With NFL franchises frequently drafting and signing Black quarterbacks, that fact that several of them–Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Josh Freeman and Terrelle Pryor–are

starting doesn’t hold much significance these days.

What does have a lot of meaning is the fact that the NFL had two Black quarterbacks, Geno Smith and Josh Freeman, square off against each other on Sunday. It’s not the first time it has happened and it won’t be the last, but it doesn’t happen often.

The NFL has come a long way since the 1970s, when there was only one Black starting quarterback in the NFL in James Harris. Marlin Briscoe was the first Black to start at quarterback in the AFL.

On an historic note, Fritz Pollard, in addition to being the first Black to play and head coach in the NFL, was the first African-American to play

quarterback.

Since Harris and Briscoe’s breaking of the mold, many Black signal callers have excited fans through the years, including Doug Williams, Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair and Kordell Stewart.

Very little was made of Smith and Freeman playing against each other. Should there be?

“I think we have to turn the page on thinking like that,” said Jets guard Willie Colon. “We have a lot of collegiate guys coming out, a lot of [Blacks] who can play the position at this level.”

Smith and Freeman played like professionals on Sunday. Smith completed 24 of 38 passes for 256 yards, a touchdown and one interception and led the Jets to the winning score, a Nick Folk 48-yard field goal and an 18-17 win over the Bucs.

Freeman threw for 210 yards, a touchdown and one interception.

Smith’s skills will be on display tonight at 8:30 when the Jets take on the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass.

It’s not the first time the Jets have made a splash in this fashion. In 2003, Herm Edwards led the Jets to an AFC East title and a first-round playoff game against the Tony Dungee-led Indianapolis Colts. It was the first time in NFL history that two Black head coaches faced each other in the postseason. Colon played under a Black coach in Pittsburgh (Mike Tomlin) and thinks it’s time for a mindset change.

Said Colon: “You had [quarterbacks] that came from a run-and-shoot or triple option in college who could run. Now you have quarterbacks who can sit back and throw in the pocket. I think you have to turn the page and realize that these are quarterbacks who just happen to be Black.”