Friday, January 7, 2011

White Generals, Black Privates

For the last few years, I have been out on college football.  Didn’t care for the way the BCS is structured, I hated that the small teams basically get hosed every year and there is no playoff.
But after some convincing, along with (shameless self promotion) my regular appearances on The Dave Kenoly Weekend Sports Show/1190am; 4-6 p.m. on Saturdays and the Sports Daddies podcast, I started watching again.  And this is the season I’m glad I did. 
Little TCU upset big bad Wisconsin.  Oklahoma finally won a bowl game, almost in spite of the Stoopinator and Texas lost so many games I actually started to feel bad for them. 
Yeah there are too many bowl games, but there have actually been some that I’ve enjoyed.  The Outback, Fiesta, Sugar and Orange Bowls were some of the best matchups I’ve seen in a while and we still have the NC game and the Kraft Fight Hun…I can’t even get that one out without throwing up in my mouth.  But I think you get the picture.
Now for all the aforementioned good there had been, there’s been one pervasive thought that’s bothered me and it has reached a boiling point as well as damned near made me sick to my stomach every time I hear them: quarterback comparisons.
In the post Jimmy the Greek world of sports where an announcer or analyst is supposed to be a little more subtle about his descriptions of the college athletes, the PC depictions have only mildly given way to the underlying condescending explanations betwixt one athlete and another, mainly quarterbacks.
I have a friend, we’ll call him Brandon F., whom I routinely talk to about football to get the lowdown on the SEC and some other conferences that I could really care less about.  We’ve had a progressive discussion over the course of the college football season regarding the difference between black and white quarterbacks and the way commentators, analyst and draft experts pigeonhole each one into specific groups.
For me it came to a head prior to the Orange Bowl when noted liar, cheat and overall slimy degenerate bastard Craig James noted that there was no way Virginia Tech could beat Stanford because Cardinal QB Andrew Luck was basically to smart to lose.  He went on to say that when Luck makes a pass that seems overthrown or short, it’s done deliberately to give his receivers a chance to make a play on the ball, and basically if they miss, they messed up somewhere.  (I’m guessing that safety and interception was part of the game plan)
For VT QB Tyrod Taylor, however, he described a different game plan.  Taylor needed to move around in the pocket and use his athleticism to allow him to make plays because he, in essence, wasn’t smart enough to even be on the field with Luck.  Now the outcome of the game would lead one to believe that James was correct in his assessment.  But a closer look at the game would tell you that what lost Va. Tech the game was terrible defense, drops and poor execution. 
Taylor’s play in the second quarter where he scrambled to his left, spun off of a defender and made the perfect throw to David Wilson as he was falling out of bounds was the type of play James would have been thinking about while he was making love to his wife had that been Luck.  But since it was Taylor and VT had lost, it was just a footnote. 
And then I was reminded why I stopped watching college football in the first place.
Over the last 10 years there have been a number of black quarterbacks that have led their college teams to victory with the same amount of skill, intelligence and moxie as their white counterparts.  Yet when the Mel Kipers and Todd McShays of the world start to evaluate them, the descriptions couldn’t be more different.
Payton Manning had intelligence and field presence while Donovan McNabb was a skilled and gifted athlete.  Ryan Leaf was a natural leader but Jason Campbell was a game manager.  Never mind the fact that some of these guys were winners at their colleges, but they never got the credit they deserved.  Hell, some of them never even got the chance to play because, well, I don’t even know.
Charlie Ward won the Heisman, the Davey O’Brien and a National Championship at Florida State and where did he play football?  With the New York Knicks.  He couldn’t even get a sniff at quarterback in the NFL because scouts wanted him to switch to wide receiver. 
Grambling State’s Bruce Eugene was another.  The rap on him was he was too small (6’1) and too heavy (265 lbs).  They forgot the kid had a cannon for an arm, was deadly accurate, threw for 4000 yards and 48 touchdowns his senior year and scored high on his Wonderlic test (41).  And such is the case with many black quarterbacks.  They don’t even get a shot while midgets like Doug Flutie, old men in the case of Chris Weinke or has-beens like Chad Hutchison and Drew Henson get chance after chance. 
What really pissed me off last year was the fawning and selection over of Tim Tebow.  The guy is a glorified H-back masquerading as a quarterback.  His mechanics are terrible, his decisions are average but since he is such a super swell guy, he gets a shot.  Anyone else with his particular skill set would have been moved to tight end, receiver or fullback, a la Patrick Crayton, Isaiah Stanbeck, Antwaan Randle El, Heinz Ward and Brad Smith. 
But not the great savior Tebow.  And no matter how much he struggles “learning” the quarterback position, he will continue to get chance after chance to figure it out.  Meanwhile a Donovan McNabb gets benched and blamed for trying to lead a team of talentless hacks with zero offensive playmakers, a marginal defense and horrendous coaching for Rex Grossman.  Rex “40 TD-40 INT in 6 years” Grossman, who is the ultimate drunken bus driver and the worst QB on a Super Bowl team since Trent Dilfer and rookie Roethlisberger led their teams and basically just got tickets to the game and a couple of hats.
McNabb had one sub-par year before he was tossed to the scrap heap while many of his counterparts had many bad years and twice and sometimes three times as many opportunities to attempt to revive their careers either with their current teams or somewhere else (see Dilfer, Trent Greene, Gus Frerotte, Jeff George, Alex Smith and Jake Delhomme).  
Yet teams are willing trash guys like Jamarcus Russell, who would have been better suited in a well structured organization instead of the Dodge City atmosphere of the Raiders and Jason Campbell who, despite having four coordinators in four years in Washington, was released for lack of production.  I’m sorry, but when you have a space cadet for a coach and a nincompoop for an owner, how can you be expected to win?  In five years, Campbell has thrown double-digit interceptions only twice, has a 60 percent completion rate and has kept his cool through it all. 
Isn’t that what teams are supposed to be looking for?  Quarterbacks who can stand tall through adversity and lead their men when the times are tough all while staying cool under pressure?  If that’s the case, then where are the other Campbells and McNabbs?  Where are the organizations willing to give legitimate chances to Joe Webb and Heisman winners like Troy Smith?  When will the black QBs that make a few mistakes stop getting sent down the ranks while their white equivalents get all the support, accolades and attention, and in some cases, elevation to the top sometimes without proving anything?  (Do you hear me Jimmy Clausen?)
And what I fear is we are going to see the same thing this year.  When Auburn’s Cam Newton elects to enter the draft, in my opinion he should be the first QB taken—not Ryan Mallett and certainly not Jake Locker.  And while the Panthers are whining because they won’t get a chance at Luck, they should be happy they are getting the opportunity to select someone with the poise, confidence and exuberance of Newton.  If they don’t select him, then it’s their loss because someone will get a Class A QB with the skill set to match if taught correctly.
On January 16, it will have been 23 years since Jimmy Snyder uttered his infamous “black are bred to be better athletes” dribble.  Yet it seems there hasn’t been a day that has passed that we aren’t constantly reminded that blacks cannot play QB on the professional level, subtly and overtly by the people we listen to on ESPN and other sports networks.  One has to wonder how many stars we will never know because the mindset of the old NFL is still pervasive in the new NFL. 
  And instead of marching their teams to victory, they’re ordered to get in line and follow lesser talented men.

