Like any other self-respecting American at the time, I was enthralled with the rapid rise of the legendary artist known simply as "M.C. Hammer" around the Spring of 1990. I may have only been seven-years-old, but I was old enough to know that M.C. Hammer and Weird Al Yankovic were making the greatest music in the history of humanity.
It was around that time that M.C. Hammer, born Stanley Burrell and raised in the projects of Oakland with his eight siblings to a single mother in a small apartment, wowed audiences and shocked rivals that had thought Hammer was "too clean" and "more dancer than rapper" to become a successful artist in the game. Up until 1990, M.C. Hammer had enjoyed moderate success as a Christian rapper and then with his first studio album "Let's Get It Started" (a re-release of his independent album "Feel My Power") that sold 2 million copies for Capitol Records, but we could have no idea what was next.
In 1989 he went on the Arsenio Hall Show (a personal friend of his) and performed "U Can't Touch This," setting the stage for one of the most successful runs in music history.
This is something... U Can't Touch
His performance on Arsenio put anticipation for the release of his third album, "Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em" on red alert, and on February 12, 1990, it finally hit stores. The album ranked number one on the Billboard 200 for 21 weeks, with much of that success due to the immensely popular opening single that had dared you to touch him.
The catchy beat of "U Can't Touch This" didn't just change lives of those who listened to it for the 100th time in a row, but it changed the entire industry. "The rap game" was now something that had hit the mainstream and could actually be found in even the whitest of homes in America. The sampling of Rick James "Super Freak" as the heart of the base track would set the stage for an entire career of people like Vanilla Ice (a friend of Hammer's even before they had their own individual successes) and Sean "P. Diddy" Combs.
The song won a Grammy for "Best R&B Song" and became the very first winner of the "Best Rap Solo Performance" award, and while it was almost single-handedly the driving force behind 18 million copies sold of "Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em," many of us will also still remember and cherish songs like "Pray" and "Here Comes the Hammer."
While many in the industry might still dismiss M.C Hammer to this day for being "too soft" and a "joke" in the rap game, the truth is that without him, you don't even have other breakthrough albums like "The Chronic" by Dr. Dre or "The Slim Shady LP" released by Eminem nearly ten years later. The mainstream hadn't come to expect much from rappers up until someone came along that let them in and said "It's safe and fun in here, don't be scared!" and that person in many ways for many people was M.C. Hammer.
And many others, whose opinions are just as valid, will only remember M.C. Hammer as a cautionary tale.
Too Legit To Quit, but not Too Legit To Get Fired
The truth is that until today I hadn't looked back and seen the album "Too Legit to Quit" as anything other than a rousing success, but overall history will paint a different picture. Hammer (no more "M.C.") hadn't wasted any time between albums, with only about 20 months passing between the release of "Please Hammer" and "Too Legit." Even though the follow-up had sold a respectable 5 million copies, and the (almost) title track "2 Legit 2 Quit" had reached #5 on the Billboard 100, the fact of the matter is those numbers are a far cry from what he had done just a year earlier.
Even though everything Hammer had ever done up to that point was supposed to be an "answer to the haters," that didn't stop him from giving the haters exactly what they wanted. The 14th and final track on "Too Legit" was the catchy, but perhaps regrettable, "Addams Groove." Though it's a fond memory for someone like myself, how would you feel today if Kid Cudi were to put something like "Monsters University Rap" at the end of his next studio album? Not to mention the fact that the songs on "Too Legit" often went over 5:00 with a total run time of 89 minutes on the cassette version.
Many would consider that too long for any artist, let alone an upbeat rapper that was more "pop" than "hop."
I don't think the biggest issue is even that "Too Legit Too Quit" was a bad album necessarily ("2 Legit 2 Quit" is still a legendary hip hop/pop song, and the first track on the album, "This Is the Way We Roll" is a classic, rhythmic ballad in its own right) but that it wasn't good enough. When you release the follow-up album to your first hit, people are expecting you to be the same... but better. That's not exactly easy to do. It's the trick in music that marks the difference between becoming 2Pac or becoming Mase.
Hammer had been through too much and fought too hard to give up on music, but what he would soon find out was that music had given up on him.
N.W.A. stands for Niceties With A-side-of-pleasantries
Pretty soon the mainstream would grow tired of the "happy" rap music among the likes of Hammer, or Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff's parental issues, or LL Cool J knockin' you out, and had moved on to the West Coast movements that were changing the game in the early-to-mid-nineties. Hammer was so successful with his first big studio album in 1990 that he had invested everything into his followup. Despite "Too Legit" being a success, it wasn't successful enough and rumors were springing up that Hammer was going broke.
