BASN’s 2008-09 Report Cards (Part Three)

By Gary Norris Gray
Updated: January 23, 2009

Troy Smith

Troy Smith

CALIFORNIA — It was great to see Minnesota’s Tarvaris Jackson, (Alabama State) and Philly’s Donovan McNabb compete against each other in the 2008 NFC Wild Card game. Two Black men trying to lead their teams to victory.

But there is a disturbing trend happening in the NFL. Fans seem to realize that the league is slowly weeding out or demoting many African American quarterbacks after many years of glory and outstanding play.

Many coaches are still trying to fit the man for the position instead of letting the man fill the position. Classic examples of this were Randall Cunningham and Donovan McNabb- Philadelphia Eagles and Michael Vick- Atlanta Falcons.

The Atlanta Falcons drafted Virginia Tech quarterback sensation Michael Vick. The Falcons maneuvered their way to the top the NFL draft, making Vick the first Black quarterback ever to be selected No. 1 overall. Vick signed a six-year, $62 million contract with the Falcons. Vick, the only NFL quarterback to rush for over 1000 yards in a season

(Damon Allen, the all – time passing yardage leader, Kerry Joseph and Tracy Ham all did it in the CFL). This would have changed the quarterback position forever if it were not for the dog fighting charges last year. Vick would have been the prototype for the new NFL quarterback. Size, good speed, and a great arm, and all in one package.

Then there are many new African American quarterbacks that few know, like Shane Boyd from University of Kentucky and a player for the Houston Texans. Boyd is playing in an instructional league with the Houston organization after being bounced around the league with Tennessee Titans, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Arizona Cardinals before landing back with his original team, the Texans.

Ray Lucas (Rutgers University) played for the New England Patriots, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, and Baltimore Ravens. Mostly as a backup quarterback in New York and Miami. Lucas was one of head Coach Bill Parcells’ favorite players and used him in New England and New York. Especially after Vinny Testaverde went down in the middle of the season. Lucas is now retired.

Jason Campbell (Auburn) starts in Washington, D.C. and is still a work in progress with great skills. He will be the starting quarterback in Washington next year. Campbell had a very good 5-2 start in 2008, but fell back with three straight losses in the middle of the season. Washington fell out of the NFC East lead, not making the playoffs. He has a bright future in Washington.

Byron Leftwich (Marshall) played some in Pittsburgh this season when starter Ben Roethisberger went down with a concussion. A first round draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2003, Leftwich moved on to the Atlanta Falcons for a short year stint then on to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He is most noted for being carried down the field by his two offensive linemen after he broke his shinbone, pulling off a victory against East Carolina after being 17 points down. He can throw the ball 80 yards without effort and has done so in many college games. His chances at starting in Pittsburgh seem slim with Big Ben at the same position.

David Garrard (East Carolina) is playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars after winning the constant battle for the coveted spot with Byron Leftwich. Garrard looks like a little fire plug that moves fast. He is very difficult to tackle because of his body’s center of gravity.

Quinn Gray (Florida A&M University), another quarterback from the Hack’s. He has been with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, and Kansas City Chiefs. While playing for NFL Europe, Gray led the Frankfurt Galaxy to a World Bowl X victory.

Darrell Hackney (University of Alabama-Birmingham), signed with the Cleveland Browns in 2006, then was cut by the Browns in 2007. In January 2008 Hackney signed as a free agent with the Denver Broncos.

He had to battle for the starting job with Jay Cutler, Preston Parson, and Patrick Ramsey. Things might change for him next year with a new head coach coming to the Mile High City.

The previously mentioned Tarvaris Jackson played for the SWAC championship, and also starred in the East – West Shrine game. Drafted by the Minnesota Vikings, Jackson won the starting job before being benched for backup Gus Frerotte. After an injury to Frerotte, he was thrown back into the starting position and led the Vikings to the NFC North Division title.

Cleo Lemon (Arkansas State) played in the European League and guided his team to the championship. Lemon was also a member of the San Diego Chargers in 2003-2005. He was traded from the Miami Dolphins to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

D.J. Shockley (University of Georgia), Shockley has the speed and size of Donovan McNabb but is a smaller, faster, package. Many stated that he would start but he missed the whole 2007 season, because of an anterior cruciate ligament tear. This year he sat the bench behind wonder child Matt Ryan for the quarterback position.

JaMarcus Russell (LSU) was supposed to be the savior of the Oakland Raiders. He was the second African American quarterback drafted number one overall in 2006.

Russell sat out his first full season trying to observe the Raider system. It will be a chore for him to succeed in Oak-Town and the Black Hole because there will be no help coming from owner Al Davis or the Raiders offensive line.

Brad Smith (University of Missouri) plays third string for the New York Jets. Don’t expect him to play anytime if Brett Favre is still in the Meadowlands. He is the new Kordell Stewart (aka) Slash. The Jets might move him to another position next year to use his running and catching skills.

Troy Smith (Ohio State University) was drafted in the 5th round by the Baltimore Ravens in 2007. He backed up Kyle Boller and Steve McNair that year. In 2008 he was 2nd string to hot rookie Joe Flacco. The question is how long will this talented person wait to start in any NFL City?

Seneca Wallace (Iowa State University) plays 2nd string for the Seattle Seahawks. Wallace is another quarterback that claims to be slash and plays other offensive positions.

Anthony Wright (University of South Carolina) signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 2000, played with the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals in 2001. He had a severe knee injury in 2001 when he came in for Quincy Carter. He now sits the bench with the New York Giants as the 3rd string quarterback.

Quincy Carter (Georgia), drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 2001 was traded to the New York Jets in 2004. Carter just kept being in the wrong place at the right time. He played in the Arena Football League in Kansas City (2007). At the time the Cowboys were going through a transitional phase and Carter did not fit.

He had to follow the legend, Troy Aikman, and the rookie just did not perform. Carter found out it is very hard to follow a hometown hero and the Cowboy fans would not let him forget it.

This writer still feels that the Cowboys organization did not treat Carter fair and he had to leave Dallas. Then in New York there were too many quarterbacks for one team. There are also the rumors of a drug problem which took him out of the NFL.

Vince Young (University of Texas) won (BCS) Bowl Championship Series against the Trojans of (USC) University of Southern California in 2006. The Tennessee Titans Rookie of the Year almost led the young Titans to the playoffs.

The issue of intelligence and the Black quarterback crept into the NFL draft conversation again. The NFL Wonderlic Test, in which Young had a very low score, caused concern for many teams. The Wonderlic Test is a fifty question intelligence test used to assess the aptitude, learning, and problem solving skills.

Many football fans may have forgotten but Young had the same Wonderlic score as Dan Marino (Miami Dolphins) and Marino played well for the Miami Dolphins his rookie year. Next year Young will be competing with veteran Kerry Collins for the starting role in Tennessee.

As we enter another century, African American quarterbacks will indeed have more opportunities to display their talent at the quarterback position. When the NFL employs more African American head coaches, general managers, and owners, the issue of African American quarterbacks will not be at the forefront.

NEXT: Blacks in NFL front offices.