The quarterback position on NFL and college teams equates to being a movie’s leading man. Similar to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Denzel Washington and Idris Elba, who command much of a film’s budget, in most cases an NFL quarterback is his team’s highest paid player and usually its leader.
Over the past five years, the NFL has begun to mirror certain sectors of society, including the movie industry, with the emergence of Black quarterbacks as franchises’ most prominent players. The Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, the Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson and the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson may claim three straight NFL MVP awards. The 25-year-old Mahomes won it in 2018 before guiding the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl title since 1970 (Super Bowl IV) last season.
Before the start of this season, Mahomes’ fourth, he was rewarded with the largest contract ever by a team, a 10-year deal extension reportedly worth up to $503 million.
Jackson, only 23, shattered numerous NFL records last season in garnering the league MVP. Among those marks was becoming the first player in NFL history to throw for over 30 touchdowns (Jackson had 36) and rushing for more than 1,000 yards in a single season (he ran for 1,206, also an NFL single season record for a QB).
Jackson’s early pro career is an extension of his collegiate exploits at Louisville, where the South Florida native’s superlative play earned him the 2016 Heisman Trophy, presented to college football’s most outstanding player.
Wilson, who turns 32 next month, is building a Hall of Fame resume. He has been to two Super Bowls (2013 and 2014, winning the former) and is the leading MVP candidate through seven games this season. What is more notable than Mahomes’, Jackson’s and Wilson’s individual excellence, are the records of their teams.
QBs are ultimately judged by wins and losses, and this season the Chiefs are 6-1, and the Ravens and Seahawks are both 5-1. That’s a collective 16-3. Several more Black quarterbacks are making strong impressions, including the electric youngster Kyler Murray with the Arizona Cardinals and Teddy Bridgewater with the Carolina Panthers.
Murray, the 2018 Heisman winner and last season’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, has lifted the Cardinals to a surprising 5-2 record and a second place spot in the competitive NFC West. A signature game for Murray was this past Sunday night, out-dueling Wilson by throwing for 360 yards and three touchdowns, in addition to rushing for 67 and scoring one TD, in the Cardinals’ gripping 37-34 overtime win over the Seahawks.
The 27-year-old Bridgewater, who signed with the Carolina Panthers as a free agent last March, was originally drafted by the Minnesota Vikings with the last pick in the first round in 2014. A knee injury interrupted a promising start to his career and after missing the entire 2016 season rehabbing and playing only one game for the Vikings in 2017, Bridgewater signed with the Jets in March of 2018 and was traded to the New Orleans Saints in August to back up Drew Brees. After shining in 14 games for the Saints, including six starts filling in for Brees over the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Bridgewater inked a three-year deal with the Panthers last March. Fully recovered from his knee injury, Bridgewater has affirmed his capacity to be a solid starter for the rebuilding Panthers.He has thrown for 1,903 yards—fifth most in the league—for the 3-4 Panthers, with eight touchdowns, five interceptions and a completion percentage of 72.2.
Former Panther veteran Cam Newton has had an uneven season as the New England Patriots’ starting QB. At 31, Newton, the 2010 Heisman recipient and 2015 NFL MVP, began this season looking like the player who carried his former team, the Carolina Panthers, to the Super Bowl 50, the same season he was named the league’s most valuable player. But after a battle with COVID-19, Newton was benched by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on Sunday after throwing three interceptions in a 33-6 loss at home to the San Francisco 49ers, dropping the Patriots to an unfamiliar 2-4.