African-American Qb’s and Racial Stereotypes in Draft Evaluations

At the end of the 2011 NFL season more than 70 percent of the players in the league were African-American. There were 97 quarterbacks listed on an NFL roster at the end of the season, and only 20 of them were black. Of the 32 staring Quarterbacks in the league only four of them were black.

The Rooney Rule, established in 2003 requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for a head coaching position before someone is hired to the position. Prior to the Rooney Rule only 6% percent of the head coaches in the NFL were African-American. During the 2011 NFL season 10 of the 32 were African-American, or 32 percent. That is a huge jump from the 6% in 2002.

The NFL has clearly made strides in increasing the amount of African-Americans in coaching and front office positions. So why then in a league where almost three-quarters of its players are of African-American descent, are there so few black quarterbacks?

I don’t have an answer for you, and I don’t think anyone does, or else there would be more African-American quarterbacks in the NFL. This shouldn’t be an issue that we should shy away from talking about though. Are we afraid to come off as racist or afraid to challenge other people’s believes. If all of society acted like that we might still have separate school for African-Americans. This is an  issue that shouldn’t be over looked.

Like I said earlier, I don’t have an answer to this problem and I don’t think anyone does. I do think that one thing that has played a major role in this issue are the racial stereotypes used by the media in draft prospect evaluations.

The top two quarterback prospects for the 2012 NFL Draft are Andrew Luck of Stanford University and Robert Griffin iii of Baylor University.

www.cbssports.com analyzes Robert Griffin iii ability to read defenses. It states, “Sees the entire field and works through his progressions, manipulating the pocket and keeping his eyes downfield. Holds the ball too long and needs to improve his pocket awareness, abandoning his reads too easily. Streaky internal clock and looks to get outside of the pocket too soon. Has questionable vision as a passer, staring down defenders and making puzzling decisions at times. Still makes too many mental mistakes and needs to polish the mental aspect of his game.”

If we look at RG3’s stats over his three years as a starting quarterback at Baylor University it is hard to see where these analysis are coming from. Griffin started as a true freshman, got hurt his sophomore year and once again started every game his junior and senior seasons. In his career at Baylor he has never had a season with a completion percentage under 60 percent, and has never had a quarterback rating of under 142.0. To me, that doesn’t seem like a Qb that has trouble reading defenses and needs to improve his pocket awareness.

The website also analyzes his “on the move ability.” It states, “An elite athlete with quick feet and superior speed. Smooth, flexible and leggy. Has magic escapability and adds an extra dimension with his legs. Makes something out of nothing, keeping defenders off balance and forcing poor angles because of his jets. Very good patience, vision and instincts as a runner with football toughness, more than simply a track athlete.”

During his freshman year at Baylor Griffin ran 173 times for 846 yards. By his junior season Griffin ran the ball 149 times for 635 yards. That sounds like a Qb who is learning how to play the position and has gotten better at reading defenses over the years. He has learned to throw first and run second.

www.cbssports.com also analyzes Andrew Luck’s ability to read defense as well as his “on the move” ability.

For his evaluation on reading defenses it states “put simply, it is Luck’s recognition of defenses that might be his most extraordinary accomplishment. Had full freedom to call audibles at the line and takes advantage of his recognition to improve the offense’s chance at a successful play, including often switching from passing plays to handoffs and bootlegs. Often will look one way and throw the other, leaving defenders with very little time to react.

In Andrew Luck’s sophomore season he had a 56 percent completion percentage, compared to Griffin’s 65 percent completion percentage that same year. This past year Luck had a 71.3 percent completion percentage and a 169.7 quarterback rating. RG3 had a 72.4 completion percentage and a 189.5 Qb rating.

The stats say these two quarterbacks are way more similar in the pocket than their draft evaluations say.

www.cbssports.com says Luck’s his “on the move ability” as “Perhaps the most underrated element of his game. Possesses very good straight-line speed for the quarterback position, as well as vision, enough mobility to evade defenders in the open field (not in tight quarters, however) and good strength.”

At the NFL Combine Luck ran a 4.65 40-yard dash. At the 2011 NFL Combine Cam Newton ran a 4.60 40-yard dash. No one at the time was saying that Newton’s running ability was the most underrated element part of his game, in fact it was just the opposite. But their 40 yard dash times say these two Qb’s have way more in common outside of the pocket than the draft evaluations state.

Racial stereotypes in draft evaluations are something you can see all the time, and it’s not only for the quarterback position. All the time you have draft evaluations describing white defensive ends as “high-energy guys, with great motors.” Or a black linebacker described as being “freakishly athletic with sideline-to-sideline speed.” These racial stereotypes are ignorant and they hurt the integrity of the game.

Just recently, Jeremy Lin, an Asian-American point guard has taken the NBA by storm. On www.draftexpress.com, the website described Lin as being “deceptively quick and assertive off the dribble.” Deceptively quick, what does that mean? Is he deceptively quick because you didn’t expect him to be quick since he is Asian? Even after playing extremely well in a draft-camp scrimmage against eventual number one pick John Wall, he still went undrafted.

There were only four black starting quarterbacks in the NFL last season. I don’t know why there were that few, but there were, and it’s a problem we need to look at. I think racial stereotypes in draft evaluations could have something to do with this. If we could all be more “colorblind” in our talent evaluations we might be able to increase the amount of black quarterbacks in the NFL.

And believe me, after NFL GM’s have seen what Linsanity has done for the Knicks no one wants to miss out on the NFL’s version of Jeremy Lin. Being more “colorblind” in talent evaluations will help you make sure that doesn’t happen.

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