The Elusive Quarterback

By Lloyd Graff

I’ve loved pro football since the days of Johnny Unitas. Dropback quarterbacks have dominated the game, but in recent years defense has become more prominent. Now the sport is swinging toward a more elusive running quarterback. With this swing, another interesting trend has been evolving. The quarterback position has become more “athletic,” and the players coming to dominate it are primarily young and African American.

I’ve always regarded the National Football League as the most racist of the major sports. Yes, about 80% of the players are African American, but traditionally the quarterbacks have been White. The recent dust-up with Colin Kaepernick, an African American quarterback who ironically was raised by White parents, highlighted the deep-seated neanderthalism of the ownership, administration, and hardcore pro football fans.

Among this year’s playoff teams, five are led by young African American signal callers. Russell Wilson of Seattle, Lamar Jackson of Baltimore, Deshaun Watson of Houston, “Dak” Prescott of Dallas, and Pat Mahomes of Kansas City are all dynamic young stars. The myth in the bad old days was that Black quarterbacks didn’t have the savvy, intelligence, and leadership ability to be NFL quarterbacks. That has finally changed, as the ability to avoid 300-pound rushers has begun to replace the quick-release-but-immobile Tom Brady and Phillip Rivers style.

The Elusive Russell Wilson

Improvising and throwing on the run, epitomized by Russell Wilson when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2015, has truly altered the quarterback position. Nevertheless, the stone-age thinking still dominant in the NFL pushed Lamar Jackson down to 32nd pick in the 2018 draft. Despite being probably the best player in college football during two seasons at Louisville, some pro football GMs were thinking he should switch to wide receiver or defensive back, reflecting the bias against “athletic” Black quarterbacks who could advance the ball in ways other than by throwing sideline routes.

The elusive quarterbacks have proven what should have been an obvious fact. If a quarterback has 5 or 6 seconds to enable 5 or 6 receivers to get open, he has a better chance for a completion than chucking the ball in 1.5 seconds like the incredibly accurate, but relatively immobile, Brady or Rivers style.

But if quarterbacks like Wilson or Mahomes win themselves five extra seconds, they will usually do it at the expense of the ideal throwing position. They will throw off their back foot or sidearm or even with two hands like I’ve seen Wilson do. Their style is not classic Johnny Unitas high-top-shoes football. But, wow, can they put up points and excite a fan like me!

Wild Card Weekend was an interesting test of the mobile athletic quarterback versus the classic old-school, accurate, “statue” style. The games were not high scoring at all. Defenses seemingly were primed to bottle up the shorter running QBs. Two of the all-time great pocket passers, Phillip Rivers of the L.A. Chargers and Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts, demonstrated that if you have a great offensive line to block for you and you have incredible composure, courage, and vision, you do not have to be evasive to be successful. Nick Foles of the Eagles also held up well against a superb Chicago Bears defense, as he did last year when he led Philly to the Championship.

To me, the conflicting styles of quarterbacking only make the game more fascinating. I think we will now be seeing more offensive linemen becoming first-round draft picks. The effectiveness of the Indianapolis guards and tackles in keeping Andrew Luck’s uniform clean against a tremendous Baltimore Ravens defense enabled Luck to dominate their game in the first half. Fabulous offensive linemen, like Jason Peters of Philly and Quenton Nelson of Indy, are game changers if you have an old-school quarterback to protect.

This week’s games should be great. Will Tom Brady defy age and immobility to lead the Patriots? Will Pat Mahomes of Kansas City show how he threw for 50 touchdowns this season? The game is changing, but the remarkable standstill, old-school quarterbacks are still holding up well.

Question: Which type of quarterback do you prefer watching? Russell Wilson or Tom Brady?

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10 thoughts on “The Elusive Quarterback

  1. Dan DeBurr

    Excellent article, Lloyd……very insightful and well written!
    I like both types of QBs, whoever can get the job done!
    I’m also looking forward to Tua and Trevor coming out in the near future.
    Pat Mahomes seems to be just about as great as it gets.
    Kudos for giving a shout out to the offensive lineman as well.

