Comparing Black and White Quarterbacks, Is There Really A Difference?

Posted: February 29, 2012 in NFL
Tags: , , , , ,

It’s interesting because a couple of weeks ago I got an email where I was asked “how come we always like comparing white quarterbacks with black quarterbacks?”  And I think it’s a great point. Brett Favre, Caucasian, was a better athlete than Jason Campbell – whose still in the league and is of African American background. I think the media tends to marginalize the black quarterback and says “oh he’s an athlete ” Now it should be noted that to a large degree, many of the black quarterbacks like Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick, and Vince Young have been extraordinary runners and there haven’t been regular white quarterbacks who run – Steve Young obviously was the exception.

But historically, that’s the exception! He’s the outlier. But I will say this – and thanks again to the emailer for raising this very important point, and I think we have moved past this “type casting” with quarterbacks. I always thought Tim Tebow was Vince Young – and I never thought that with either one you could build a franchise around. Tim Tebow is basically Vince Young but with a better work ethic. Both were profoundly successful in college, mechanically flawed at the next level, first instinct is to run and not throw outside of an “easy to catch” deep ball and both have limited showing/throwing into tight windows, so Tim Tebow/Vince Young…same guy.

I think Cam Newton is Big Ben because both are physically gifted; both extend plays beyond anything we’ve ever seen before when they first arrived in the league, both have well above average arms and both have stuff off the field we’re not all entirely comfortable with. I think Andrew Luck at Stanford is Eli Manning but with more mobility. Both have high IQ’s, dad is an ex-NFLer, their escapability is excellent, but Luck is just the better runner, they both make extraordinary pre-snap decisions. I think Robert Griffin has a little Drew Brees in him because they’re both undersized, great head’s for the game, both go to non-traditional powers at the collegiate level, both have an IQ that elevates them in the draft, both throw a tremendous deep-ball for their size, which is small in terms of comparable guys in the league.

So to me, Robert Griffin feels a lot like Drew Brees, Andrew Luck feels like a more mobile Eli Manning, Tebow has always felt like Vince Young and Cam Newton feels a lot like Big Ben. Michael Vick and Steve Young both broke into the league and were extraordinary running quarterbacks, there are some comparisons. The difference between the two is that Michael just wasn’t a student of the game; Michael just cheated himself for the first 6 years. Nobody cheated Michael; it was just Michael cheating Michael. He didn’t work very hard, he admitted later that he didn’t study film, was the “last to practice, first home” so I always felt bad for Michael Vick because Michael cheated Michael, nobody else was out to get him. Michael just had bad judgment, he didn’t put in the time and Steve Young was a student of the game and you can still argue that he may have been the smartest quarterback to ever play the game – he’s way way up the cerebral ladder.

Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons was interviewed not too long ago and talked about how comparisons do matter. He cited his days when running the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and how he would always ask all his scouts to “write 3 current NFL players that compare to the guy you want to draft”. In any business, you are bound to make comparisons, whether they’re racial or not. If you’re going to draft Andrew Luck and you’re the GM of the Colts, you’re going to ask all your scouts on Luck “Who is he? What does he compare to?” comparables! I mean you do that in the pharmaceutical business, you do it in the medical business, in the radio business, the real estate business etc. When you’re going to buy a house on the market, they tend to give you comparable houses that were on the market and what they sold for. So I don’t think comparing quarterbacks is really that bad of a habit – Trent Richardson right now is being compared to NFL running backs.

Eric Mangini was interviewed about a month ago on the Scott Van Pelt Show on ESPN radio and talked about the reason why the Patriots liked Danny Woodhead. He claimed that Belicheck had a theory and said that what Belicheck does is take a list of players, but won’t put their names down, but will have size and speed comparables for every player. Danny Woodhead – when you didn’t care where he went to college, if you just looked at his size, his speed, his shuttle time, vertical and all his measurables, Danny Woodhead was an NFL player. He didn’t go to Oklahoma; he didn’t even go to Oklahoma State or even Oklahoma Tech! But Danny Woodhead – on the measureables, comparing player to player, size to size, shuttle to shuttle and speed to speed, they believed that Danny Woodhead was an NFL player, so guys are compared all the time.

Robert Griffin is going to be compared to black quarterbacks, to white quarterbacks, the few latino quarterbacks…he’s going to be compared to everyone. When you sign a quarterback, you are making a commitment of about 6 years. You don’t want to do what Arizona did and commit to Kevin Kolb and then a year in and you’re like “you know! Should we swallow the $7 million?” You gave up a draft pick, Marty Rodgers, $10 million; you want to give up now another $7 million now, so all this stuff, there is a reason why there’s comparables.

  1. Mike Crack says:

    Yeah, people have their schemas and try to fit people into them. People liked to compare Peyton Hillis to Mike Alstott, even though Hillis was a much faster back, while Alstott was more of just a goal line and short yardage guy.

    People’s perceptions of Cam Newton were hurt by comparisons to JaMarcus Russell, another big black quarterback with a strong arm. They weren’t very comparable beyond that, but people kept wanting to make those comparisons.

    I like your VY to Tim Tebow comparison. Very true beyond the leadership and mental toughness difference.

    The Luck comparison is good. I’ve also heard one of Luck to Rich Gannon.

    Yup, Vick really wasted some skills early on in his career. We’ve seen some good things now, but it’s hard to change bad habits late in your career. I also wonder what Vick would have been like had he been with a QB guru like Andy Reid from the start. Still, playing under Reid wouldn’t have done him any good if he didn’t take time to perfect his craft.

    Yeah, it makes sense that they compare prospects to current guys. I’d like to see a list of who certain teams compare guys to, and see which teams are the best at making accurate projections.

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