While social justice remained at the forefront of pro sports through symbolism, messaging and peaceful protests, the NFL made one big stride in the season’s opening week.
For the first time in NFL history, reports Touchdownwire, the league started 10 Black NFL quarterbacks.
Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, 31; New England Patriots’ Cam Newton, 31; Los Angeles Chargers’ Tyrod Taylor, 31; Carolina Panthers’ Teddy Bridgewater, 27; Dallas Cowboys’ Dak Prescott, 27; Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson, 25; City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, 24; Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson, 23; Arizona Cardinals’ Kyler Murray, 23; and the Washington Football Team’s Dwayne Haskins, 23; all started under center to kick off the 2020-21 season.
Among the group are the league’s reigning MVP in Jackson and the league’s Super Bowl champion (and last year’s MVP) in Mahomes. Wilson and Newton, along with former NFL QB’s Colin Kaepernick, Steve McNair, Donovan McNabb, and Doug Williams, who was the first for the then Washington Redskins, have all started a Super Bowl. Wilson is the only one to start twice and he, Williams, and Mahomes are the only Black QB’s to take home the Lombardi trophy.
As Mahomes and Watson are now the #1 and #2 highest-paid players at the position, you can say that despite a checkered history and that Kaepernick will likely never play again, that the league has evolved in its treatment and view of Black players at the position.
So in this new era, which looks like the future of the league given the age of the group, how did they all do on a historical day? Here’s the summary and what it looks like for them this season.
RUSSELL WILSON – W, 38-25 vs. the Atlanta Falcons
Russell and his Seahawks team made some great offseason movies acquiring safety Jamal Adams from the New York Jets, among others. This year, expect Wilson to continue his dominance of the QB position. But can his team follow his lead?
CAM NEWTON – W, 21-11 vs. the Miami Dolphins
Newton looked sharp coming off the shoulder and foot surgery that led to his being unceremoniously dumped by the Carolina Panthers, who he took to Super Bowl 50 in 2016. As Tom Brady‘s ‘replacement,’ in New England, expectations are beyond high, but he’s already won a fan in Bill Belichick who’s had nothing but praise for Newton thus far. Should Newton’s surgically repaired body parts hold up, it will be an interesting season in New England.
TYROD TAYLOR – W, 16-13 vs. the Cincinnati Bengals
Taylor has bounced around some in the league but keeps a job and this year he’s the only Black QB also coached by a Black head coach. Taylor and his squad spoiled hometown guy and #1 draft pick Joe Burrows‘ solid NFL debut, but the kicker won the game for the Chargers more than Taylor did, so we’ll have to see which way each team is heading in ensuing weeks.
TEDDY BRIDGEWATER – L, 30-34 vs. the Las Vegas Raiders
Bridgewater, who is now on his third NFL team, took the Saints 5-0 while starter Drew Brees was injured last year. But they clearly didn’t see him as the 41-year-old shot caller’s successor, instead betting on Taysom Hill, who’s three years older and taken far less snaps at QB. Bridgewater takes the L against the newly relocated Raiders, who pulled out the victory on the road.
DAK PRESCOTT – L , 17-20 vs. the Los Angeles Rams
Prescott had a rough offseason that got worse when his older brother Jace, was found dead by suicide in April. You can’t equate a sibling’s death to football but unfortunately, though, that’s Prescott’s profession. So speculation continued about his signing a franchise tag, not a contract extension, for this year. What that means basically is an NFL team gets more time to determine if you’re worth contract extension money. In this first-game loss, despite new coach Mike McCarthy, Prescott didn’t quite answer that question.
PATRICK MAHOMES – W, DESHAUN WATSON – L, 34-20
Not sure if this is the first time two Black QB’s started off the season playing each other (someone may have that stat, if so, let us know) but when you’re Super Bowl champion, you could get overconfident. Unless you’re Mahomes, then you’re just dominant. If you’re Watson, who lost arguably one of the league’s top 5 receivers in Deandre Hopkins, you might be thinking that this is going to be a long year.
LAMAR JACKSON – W vs. the Cleveland Browns 38-6
It’s still early and anything can happen in the NFL, but what it looked like you saw this week were two quarterbacks and two teams going in very different directions. Jackson already promised Ravens fans a Super Bowl – and unless he or key elements of his squad get injured, he looks like he’s worked hard to fulfill that promise and sooner than later.
KYLER MURRAY – W 24-20 vs. the San Francisco 49ers
Kyler Murray and the Cardinals wasted no time getting Deandre Hopkins into the action – he had 14 catches for 151 yards. We’re sure Watson is crying somewhere but Murray is happy as the duo helped spark and season-opening win against a team that was in the Super Bowl last year. Murray ran in a 22-yard-touchdown himself so he and Hopkins are looking like the league’s most watchable duo so far, at least for any QB not named Lamar.
DWAYNE HASKINS – W 27-17 vs. Philadelphia Eagles
It’s a bad day in Philly when a team that won the Super Bowl just two seasons ago has disgruntled fans throwing in their ‘Philly Philly’ towels this fast. However, despite all the pre-season drama with the Washington Football team, including a cancer diagnosis for new head coach Ron Rivera, it looks like Haskins might be that guy as he gave a rousing speech to the locker room when Rivera sought medical treatment at halftime. Pulling out a victory also helps.
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