When the New England Patriots handed the ball to rookie Jacoby Brissett on Thursday, it marked the first time in the 57-year history that the team had started an African-American quarterback.
Now only one NFL team — one that has been around even longer — has yet to break that streak. The New York Giants, founded in 1925 by Tim Mara, have never started a black QB before.
Now, we’re just stating this as fact and in no way suggesting anything racist about the organization, which has remained in the Mara family hands ever since. And it’s not as if they haven’t had a rock at quarterback, Eli Manning, who has not missed a start since taking over in 2004 — the NFL’s longest current ironman streak at the position. He happens to be white.
The Giants have had black quarterbacks, though. They signed Anthony Wright and drafted Andre Woodson since then. Wright threw seven passes in 2007, but Woodson never got the chance in his few years with the team.
If you look around the league, it’s fascinating to see which teams have had very few black quarterbacks start for them. The San Diego Chargers started James “Shack” Harris 11 times in 1977 and 1978 but have not started a black QB since. The Kansas City Chiefs started a 41-year-old Warren Moon one time. Few might remember Cleo Lemon’s seven-sack, 23-incompletion start for the 1-13 Miami Dolphins against the 14-0 New England Patriots back in 2007, but it did happen.
The Green Bay Packers, who had Brett Favre start from 1992 to 2007, only started Seneca Wallace once when Favre’s replacement in 2008, Aaron Rodgers, got hurt a few years ago.
Other teams have had many black quarterbacks start or have had them start for long periods. The Jacksonville Jaguars once had three African-American quarterbacks on the roster at the same time. Tony Banks was the last black starter for both the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams (1998) and Houston Texans (2003).
There are five black quarterbacks currently starting in the NFL — Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Jameis Winston, Tyrod Taylor and Dak Prescott. The Cleveland Browns’ Robert Griffin III is currently hurt, the San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick currently is in limbo, and Prescott is likely to give way to Tony Romo again at some point. We also are not counting the Minnesota Vikings’ Teddy Bridgewater, whose knee injury cost him his season.
But the number could go up league-wide next season — especially if Deshaun Watson and DeShone Kizer go as high in the draft as we think they might. But here’s the thing: Through no fault of their own, the Giants might not end that streak if Manning keeps chugging along the way he has for 13 seasons.
That’s not racism, not right now anyway, it’s just the way it is working out for them.
Podcast: Who can beat the Patriots? Plus: Week 3 preview
– – – – – – –