How could he afford a $10 million mansion, one of the most expensive music video ever made, and probably untold other expenses that would blow your mind like a worn out pair of parachute pants, when he had sold "only" 5 million copies of "Too Legit"?
In 1994 he released his fifth studio album, "The Funky Headhunter," but he was far too late and far too clean to try and catch up with the now-popular style of hip hop that had been taken over after the release of "The Chronic" in 1992. That album solidified the notion that the "gangsta rap" style earlier presented by groups such as Dre's original posse "N.W.A." with their debut release "Straight Outta Compton" in 1988 was here to stay, while opening up for soon-to-be major acts such as Snoop Dogg (who released his game-changing LP "Doggystyle" in 1993), Warren G (whose song "Regulate" was the highest-ranked rap song on the 1994 Billboard Hot 100) and yes, Tupac Shakur.
Hammer legitimately thought that "The Funky Headhunter" was going to be his introduction to the public as a "gangsta," (Hammer quote time: "There is a harder edge, but I'm no gang member. Hammer in the '90s is on the offense, on the move, on the attack. And it's all good") going as far as ditching the parachute pants, sporting a black beanie on the album, debuting himself in a Speedo with an apparent erection in the video for "Pumps and a Bump," and dissing fellow rappers such as Run-DMC, Q-Tip, Redman, and others.
But unfortunately there was one problem:
The album was seriously called "The Funky Headhunter."
Hammer tried to fit in with what was popular at the time, but in reality that's not who he was. Some will look upon the history of civil rights and see two prominent figures: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. One of those was the "peaceful" resolution and the other will always be associated with taking the "harder edge" towards gaining equality between black people and white people. Perhaps when we look upon the evolution of rap during the 1990's we will see Dr. Dre (Malcolm X) and then we'll see Hammer (you guessed it.)
The difference though is that MLK never compromised, while Hammer did try to make the move to gain a little bit of "X" so that he could keep up with the rap game. It's not that he didn't come from a rough background, it's that he had always fought against that background through faith and peaceful resolutions rather than violence, cussing, and innuendo.
Meanwhile those white kids in the suburbs that had previously purchased M.C. Hammer albums because they felt that it gave them "street cred" now realized that the real cred lied with Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop, and Warren G. And thanks to Hammer, many of their parents had already relented on the rap game and simply lumped them all together, so buying Dre wasn't any different than buying Hammer.
Except that obviously it is totally different. Buying a Hammer album in 1994 or 1995 was the opposite of street cred. If you wanted to prove to the cops that you weren't in the bloods or the crips, you'd show them your copy of "The Funky Headhunter."
The differences between this "new" Hammer and Snoop Dogg are like the differences between Transformers and Jumpstarters. While Hammer's last album might have been a failure by his standards, the truth is that "Doggystyle" also sold 5 million copies, same as "Too Legit," and it is still Snoop's most successful album to date. But nobody questions the success of Snoop because he has for the most part stayed true to himself. (We'll ignore his days with Master P's "No Limit" label.)
Rappers get older, grow up, make "Are We There Yet?" but they still need to stay true to who they are if you're gonna get respect in the streets.
By 1995, Hammer had released the album "Inside Out" and by now nobody knew what Hammer was trying to be, including Hammer. He was trying to be edgy, not-edgy, poppy, gospelly, and whatever else you could fit in between. The best way to put it is this: Have you ever even heard of "Inside Out"? It was only five years earlier that Hammer was the biggest rapper on the planet, and now he was going nowhere, he was broke, and his buddy Arsenio Hall, the same guy that had given him his big break (plus numerous important appearances after) no longer had his own show in which to help Hammer out.
Soon after the commercial and critical failure of "Inside Out," Hammer took the edgy route again by signing with Death Row Records and friend Suge Knight. He even recorded a song with label-mate Tupac Shakur, but he left the label in 1996 following the death of Shakur; He was with Tupac the night he was shot, and that was perhaps too real for him to continue on this path. From a June, 1997 interview with Hammer:
I invited Run DMC to become a part of Death Row about a year ago. As a matter of fact, the night Tupac was shot we had Run DMC at the Club 662 in Las Vegas with the purpose of building a relationship so that we could sign them to Death Row since Death Row was expanding. So once again, we're not on the page of east/west coast rivalry thing.
