For years, the Washington Redskins’ Doug Williams was the only Black quarterback to lead his team to Super Bowl victory, in 1988. Eventually, the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson succeeded in 2014, and now the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes has joined the elite club.
This football season, the NFL’s 100th, had been labeled The Year of The Black Quarterback by ESPN’s website TheUndefeated.com. Such was the talent that five of the top seven quarterbacks this season were African American. The Year of The Black Quarterback ended with Kansas City’s dramatic 31-20 come-from-behind Super Bowl win over San Francisco.
“It’s really a product of the fact that we’ve been getting more and more opportunities to play the quarterback position over the years, and you see what happened this year from those opportunities,” Warren Moon, the first Black quarterback in the Pro-Football Hall of Fame, told TheUndefeated.com.
“The talent has always been there, but you can’t display it if you don’t have the opportunity,” Moon said. “It has all come together this year … and they’ll just continue to keep improving because they’re all young quarterbacks. Except for Russell [Wilson] being in his eighth year, the rest of these guys are early in their careers.”
Here’s a quick look at the past, present and future of our Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks.
Doug Williams led the Washington Redskins to a 42-10 victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII in 1988. “I knew it was history-making,” said Williams, who was asked frequently about being a Black quarterback in the days leading up to the game. “But for me, I couldn’t look at it that way. Everybody else was making a big deal out of it, but I had to look at it as, ‘What is best for the Washington Redskins?’”
Williams had an amazing rise from being the lowest paid starting QB in the NFL in 1982. For a generation of Black quarterbacks who followed, Williams’s four-touchdown MVP performance was a powerful rejection of the notion that great African-American athletes were ill-equipped for the complexity and leadership demands of being NFL quarterbacks. Fun fact: Williams endured a six-hour root canal surgery the day before the game, and still won.
Williams has gone on to a coaching and executive career.
From 1988 to 2019, five more Black quarterbacks played the Super Bowl, but only Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks led his team to a win – 43-8 against the Denver Broncos (just like Doug Williams) in Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014.
He and the team returned to the Super Bowl in 2015 but failed to beat the New England Patriots. Wilson won more games (75) than any other NFL quarterback in his first seven seasons, and has the second highest NFL career passer rating of all time.
In 2015, he signed a four-year, $87.6 million contract extension with the Seahawks, making him, at the time, the second highest paid player in the NFL. In April 2019, he signed a new four-year extension for $140 million, bumping him up to being the highest paid player in the NFL.
After a successful college career, Wilson went pro in 2012, and has only played for Seattle. He is 31 years old, and has also played professional baseball.
After three years of college football at Texas Tech, Patrick Mahomes skipped his senior year to enter the 2017 NFL Draft, and was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs.
His rookie year was mostly spent as a back-up quarterback, until an end-of-season game as a starter showed his ability. A month later, he was named permanent starting QB for the 2018 season.
On the way to leading the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl appearance and victory since 1970 and being named Super Bowl LIV MVP, 24-year-old Mahomes has made a number of landmark accomplishments, including:
NFL: First player to throw for over 3,000 yards in his first 10 games (3,185)
NFL: Fastest to 7,500 career passing yards (24 games)
NFL: Youngest quarterback to throw for six touchdowns in a game
Chiefs: Most touchdown passes thrown in a game: 6 (2018, tied)
Chiefs: Most touchdown passes in a season: 50 (2018)
Chiefs: Most passing yards in a season: 5,097 (2018)
In 2019, Mahomes started a nonprofit called 15 and the Mahomies Foundation to benefit youth initiatives; the group distributed 15 grants for $15,000 to KC-area charities in November. Mahomes is now entering the final year of a four-year $26.5 million contract with the Chiefs. The question will be: How much will the Chiefs pay for an extension?
WHO TO WATCH
Both Russell Wilson (Seattle) and Cam Newton (Carolina) have been in the NFL for a while, but don’t count them out. Wilson has a big paycheck to collect, and Newton will have time to recuperate from injuries before the season begins.
Lamar Jackson (Baltimore) was unanimously voted MVP of the 2019 season, and is poised to dominate the scene.
Dak Prescott (Dallas) has led the Cowboys for four seasons; Deshaun Watson (Houston) has built a resume of come-from-behind wins since 2017; Kyler Murray (Arizona) is a youngblood with just one season under his belt, but his abilities are attested to by being the only athlete who’s been a first-round draft for both the NFL and Major League Baseball.
As for college prospects who look good for drafting, TheUndefeated.com lists Kelly Bryant of Missouri; Justin Fields of Ohio State; Tyler Huntley of Utah; Jalen Hurts of Oklahoma; Kellen Mond of Texas A&M; Jamie Newman of Wake Forest; Bryce Perkins of Virginia; and Khalil Tate of Arizona.