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NFL staffers still using coded language around Black quarterbacks

Kyler Murray (l.), Lamar Jackson (c.) and Patrick Mahomes
Image: Getty Images

During the spring of 2019, New York Giants’ former general manager Dave Gettleman made a declaration during the pre-draft process after falling in love with a certain prospect. “After the three series I watched, I saw a professional quarterback. So that’s when I was in full-blown love,” he said about Daniel Jones at the Senior Bowl.

The Giants drafted Jones out of Duke — a school where football is fourth on the depth chart behind men’s and women’s basketball and lacrosse — with the sixth overall pick. To date, “Danny Dimes” has a 12-25 record in the games he’s started. Calling him mediocre would be kind.

Like Gettleman, I’m ready to make a declaration:

This week, we were quickly reminded that all the “progress” that’s been made on the field when it comes to the Black quarterbacks in the NFL is surface level at best. Stories and quarterback rankings were released in which a defensive coordinator said Jackson would never be a top tier/tier 1 quarterback, and that Mahomes played “streetball.” And then we found out the Arizona Cardinals put a stipulation in Murray’s new contract — which is a five-year, $230.1 million deal — that requires him to have at least four hours per week of self-study because they think he’s either stupid, ill-prepared, or both.

These are the examples of coded language that have always been used to attack Black quarterbacks. They’re never intelligent because they rely on pure athleticism. They aren’t “leaders of men.” And their ability to create is a direct correlation to them not being prepared. But most importantly, for many, they just don’t look like a quarterback.

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This is what coaches, general managers, talent evaluators, scouts, and executives will say when they get to speak freely under the security of anonymity. And this is how they really feel about arguably the most exciting and dynamic player in the league (Murray), the man who is one of two unanimous MVPs in league history (Jackson), and the quarterback that every young person who plays the position models their game after (Mahomes).

If this is how they view Black quarterbacks with MVPs that are on the cover of Madden and are the reason why the Arizona Cardinals routinely play on national TV, then can you imagine their takes about other Black people throughout the NFL?

This is why Brian Flores is suing the league and Black coaches can’t get hired. This is why we still haven’t had a majority Black owner. This is why we can count the number of Black GMs and team presidents on a few fingers.

This is also why Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid are at home and not at training camp.

And lastly, this is why Deshaun Watson has the largest guaranteed contract in NFL history. Because outside of the summer of 2020, he made sure he was always a non-threatening “company man” that made white people feel at ease, which has played a role in why the good ol’ boys club that runs the NFL doesn’t have an issue with the alleged behavior that led to 20-plus sexual misconduct lawsuits. Because to them, his sins were more than forgivable — if immoral at all.

The plight of the Black quarterback has a long history, and as this week proved, it’s still a steep uphill battle for melanated signal callers. But in the case of Jackson, he’s been targeted since his college days despite being the only football player not named Tom Brady who voters unanimously selected as the best player in football.

Outside of Bill Polian once saying that Jackson’s NFL future should be as a wide receiver, the slights began before he was a pro. Never forget that, despite Jackson winning the Walter Camp and Maxwell Awards (along with the Heisman Trophy), ESPN The Magazine decided to go with Sam Darnold as the cover boy of their 2017 College Football Preview edition instead of the reigning winner. I guess Darnold had the look of a quarterback and Jackson didn’t, even though he went on to be even better as a junior than he was as a sophomore. He somehow finished third that year for the Heisman. And when the 2018 NFL Draft rolled around, Jackson had to sit in the Green Room, as he was the final pick of the First Round, after white quarterbacks like Baker Mayfield, Darnold, Josh Allen, and (major bust) Josh Rosen, were selected before him.

Jackson has more Pro Bowl selections than all of them combined. If he was white, he would have been the No. 1 overall pick that year.

Last year we found out that Jackson was negotiating his own deal. People automatically thought that it was a bad move not for him to have an agent, as if it’s impossible for a Black man to play quarterback in the NFL and know how to read/bargain his own contract. Fast forward to now, and the market has increased the numbers for what a quarterback like Jackson can ask for, and then realized how much more he will make from his oncoming deal because he doesn’t have to give anyone a commission.

Every time a new obstacle is placed in front of the Black quarterback they figure out how to overcome it. And like clockwork, the goal posts are quickly moved. This week was a great reminder of that. Because to so many that watch, coach, and control the game of football, Black men that play the position will always be seen as Black quarterbacks, and never just a “quarterback.”

“Even if you in a Benz, you still a n****a in a coupe” — Kanye West “All Falls Down” (2004).

This content was originally published here.

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