The rest of Hammer's career is irrelevant to this post. How surprised would you be to hear that he has released eight albums since "Too Legit To Quit"? The moral of the story in regards to M.C. Hammer is this:
He was critically-successful on a minor level in Oakland during the mid-to-late eighties which led to a deal with a big label in 1989, and he soon became the biggest name in hip hop despite the fact that other rappers and many hip hop fans around the game considered him laughable. However, his "act" had quickly grown tired and he seemed out-of-touch but when he tried to catch up with the gangsta style that had become the most popular sub-genre of rap, he stepped outside of his comfort zone and it showed, therefore subsequent attempts to re-create his original style or follow-up efforts to once again be edgy proved to fall short of actual artists of that ilk because it's simply not who M.C. Hammer is.
All of which led to the downfall of one of the most commercially-successful rap artist of all time, even if it will be viewed by history as nothing more than a flash-in-the-pan. A two-year wonder that got too big for his britches and proved to be more "what not to do" rather than, as Montell Jordan would say, "This is how we do it."
Let's talk about Russell Wilson?
The next evolution of the NFL game is upon us. Wilson, along with Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, and Colin Kaepernick, represent just a slice of the new age in quarterbacking. The other pieces to come along in the last two years would be Andy Dalton, Andrew Luck, and to a lesser extent, Jake Locker, Ryan Tannehill, and possibly Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith, and Nick Foles.
Others may also apply this year, but their admission is yet an unknown. Sam Bradford and Matthew Stafford fall within an acceptable age range. Brandon Weeden does not.
They all have their different styles, or different variations of the same style, but they all represent the next generation of the game in both small part and large. Whether they be west coast, east coast, dirty south, or clean northwest, Griffin, Wilson, Kaepernick, and Newton will be lumped together as the "running quarterbacks."
But that terminology isn't as accurate as it once was. Neither is the fact that necessarily the color of your skin will determine what "kind" of quarterback you are. I'm going to play the race card:
The only thing that matters is whether or not you can beat a linebacker in a race.
This isn't the "running quarterback." anymore. What we have in today's NFL, as it continuously evolves, is the "quarterback running." And it's working like Eminem works a bombastic lyrical diss on the other side of 8 Mile. The question on everyone's minds though is whether or not it will continue to work. Will Wilson, Griffin, and Kaepernick be able to replicate their success not only in 2013, but in 2014, 2016, 2020?
I think so.
In the beginning of researching this article, I wanted to find excellent rookie seasons from quarterbacks to find out what they had done in subsequent seasons. How many followed up with years that were just as successful, or hopefully more successful, than their rookie seasons? That would be easy enough to do with Pro-Football-Reference's Player Finder.
Sophomore? More like, Soft... More. Because they're softer. Or are they? Find out after this long sub-headline
Here is one example:
Dan Marino, Rookie, 1983
Dan Marino, 1984
Marino was excellent as a rookie, throwing only six interceptions in more than half of a season, and posting what was at the time the second-best QB rating for any first year pro with a minimum of 100 attempts. (First was Otto Graham, posting a 112.1 rating in 1946 with Cleveland. Graham, a Hall of Famer, led the Browns to the league championship in each of his first five seasons, plus again in '54 and '55.)
But by year two, Marino had become the greatest quarterback in the NFL. His 5,084 yards stood as a record for over 25 years. His 108.9 rating was a record (min. 400 attempts) until Steve Young posted a 112.8 in 1994 (since broken several times, with Aaron Rodgers as the current record holder with a ridiculous 122.5 in 2011.) His 48 touchdowns stood as a record until Peyton Manning threw 49 in 2004. The Dolphins went 14-2 that year, but unfortunately for Dan, they lost to the 49ers in the Super Bowl by a score of 38-16.
More on the 49ers in a bit!
The interesting thing about Marino is that he took a major step forward in year two, but is also a reminder that the best isn't always yet to come. Just because it's the beginning of your career doesn't mean that you are constantly trending upward until you hit 30. Sometimes you just... go boom.
Sometimes you release U Can't Touch This, 2 Legit 2 Quit, and then Addams Groove.
At the time, Marino had the best season by a quarterback ever. What was next? An excellent career that never came close to touching the masterpiece he had created in 1984. Marino was a great quarterback, but over the final 15 seasons of his career, he posted a QB rating of 84.3, and rarely posted the kinds of numbers we had come to expect from him. He was regularly under 60% completions, under 30 touchdowns, over 15 interceptions, and under 8.0 yards per attempt. He was good, at times great, but never again was he 1984.
Marc Bulger wasn't technically a rookie in 2002, but it was his first game action. Replacing an ineffective Kurt Warner, Bulger posted these numbers during his first season.
It stands as the third-highest QB rating for a first year quarterback with a minimum of 100 attempts behind Graham and Griffin.
