 02/10/2014 - 1:07am

Raiderjoe probably is the guy in the Dos Equis commercial. He is The Most Interesting Man in the World. As he would say, "Saty thritsy, my friebds."

by Jerry :: Mon, 02/10/2014 - 2:48am

Except, of course, that it would have to be a Sierra Nevada version of the ad.

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 02/12/2014 - 10:50am

"I don't always drink beer...wait a minute, yes I do!"

by tally :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 11:33am

Correct, as a simple search through pfr's gamelog (or raiderjoe's memory) should verify.

by Hurt Bones :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 11:54am

Search Raider Joe's memory at your own peril. Mere mortals should not try to operate Cerebro.

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 1:31pm

Knwo the date becuause some cool things happen on it like time in,1985 when snow caused school to be let out early. Then in,1990 whem eagles-bills game was televised by CBS in my region. Before Sunday Ticket era and so a Phila vs Buff game was cool . Also becuause temas do not face off pften. Also was prety good game

by CBPodge :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 8:46am

Not sure I buy the argument that if Russell was among the first black QBs it would have set them back a long way. That argument sort of supposes that he'd still have got a starting shot straight off despite the colour of his skin, but if we're in a world were there hasn't been a legitimate black starting QB, its unlikely that Russell would have been drafted high enough to get him in position to compete for a starting job early on, despite him clearly not being good enough for it. If you're assuming that Black QBs aren't seen as starters, you've also got to assume that they won't be drafted high enough to be picked #1 overall.

He didn't have the talent to "win" the starting job without the inherent leg up that being the #1 overall pick gave him, so it seems fair to assume that if he wasn't seen as #1 pick quality (because we're at a point where its assumed that black guys can't play QB) he wouldn't ever really have come to the prominence that he did, so his failure would have likely just been that of one of the chaps with a scant few lines in here.

I dunno, that argument feels like saying "it's a good thing that Rodney Peete wasn't the first QB at 6 foot or under, or the likes of Tarkenton, Brees, Russell Wilson etc may never have got their chance."

by jacobk :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 10:23am

I thought it was kind of interesting how we were halfway through the postgame of the super bowl before one of the commentators threw out the fact that Russell Wilson was the second black quarterback to win the game. Also how the qb he draws the most comparisons to is Fran Tarkenton. It's like "short" has elbowed out "black" as the most salient descriptor for the guy.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 2:13pm

Well, the thing that really has struck me about Wilson, from the first time I started watching him at Wisconsin, is how composed he is when he extends the play, and is almost always looking to throw first, instead of running. Like Tarkenton.

by jacobk :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 10:13pm

I agree that it's an accurate comparison, but even today it's a little rare for analysts to jump on a cross-racial analogue like that. Every great white point guard prospect is the next Steve Nash and every great black point guard prospect is the next Chris Paul, regardless of what their particular game looks like. Kind of like how Alex Smith and Andrew Luck are "deceptively fast."

by tuluse :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 10:29pm

Announcers seem continually surprised that Rodgers and Cutler are fast too. I never actually hear deceptively fast/quick, but I do hear "you don't often think about Rodgers/Cutler as a guy who can run, but he's not bad at it".

These QBs are in their 30s now. Rodgers has 1500 rushing yards and Cutler has 1200. It's time to get on board.

by jacobk :: Sat, 02/08/2014 - 12:14am

I should have updated my cliches, I think the one you actually hear on broadcasts now (besides the "you don't think about..." bit) is "surprisingly athletic." We probably shouldn't attribute to racism what can be explained by broadcasters' lack of imagination, though: after all, this summer we're about to hear about umpteen different crafty left-handed pictures.

The funny thing is that I would actually describe Russell Wilson as deceptively fast. He doesn't seem to be moving super-quick on the field but he's always j-u-u-ust out of the reach of the contain guy.

by RickD :: Sun, 02/09/2014 - 7:10pm

I like that people are drawing that parallel. I'm trying to push a RGIII/Steve Young parallel - both QBs who can scramble but also can pass. Of course, RGIII has a long way to go to reach Young's peak level. But then again, it took Young a lot of time to reach that level.

by Vincent Verhei :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 4:06pm

I didn't realize that Wilson and Tarvaris Jackson were the second and third black QBs to win Super Bowl rings until after the parade.

by Travis :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 4:54pm

If you count Jackson, you have to count Tony Banks, who played in the Ravens' win over the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. (There are a bunch of active-but-DNP backups like Joe Gilliam, Rohan Davey, Charlie Batch, Anthony Wright, Byron Leftwich, and Tyrod Taylor whose teams won the Super Bowl.)

by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 11:46pm

M. Briscoe too.,won super bowls witj dolphins but by then was no longer a quaryeerback

by Vincent Verhei :: Sat, 02/08/2014 - 7:13pm

I stand corrected. Thanks for the info.

by Led :: Fri, 02/07/2014 - 11:07am

I did not know Fritz Pollard's full name was Frederick Douglass Pollard, although I probably should have. So this is cool just for that.

by mehllageman56 :: Sat, 02/08/2014 - 12:29am

Great article, but I have a bone to pick with their paragraph on Geno Smith. The Jets offense isn't really read-option based; when they went wildcat, they would pull Smith out of the game. His real problem was adapting to Mornhinweg's West Coast system. Also, the implication that using the read option for Smith was a poor idea is not backed up by the stats; his DYAR improved the last four games of the year because he started running more.

by JonFrum :: Mon, 02/10/2014 - 5:04pm

Deadspin's evolution from frat-boy magazine to politically correct poser home is complete. Excuse me if I'm not interested in having college-educated middle class white guys telling me about racism.

The issue of black quarterbacks in the NFL has been discussed somewhere in the past, I'm pretty sure. And by people who had a far better basis for doing so.

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 02/10/2014 - 6:17pm

As someone who is not a big Deadspin/Gawker fan, I'd be interested if you could provide examples, especially the non-PC-poser variety.

by JonFrum :: Tue, 02/11/2014 - 4:32pm

If I'm parsing that question correctly...

Deadspin built its brand on Erin Andrews page-view trolling. Then, when that nut was caught taping her in motel bathrooms, they were SHOCKED that anyone would do such a thing. That was the beginning of the end for the old Deadspin, which then evolved into Jezebel for boys.

by LionInAZ :: Tue, 02/11/2014 - 8:20pm

I was looking more for your suggestions for better articles. I think many of the other readers here might appreciate hearing what you think is superior work on the subject.

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 02/10/2014 - 7:08pm

Excuse me if I'm not interested in having college-educated middle class white guys telling me about racism.

Except in this instance the author is black.

by JonFrum :: Tue, 02/11/2014 - 4:23pm

"Except in this instance the author is black."

Insert [token].