BLACK FIELD GENERALS – PART II
THE END OF POCKET PASSERS
Gary Norris Gray-Staff Reporter
The wheels of progress turn very slowly when it moves against the norm. African American quarterbacks are forcing professional football teams to change their offenses, slowly. The National Football continues to promote pocket passers, like Jared Goff-Los Angeles Rams-Detroit, Matthew Stafford-Detroit-Los Ang. Rams and Matt Ryan-Atlanta. They do so in the face of rising Black running quarterbacks like Russell Wilson-Seattle, Patrick Mahomes-Kansas City, Lamar Jackson-Baltimore, and Mr. Watson- Houston. They do so pointing out aging quarterbacks for example recent champions Tom Brady-Tampa Bay, Aaron Rogers-Green Bay and Drew Brees- New Orleans. These three elders cannot go on forever. This chapter of the National Football League is slowly coming to a close reluctantly.
The NFL’s number one priority is entertainment and success via winning. The end result translates into money. Black quarterbacks once a stigma to the NFL have found a place in the growth of NFL popularity. Their added athletic abilities have changed the solely drop back mentality to a more versatile mobile version of quarterbacking.
The key word is mobile.
The defensive pass rushing onslaught has forced this change to offensive schemes to use the run threat of quarterbacks. Even white quarterbacks must have a dimension of escapability and some do. Black head coaching and ownership are the areas needing evolution. All positive changes for blacks in the NFL have taken time over the years because of systematic racism. The need to control and define the rules of engagement has never been in black hands hence the struggle to change. Blacks are the pawns in this game and used to create thrills and excitement for the benefit of the public and those in charge.
The NFL continues to try to convince the public into believing that a pocket passer is the best in the league and that a scrambling quarterback is not good. It is not working because more scrambling quarterbacks are being drafted year by year, more are taking starting positions. At the start of this season it was 10.
At the end of the 1960’s and early 1970’s The Dallas Cowboys had great success with the U.S. Navy Academy graduate Roger Staubach. They even called him Roger “The Dodger” Staubach. The Cowboys went to Super Bowls and Roger received the MVP award. Why did they call him “The Dodger”? Number 12 could evade defensive linemen on the field. (CBS) The Columbian Broadcasting System’s number one sportscasters team Tom Brookshire and Pat Summerall would comment that Staubach had fast feet and elusive moves on the field.
What we hear today from the national sportscasters crew is that these talented Black quarterbacks are very athletic, the code word for people of color and racist.
The Minnesota Viking and New York Football Giant fan base loved the crazy antics of Fran Tarkenton running all over the field escaping chasing linemen. Tarkenton would run around the backfield from sideline to sideline for a five yard gain and get a standing ovation.
The mood and perception changed when African American quarterbacks stood behind center and were faster and bigger then Tarkenton and Staubach.
BAD FOR THE GAME?
The league tried to clean up its act by calling these two Hall of Fame quarterbacks scrambling quarterbacks not running quarterbacks. Somebody please explain to me the difference. As my California friend stated many times words matter.
This only became an issue when this big man from Santa Barbara, California played for the UNLV Running Rebels. In 1985 The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Randall Cunningham and guided the Birds to the playoffs.
He would have been the first African American quarterback in the Super Bowl instead of Doug Williams but the fog in Chicago changed history with a 21-12 Bear victory in Soldier Field. He later guided the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Title game. Missing the Super Bowl again by a field goal.
Linebackers did not want to see number 7 get outside of the tackle box because they knew they would have to go 20 yards to chase him down. This was the beginning of the Black running quarterback. This was the beginning of the redefinition of the quarterback position. The NFL would continue to fight this wave for 45 years.
My favorite quarterback at that time was Major Harris drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 1990. Harris had to fight to gain that position at the University of Pittsburgh where he wanted to play. The Panthers wanted him to play defensive back but this man could throw the football so he bolted to West Virginia and made one of the most outstanding plays in college football. Harris would run through the entire Penn State Lion defense for a touchdown in a 51-20 WVU victory. Number nine went one way while the entire Mountaineer offense went the other way.
Harris major flaw was his footwork throwing on his off foot which caused the ball to flutter in the air at times. With the new zone defenses it made it very difficult for Harris to throw through them. Harris would move to Canada as the (CFL) coaches would correct his foot placement.
The definition of a running BLACK quarterback was beginning to be formed and the NFL was still not ready. The Raiders did not seem interested and Harris became a star in the Canadian Football League. It would have been nice to see Mr. Harris in a Black and Silver uniform.
It became crystal clear that the Black running quarterback was here to stay in the National Football League with another number 7. The six foot 200 pound quarterback from Virginia Tech University, Michael Vick. In 2001 The Atlanta Falcons drafted Vick. He would run the fastest 40 yard dash in NFL history by a quarterback, yes, times they were changing. In 2006 he became the first quarterback to rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season. Vick would make the NFL highlight film every week with one of his scrambles.
The future was wearing red, black, and white with a number 7 on the front. His record for career rushing record of 6,109 is in serous jeopardy with the current crew of Black mobile quarterbacks. Vick made defensive coaches crazy because there was no defense against him taking off and running when the called play broke down. This was the great advantage of the running quarterback. It was nothing new, Michael Vick just improved on it.
The only thing that slowed down this runaway quarterback freight train was Jeff Fisher who was the co-chairman on the NFL competition rules committee and a head coach. Fisher wanted to stop running quarterbacks with the assistance of the other owners. So the rules committee made running quarterbacks a target once they exited the tackle box. The Colin Kaepernick Rule did not last long because too many quarterbacks were getting injured and costing teams victories, money, and championships.
The Black quarterback invasion continued with Dallas Cowboy Dak Prescott, Kyler Murray-Arizona and Dwayne Haskins Jr. formerly of the Washington Football Club. The National Football League once again put forth a Super Bowl with contrasting styles this year Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs. Old school won this time but the kids on the block are gaining ground.
Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian, Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston, Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove, Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, and The Batchelor News Radio Network, Disabled Community Activist. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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