3 comments:

  1. Nice read. Totally agree, I think about this all the time when it comes to Donovan McNabb. People really made a big deal about it when he admitted that he didn't know games could tie. Funny thing is a lot of other players admitted the same. But it was made even more of a big deal because it was McNabb, I wonder if it would've been Brady or Manning if it would've been different. That might be a projection but I can't say it didn't pass my mind.

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  2. "Ced" WilsonJanuary 8, 2011 at 7:51 AM

    Very true. I've never heard of a "smart black QB, they're all "athletic." Never seen a white QB switched to WR when he gets to college or the pros yet I have several friends who have had to make that transition and there are numerous testimonies in the NFL and College football right now. Just look around a football team and look where you see the most blacks: skill positions excluding QB and on defense they play DB to chase the other QBs who were switched to WR. Very few get a real chance to flourish at the position and the first time they mess up they get pulled.

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  3. Tough to read, but I will give my opinion a try...I think that the subject black coaches and quarterbacks does more to promote young african american males becoming self prepaired (I guess) for life than "Rap Music". (Not to say that rap music is in any way, shape, or form a learning tool for young black men) When young black men see black coaches and quarterbacks, they see the same thing that they see when they see Barack Obama is the President of the United States of America--"I can do anything." As for whether it is intelligence or athleticism, well that depends upon what school of thought you went to. (Intelligence can be athletic in the sense that you have to find the knowledge, and athleticism can be intelligence once the practice becomes a tool for you to learn)

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