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Why does NFL still have few black QBs?

About the Author

Hub Arkush

harkush@pfwmedia.com
Publisher and editor

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Posted Feb. 27, 2012 @ 4:15 p.m. ET
By Hub Arkush

The 2012 NFL Scouting Combine has now followed Super Bowl XLVI into the history books, and the beginning of the free-agent signing season is right around the corner. Then our full focus will turn to the 2012 NFL draft. Draft time is one of our very favorite times of the year here at Pro Football Weekly, and the first of our two must-read draft publications, the 2012 Draft Guide magazine, is available right now.

I mention that here because the cover of this year's magazine features action photos of Andrew Luck in his black Stanford uniform and Robert Griffin III in his white Baylor uniform, along with the headline "Top QB? It's not as simple as black and white," and it has already stirred a bit of controversy. An Internet scribe or two have accused us of racism without having looked beyond the cover to see what's actually in the magazine, and as will happen in cyberspace, a number of other folks have jumped in to debate the accusation.

Am I surprised by the conversation? No. In fact, it's exactly what we hoped would happen when we settled on the cover design, artwork and headlines. First, we made sure there was a well-researched story examining the question in the magazine, and then we took aim at our real purpose, which is to shine a light on an important question that no one we've found has a compelling answer for. Did we hope the cover would sell magazines? That is the most important consideration for any cover of any publication we do. But the reason we settled on this particular question for the cover is that there is a tremendous imbalance in the numbers of white quarterbacks and quarterbacks of color in the NFL, and we think it's important to do all that any of us can to be comfortable it has nothing to do with racism.

If you're any kind of football fan at all, you know by now that Luck, who is most folks' top QB prospect in this year's draft, is white and RG3, who is almost everybody's No. 2-rated QB prospect, except for those of us who rate him No. 1, is black. But that's not the reason we need to have this conversation now; that's just the vehicle.

At the end of the 2011 NFL season, more than 70 percent of the players in the NFL were African-American. But of the 97 quarterbacks on the 32 clubs' rosters as of Feb. 1, only 20, or 20.6 percent, were black. More surprisingly, based on the overwhelming majority of black players in the league, only four, or 12.5 percent, of the 32 starting QBs in the league on the final day of the 2011 regular season were black. Clearly, something is wrong with this picture. Should we be afraid to discuss it, fearing that our motives or personal beliefs would be challenged, or is it important we at least try to get to the bottom of this?

Consider that on that final day of the 2011 season, 10 of the NFL's 32 head coaches (32 percent) were black, more than twice as many as the number of starting QBs. Still, the NFL employs the Rooney Rule, which obligates every team to interview at least one minority candidate before it can hire a head coach, but what is it doing to make sure it has more black signalcallers? Should every NFL team be forced to bring at least one minority quarterback to training camp every year before it cuts down to its final roster? Why not? How is it any different for quarterbacks than it is for head coaches?

Unfortunately I have absolutely no good answers for you as to why this imbalance exists. I refuse to believe it's a racial issue because I know too many of the decision makers in the NFL today who'd sell their souls for a Super Bowl ring and are as color-blind as they come when it comes to winning and losing. And other than possibly Jason Campbell, I can't think of a single black QB who's failed to succeed in the league for any reason other than poor play. As I said near the top, no one seems to have a good answer, but can't we all agree it's time we started trying a little harder to find one?

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