Seahawks

Russell Wilson, Cam Newton continue to pave the way for Black quarterbacks

Seahawks

We’re living in a historic moment.

A record 10 Black quarterbacks started in the NFL in Week 1, almost a third of the league’s 32 teams. 

Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, Cam Newton of the New England Patriots, Tyrod Taylor of the Los Angeles Chargers, Teddy Bridgewater of the Carolina Panthers, Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys, Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans, Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs, Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens, Kyler Murray of the Arizona Cardinals and Dwayne Haskins of the Washington Football Team all started under center as the NFL kicked off its 2020-21 season.

It’s living proof that Black quarterbacks have already won.

In his New England debut, Newton donned cleats with the phrases like “7 shots,” on them, a reference to the amount of times Jacob Blake was shot in Kenosha, Wisconsin at the hands of police.

When he scored his first touchdown as a Patriot, he paid tribute to Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman with his “Wakanda Forever” celebration.

One week after Newton became the first Black quarterback to be the Patriots' Week 1 starter, he’ll join one of the league’s pioneer Black quarterbacks, Russell Wilson, on the field in Week 2 for Sunday Night Football.

Wilson helped pave the way for undersized and mobile quarterbacks after football writers said he'd have a "serviceable NFL career." He also became the second Black starting quarterback in NFL history to win a Super Bowl, 26 years after Doug Williams made history in Super Bowl XXII.

 

Black quarterbacks like Newton and Wilson have come a long way, and all we can ask ourselves is "what took the NFL so long?" 

“Well, doesn’t it kind of piss you off that it’s taken so long to see it like this,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday. “These are two phenomenal competitors and we’ve seen these guys go ahead-to-head for a long time,” Carroll said. “But I do think it’s a clear statement of the stature of young Black athletes in sports and their ability to really be in great situations, impact it, and carry the load and responsibility and all of that…

The quarterback position is as hard as a position as there is in sports.

Pete Carroll

The NFL is ushering in a new era of the quarterback, and the future is Black.

Lamar Jackson is the league’s reigning MVP, Mahomes is the league’s most recent Super Bowl champion. Wilson and Newton have started a Super Bowl, Wilson doing so twice. Mahomes and Wilson have both taken home the Lombardi Trophy.

Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner is proud to witness the next leap in the evolution of the quarterback position.

“I love it,” Wagner said. “I feel like every quarterback presents a uniqueness of their game. I think it grows the game, opens the eyes of people’s mentality that the quarterback position has to be one way, that it can be done multiple ways. So I’m excited to see that. Especially for the Black quarterbacks, it gives a lot of young guys...

It inspires them to want to be quarterbacks. It’s going to be really fun to watch the evolution of that position.

Bobby Wagner

Seahawks tight end Greg Olsen believes the shift, in part, is due to the transformation of the position. In last year’s playoffs, we saw more mobile quarterbacks who could not only run, but were also accurate passers.

When looking at the total QBR in 2019, four of the first five QBs in the rating were Black quarterbacks with excellent mobility.

“There been a dramatic shift,” Olsen said. “That’s the reality of it and you just see so many of these guys that have come into the league and everyone always want to stereotype and say, ‘oh they’re runners,’ but we’re seeing these guys come in, these young quarterbacks across the league. They’re great athletes from the time they were young, just around the game much more, the youth game has really developed a lot. But these guys are not just standing back there in high school and college anymore just statues throwing the ball. From the time they’re young, they’re dual threat guys.”

Olsen, a 13-year veteran, who has worked alongside Newton and Wilson, has seen how Black quarterbacks have changed the game first-hand.   

“Cam [Newton] was obviously at the front of it, you had RGIII kind of right on the tail of him, [Colin] Kaepernick,” Olsen said. “But now recently, Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson and [Patrick] Mahomes, [and] Russ[ell Wilson]. It’s impressive. These guys are so talented, they’re so athletic, but they’re very smart. They play the QB position, they just happen to be great athletes. I think that’s really the magic of the position these days is having that ability too move around, we see it with Russ all the time, they’re not just statues…

 

The last couple of years, we’ve seen a lot of really special guys at the position, come into the league. 

Greg Olsen

As Wilson and Newton take center stage when the Seahawks welcome the Patriots to CenturyLink Field at 5:20 p.m. PT Sunday, it’s important to seize the moment and recognize a significant part of NFL history is in unfolding in front of our eyes.

The Black quarterback revolution is just beginning.

[Listen to the latest Talkin' Seahawks podcast with host Joe Fann]