THE LINEUP #2: Top Black NFL QBs of All-Time

Posted: January 11, 2011 by The Cheap Seat Fan in NFL, The Lineup
Tags: , , , , , ,

Cam Newton ran, passed and dominated the entire SEC, the greatest conference in all of sports, this year. He showcased a clearly superior talent all season, and won all the accolades as a result of this, including a National Title last night. You would think that would guarantee him a job at the next level among the top players moving on to the NFL in the spring. However, this next level of achievement is evaluated with a grain of salt by everyone watching. That uncertainty is feed not by his shortcomings, but by what history has shown. Or not shown actually.

Quarterback, sports’ most glamorous position. A prototypical great NFL QB is a strong armed leader that can control the game and deliver the ball to where it needs to be. This player is to be a true leader of his gridiron troops. Basically, a stand still, run if chased passer, not exactly the what many black QBs offer. However, there is another job feature that isn’t quite as plainly spelled out, but over the years has been adhered to in the NFL with a vigor that almost makes it seem as much of a rule as pass interference (ironically). That is that this position is not filled by a black player.

For well over 80% of  NFL history, a black quarterback was about as common as a black President. Currently, there are more black quarterbacks on NFL rosters than at any other time. Why is that? At some point over the last 20 years, did black football players just gain the ability to take snaps and throw the ball, despite being able to dominate virtually every other position for the entire history of the league? Of course not, it is a blatant example of a status quo standing as a law, which is finally being exposed for being the fallacy it is.

In fairness, some of the reasoning could be based in a problem in translation. In many cases in the college game, some of the premier black quarterbacks have been in systems which purely showcased their athleticism over their arms, and this style of play does not translate well to the pro game, where option runs are eaten by quicker play. However, this doesn’t explain why a player like Charlie Ward went undrafted in the ENTIRE 1994 NFL Draft, being forced to take his Heisman-worthy talents to the NBA, where they were of no use, as touchdown aren’t required for success in Madison Square Garden.

At any rate, the expansion of the usage of the black quarterback has added a new dimension to the offensive attack and the black QB is much more than just an extra running back with a slightly better arm. This is a diverse group of players that have each brought a different wrinkle to the game, and here are the top 10 to ever do it.

10. Vince Young: The 2008 Offensive Rookie of the Year has twice gone from the bench to bring the Titans back from disaster, making two trips to the Pro Bowl along the way. He has a unique playmaking ability, and if he gets his personal temperament even out he can make several more trips to both the Pro Bowl and playoffs.

9. Aaron Brooks: He was a sensation after he replaced Jeff Blake (a rare instance of a black quarterback filling in for another one) after a late season injury to the starter in New Orleans in 2000, and helped the team finish 10-6 in the regular season and beat the defending Super Bowl champion Rams in the playoffs. He went on to set the Saints’ single season passing yards record the next season.

Brooks emergence on the scene in 2000 included a surprising upset of the defending Super Bowl champions.

8. Jeff Blake: As previously mentioned, Blake lead the Saints for a time, but made his name as the leader of the Cincinnati Bengals in the mid-90’s, teaming up with Carl Pickens and Darnay Scott to fuel an exciting passing game that landed Blake in the 1995 Pro Bowl, where he threw the longest TD in the history of the game (92 yards) to Yancey Thigpen.

7. Doug Williams: He threw 100 touchdowns in his career, but he is best known not for his numbers, but for his historical achievement. In throwing for 340 yards with four touchdowns, he beat the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 22, and won Super Bowl MVP. More importantly, he became the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl. 25 years later, he still holds this distinction.

Williams' wom over the Broncos was more than just a Super Bowl victory, it is still standing NFL history.

6. Daunte Culpepper: Three time Pro Bowler who has thrown for over 24,000 yards and 149 touchdowns in his NFL career. His 2004 campaign was one of the best quarterback seasons ever, with him throwing for 4,717 yards and 39 touchdowns. He also set the record for most combined passing and rushing yards during this season with 5,123, and he is fourth all-time in quarterback rushing yardage.

