There is a report from the NFL combine that Vince Young, the University of Texas quarterback, scored six out of a possible fifty on the Wonderlic, a test that measures intelligence and speed of thought. The combine officials say that the score is not accurate, the results are supposed to be confidential, but Young’s agent said that Young retook the test and scored a sixteen.
Amid the confusion – who took it upon themselves to release this information to the media and why did Young have to retake the Wonderlic if the reported score was wrong – is the not so subtly racist idea that black quarterbacks are not smart enough to run an NFL team.
There is also a bigger issue being played out. The stages of resistance to change. Stage 1 is stubborn resistance, stage 2 is plain old resistance, and stage 3 is begrudging acceptance. We’re currently in stage 2.
There is a new breed of quarterback coming out of college – the athletic quarterback. He may run an option offense or a pro offense but he’s a good passer who’s been given the green light to run whenever he wants. Fran Tarkenton and Steve Young might take exception to this characterization. What were they if they weren’t athletic? Tarkenton spun out of trouble and darted around lunging linebackers to get into the open field. Young was a bigger, stronger player who ran forward and slid for first downs when his receivers were covered.
They were scramblers. They were pass first and run second quarterbacks. The difference between Tarkenton and Vick is that Vick is likely to take off for open spaces sooner than Tarkenton did. Vick is a legitimate running threat, not your prototypical pocket passer, and gets a lot of grief because of it despite the fact that his winning percentage is fifth among active quarterbacks.
Kordell Stewart was among the first of the black athletic quarterbacks to come to the NFL. He played quarterback, lined up at wide receiver and even punted a few times. He started two NFC championship games and was a pro bowl quarterback but he was benched three times in his eight-year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and fans always groused because they thought he should have run around less and played quarterback more.
This is how it goes. The first person to break the mold is under immense pressure because there is such resistance to doing something different. Add the fact that only a small percentage of players become stars in the NFL and you have a virtually no-win situation.
You could compare this to a gay man coming out of the closet in a major sport. It will probably start with a high school player who is a star and gets a college scholarship. Homophobia and the odds against making it to the NFL will probably sink him. The second out gay man might make it to the NFL but then make a mistake. Maybe he’ll get embroiled in an affair with a teammate or get caught at a local drag queen show and that will be the end of his career. I’m joking here but the player will be under such a microscope that it would be hard to avoid getting into trouble of some sort.
Eventually the issue of athletic black quarterbacks will be a non-issue, you’re either an effective quarterback or your not, but you can see why no one wants to be among the first few people to do something different. The pressure is immense and, in the case of black quarterbacks, you have to deal with racism
There is hope. Last year we had the reverse situation. A white quarterback, Matt Jones, ran such a fast 40 in the combine that he was drafted as a receiver.
Young might be the player to take us into stage 3, he had an excellent pass completion percentage in college but then so did Vick and you can see the pressure Young is under already and he’s not even in the NFL yet. Hopefully Young can handle the pressure with the same skills he used to pass around and run through all of those blitzes opposing teams threw at him while he was winning the national championship at Texas.