JaMarcus Russell was supposed to be the next big thing when he was drafted with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. But his career was an utter failure. (Photo by Jeff Lewis)
Donavan McNabb maybe the only black quarterback in a great position to win, which he has done his entire career despite heavy criticism. But he just smiles and continues to produce. (Photo by Jeff Lewis)
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
Not too long ago black quarterbacks were popping up all over the NFL. Teams fell in love with their athletic abilities and they proved that they could play the position that owners, coaches, and scouts once thought they were not smart enough to play.
Just six years ago Donavan McNabb and Michael Vick were battling each other in the NFC Championship game while Donte Culpepper was lighting up the league with 4,717 passing yards, 39 touchdowns with only 11 interceptions while completing 69.2% of his passes. Steve McNair had the Titans in playoff contention every season.
Well it seems like the stock in black quarterbacks is dropping. Only five teams are led by black quarterbacks, and some of the big named quarterbacks are having off the field problems.
The only teams that are led by black quarterbacks are the Washington Redskins (Donavan McNabb), the Jacksonville Jaguars (David Garrard), the Oakland Raiders (Jason Campbell), the Tennessee Titans (Vince Young), and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Josh Freeman).
Out of those five quarterbacks, only McNabb and Young are creating any buzz, but some of the press that Young is getting is not very good.
After turning his career around by leading the Titans to an 8-2 finish after they started the season 0-6 with Kerry Collins at quarterback, Young was praised for his maturity, and it seemed like he was back on track to live up to his potential.
But last month Young punched a man in the mouth at a Dallas area strip after an argument. Reports are that the man insulted Young, and in return Young attacked him.
Young was the feel good story of the second half of last season, but that incident made people think that he still lacks the maturity to lead an NFL team.
Young was not the only black quarterback to have off-the-field problems. JaMarcus Russell has gotten himself arrested for drug possession, which could end his career, and Michael Vick cannot escape his past reputation.
Russell was hoping that a team would take a chance on him after the Raiders released him, but after being arrested for possessing codeine syrup, no NFL team is going to look at him.
Russell was being investigated for two months for possessing the main ingredient for what is known as “Purple Drank”. Usually the codeine syrup is mixed with a soft drink like Sprite and Jolly Rancher candy.
Purple drank, or “sizzurp” as it is sometimes called, is a popular drug in the South and can lead to various levels of sedation and weight gain.
There have been reports saying that Russell was getting high off the drug while playing for the Raiders, which could explain his horrible work ethic and his weight problem.
As for Vick, unlike Young and Russell, he did not break any laws, but his poor decision to promote his 30th birthday party led to him being a victim of his past reputation.
By putting Vick’s name on the party, he pretty much brought trouble upon himself. After an argument broke out, which it is unclear if Vick was a part of or not, he left the party. Minutes later the party was shot up, wounding one man, who was a co-defendant in Vick’s trial on running an illegal gambling ring that involved dog fighting.
Vick was not a suspect in the shooting, and it appears that he had nothing to do with it. However, with his situation he has no room for error, and he is lucky that the Eagles have not released him.
As for the black NFL quarterbacks who are staying out of trouble, the only one who looks like he is in a situation to succeed is McNabb. It’s interesting that McNabb has done nothing but win since he entered the league. He has never had off the field issues, but his ability to win has always been questioned. Before the Eagles drafted him in the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft, the Eagles were one of the worst teams in the league, and they instantly turned it around with McNabb.
McNabb has had a borderline hall of fame career, and teaming up with an offensive mastermind like head coach Mike Shanahan may lead McNabb to a Super Bowl ring. Shanahan puts an emphasis on the running game, which takes the pressure off of the quarterback, and he also uses a lot of play action passes.
Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway was deadly off of Shanahan’s play action bootleg passing plays late in his career, which helped the Denver Broncos win two Super Bowls. McNabb still has a lot of gas in the tank, and he is in a system that is perfect for him.
Jacksonville’s Garrard gets the job done, but he is not in a situation to really win on a high level. The Jaguars are a middle of the road team at best that plays home games in a half empty stadium.
The Buccaneers quarterback Freeman is slowly finding his way on one of the league’s worst teams. But for the foreseeable future he’s the man in Tampa Bay. The Bucs drafted him in the first round last year so he will have a few years to make it happen.
One player who is quietly making some noise is the Raiders’ Jason Campbell. After Russell, who may be the biggest bust in NFL Draft history, anybody is going to be better. There is a lot of hope in Oakland but that team has lost 11 or more games in seven consecutive seasons, which is a NFL record. Russell was not there for all of that, so he can only take a small portion of the blame. The Raiders have been the worst team in football since they lost the Super Bowl after the 2002 season.
Campbell has not lived up to his potential in the NFL either, and Oakland certainly is not the place to revive a struggling career.
The horizons are not looking too good for black quarterbacks. Only two were drafted back in April, and only one of them was drafted as a quarterback.
There were big name quarterbacks in this year’s draft. Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Jimmy Clausen, and Colt McCoy headed the list. All white quarterbacks. The only black player drafted as a quarterback was Armanti Edwards out of Division 1-AA Appalachian State, who was drafted in the third round by the Carolina Panthers.
That means that the only black quarterback drafted from a Division 1-A school, which is the highest level of college football, was Joe Webb from UAB, who was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the sixth round… as a wide receiver. Word out of Minnesota is that Webb has been working exclusively as a quarterback, even though he was expected to make the switch to wide receiver when he was drafted.
The upswing that black quarterbacks were on over the past decade has certainly slowed down. Blacks still have many opportunities to play the position, but it may be a while before there are numerous black quarterbacks lighting up the league again.