  2. JR

    The NFL is very competitive, they spend a huge amount of money to get the best players available to win a Super Bowl. Do you really think that they would pass on a black quarterback if he (or she) was best suited for the position? As the role of the quarterback changes the players selected to play the position will change, due to their skill set, not their race. The people who look at white vs black or Hispanic statistics to determine an organization is racist are the racists themselves.

    Kaepernick brings a lot of baggage that teams do not want to deal with. They want to concentrate on playing football, not on the latest protest. He created his own problem and now has to live with the consequences. He should have concentrated on football while he was on the field and then used his fame to promote his cause off the field.

  3. David Arnesen

    Dwayne Haskins Jr., formerly Ohio State, going to NFL is another fine example of the QB that is highly effective and fun to watch.

  4. Kevin

    You left Aaron Rogers out of your analysis. He might be the best of the lot top to bottom. Is that your Bears’ bias coming out? LOL Also, Kaepernick was losing his game badly prior to his “taking a knee” era. Teams are simply avoiding the distraction because his last body of work wasn’t very impressive.

  5. Misterchipster

    Sorry Lloyd, reread JR’s comment. If for only a moment you could give up the race card you would be better able to see that at that level it’s about culture not color. We have to be careful how we judge others and respectful about what we say as well.

  6. Lloyd Graff

    Haskins will be a great NFL quarterback. He is 6’5” tall but can be move. He is a Phillip Rivers, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck type with wheels. He probably will be the first pick in the 2019 draft.
    The interesting one will be Kyler Murray of Oklahoma who won the Heisman over Haskins and the “Throwin Samoan” of Alabama. Murray was a #1 pick as an outfielder by the Oakland A’s. There is a big hoohaw over whether he is 5’10” or 5’11” tax. The NFL mavens argue than unless you are 5’11” or taller you can’t be a bigtime NFL quarterback. Of course, they forget about Doug Flutie and Eddie LeBaron back in the day. Personally, I think Murray will be at least as good as Baker Mayfield who he succeeded at Oklahoma. He reminds me a lot of Russell Wilson who fell to the third round in the draft, mainly because of his height. Frankly, if I was Murray, I would play baseball and avoid the Khalil Macks and Aaron Donalds of the League.
    Reminds me a little of the Drew Henson, Tom Brady competition at Michigan 20 years ago. Henson was coveted by George Steinbrenner of the Yankees who told him he would go straight to the Majors if he would give up football. Henson decided to take George’s moneyrather than play QB and go into the NFL draft, probably because he knew that a kid named Tom Brady that nobody had heard of was playing second string behind him. Henson chose baseball and batted .190 for New York. He also later played in the NFL and was a bust.

  7. Lloyd Graff

    As far as Colin Kaepernick goes, I feel bad for the kid. Yes, his game had deteriorated for some reason. Maybe injury, too many konks on the head, who knows, but the NFL made him a pariah when it did not have to. I hope he got a lot of dough from Nike, because I doubt he will ever play in the NFL again.

  8. r in nyc

    Stopped watching when they started Kneeling.

    They are all over paid, over-glorified, useless prima donnas!!!

    Try and hold a real job!

  9. Eric Fox

    Probably not paid enough given the bad contract of the union/owners. I expect we will see a strike in future as players will want more of the subsidized $ (stadiums paid for by tax players etc) and TV money. Also what is with the lack of minority coaches at the college and pro level? Same bias that kept minority quarterbacks out of league for years?

    1. Joe



      Hue Jackson is black. Hue Jackson did not win 10% of the time as a head coach. If he was white, would the sample size be that big? Into a third season after winning a grand total of zero games last season? Unfortunately, race plays too large of a role in the NFL head coach circuit. The Rooney Rule should not be necessary. Leaders will rise, regardless of color.


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