5. Michael Vick: He was the first black quarterback taken #1 overall in the NFL Draft, and after joining the Atlanta Falcons, he quickly became the league’s most exciting player. He holds NFL records for most rushing yards in one game (173), most 100 yard rushing games (8) and single-season quarterback rushing yardage (1,039). After being out of the game for 2 years due to a dog fighting conviction, he regained his starting position in 2010….in both the regular season and the Pro Bowl, his fourth trip to the game.

4. Randall Cunningham: The original “Ultimate Weapon” at quarterback. Cunningham is the all-time rushing leader at QB, with 4,928 yards. He even kicked a 91 yard punt once, which is the 4th longest of all-time. While he is remembered for his ground exploits in Philadelphia, his prowess as a passer is what led him to his greatest season, in 1998 with Minnesota. He took the Vikings to a 15-1 record and a NFL record 556 points, throwing 34 touchdowns. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this season is he did this after returning from retirement and exile from Philadelphia.

Cunningham first displayed the potential of the dual threat NFL QB, and is still the all-time QB rushing leader.

3. Steve McNair: One of the toughest players in the history of the game, his will was remarkable and he was one of the best play creators in history. Following one of the most productive college careers ever at Alcorn State, he had 13 successful years in the NFL, that included an MVP in 2003 and a Super Bowl trip in 2000. He is the Titans/Oilers all-time leader in passing yards with 31,304. His life was ended tragically in 2009 when he was shot in a murder/suicide event.

2. Donovan McNabb: Maybe the most debated and controversial QB of anybody’s time, McNabb’s perceived postseason shortcomings have overshadowed a remarkable career. After being selected 2nd in the 1999 NFL Draft (and becoming the only consistent success from the highly hyped class), he went on to become the Eagles career leader in passing yards, completions, attempts and touchdowns, and made six Pro Bowl appearances along the way. Over the course of his career he has surpassed 40,000 yards of total offense, and 250 touchdowns, along with holding the record for most consecutive completions (24), which he did twice. He is also the least intercepted quarterback of all-time, with only 2% of his passes being picked off.

1. Warren Moon: A tale of two nations, but both being wildly successful. Moon, despite being successful at the University of Washington, went undrafted in the 1978 NFL, long before black quarterbacks were even the exception. He refused to switch positions for the NFL and instead went to the Canadian Football League, where he became the greatest QB in CFL history, leading his Edmonton Eskimos to five consecutive Grey Cup Championships, and threw for 21,228 yards and 144 touchdowns over six years.

Moon defied both conventions of NFL front offices and the limits of cornerbacks, in two nations, during his historic career.

After finally “proving his worth” to the NFL he joined the Houston Oilers and continued to be a terror by air, throwing for over 4,600 yards in back-to-back seasons in 1990-91. His career end totals of both the NFL and CFL are 70,553 pass yards and 435 touchdowns, 49,325 and 291 of which came in the NFL, which landed him in nine Pro Bowls. He became the first player inducted into both the Canadian and American football Hall of Fames, becoming the first (and only) black quarterback in the NFL Hall.

Proof that if the chance is extended, the results can come. Change to Narrative and take notes Mr. Newton.


  1. Gator says:

    Coming along nicely with the writing, friend! Keep it up!

  2. Julian says:

    I was going to put Mcnair ahead of McNabb but you displayed some important statistics that I had no clue about. 2% of passes intercepted is a crazy stat in the current NFL.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Matt Whitener and Matt Whitener, Matt Whitener. Matt Whitener said: THE LINEUP #2: Top Black NFL QBs of All-Time: […]

  4. Oates says:

    I dig the list. I think its a sad state when Jeff Blake & Aaron Brooks make any top 10 list. No love for Akili Smith or Shaun King!?!?

  5. RVS says:

    Dope article! There’s not enough said about the accolades of black QB’s. Great stat breakdowns.


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