Bulger was effective, but not nearly as exceptional as he was in 2002. What happened? Well, you could point to a number of things, none of which should effect the likes of Wilson or Griffin, but could be an interesting comparison to Kaepernick, another player that had a "rookie season" rather than a rookie season:
- Bulger only played in seven games in 2002, not nearly enough of a sample to start making major predictions on future success. He had seven games with which you could examine during his first year, Russell Wilson has 18.
- Marshall Faulk turned from 29 to 30.
- Tight end Ernie Conwell, perhaps an underrated aspect of the Turf Show, signed with the Saints.
- Isaac Bruce, 31, might have been losing a step, though this is hardly something I can prove.
- It's possible that the entire downfall of Kurt Warner in St. Louis was an overreaction. He started off badly in the first three games, but that's only three games. Orlando Pace missed Week 4, and Warner broke a finger against the Dallas Cowboys. Later evidence, his career with the Arizona Cardinals, could be a telltale sign that Warner was still the better quarterback than Bulger. Just, less healthy.
What does that have to do with Kaepernick?
- Colin Kaepernick started just seven games in the regular season.
- Frank Gore turns from 29 to 30.
- Tight end Delanie Walker, perhaps an underrated aspect of the 49ers offense, signed with the Titans.
- Michael Crabtree, while not old, is definitely going to lose a step by not stepping onto the field. Anquan Boldin turns 33 in October.
- It's possible that the entire downfall of Alex Smith in San Francisco was an overreaction. He started off great, posing a 104.1 QB rating, 70.2% completions, 8.0 yards per attempt, plus a 6-2-1 record, but everyone was far too anxious to see more of Kaepernick once an injury finally forced Smith to open the door to the next generation. The next evolution of the game. Later evidence, his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, will tell us a lot.
There is some, but not a lot, of more evidence of other quarterbacks that had great first years that we could use:
- Matt Ryan posted the 11th highest Rating for first-year QBs (87.7) but didn't advance to that upper tier until his fifth season in the league. That was last year, when he led the NFL in completion percentage, and perhaps had the best WR/WR/TE combo in the league.
- Over his first three years in the league, Jay Cutler was 62.5% completions, 243.9 yards per game, 54 TD, 37 INT, 87.1 rating. In his last four, all with the Bears, he is at 59.6% compeltions, 219.5 yards per game, 82 TD, 63 INT, and an 81.9 rating.
- Aaron Brooks started five games as a rookie, posting a Rating of 85.7 with 7.8 yards per attempt and 58.2% completions. Other than 2003, he never replicated anything very close to those numbers in a full season.
- Ben Roethlisberger wasn't asked to throw it a lot over his first two years, but he turned in some great numbers: 64.7% completions, 34 TD, 20 INT, 8.9 Y/A, 98.3 Rating in his first 25 starts and the Steelers went 22-3 in the regular season with a Super Bowl victory. Roethlisberger would go on to have more good seasons, win another Super Bowl, even if some of his rate stats trended down. (7.8 Y/A, 91.7 Rating in last seven years)
- Jim Kelly would be an example of a player that did get better. He had a good rookie year (59.4%, 3,593, 22 TD, 17 INT, 7.5 Y/A, 83.3 rating) but had many better years ahead.
- Before there was Bulger, Kurt Warner was the guy running away with the best offensive setup in NFL history. The 1999 Rams were like walking into a massage parlor with no signs out front. You knew that it seemed shady but you were also positive that this was going to have a happy ending.
Warner led the NFL in completion percentage, touchdowns, yards per attempt and QB rating in '99, and over his first three years he went 35-8 with two Super Bowl appearances, 67.2% completions, 98 touchdowns, 53 interceptions, 9.1 yards per attempts and a Rating of 103.4. Over the next five seasons, he went 8-23 with 27 touchdowns and 30 interceptions with a rating of 82.1. In actuality, the bad stretch of his career was relatively okay, but health issues and being backed up by highly-drafted young quarterbacks were his death knell, until he went 24-18 with 83 touchdowns and a Super Bowl appearance over his final three years.
- Daunte Culpepper led the NFL in touchdown passes during his first season (33) after sitting during his rookie year in Minnesota. His first five seasons were excellent until he broke down at the age of 28.
- Aaron Rodgers started his career in his fourth season, and is good.
What you are going to see with a lot of these players that had good rookie (or "rookie") seasons at quarterback (though there aren't many of them) is that a good number of them peaked early. What does it tell us about Wilson, Griffin, and Luck?
Not as much as it should as I continue to move well past 3,000 words.
What separates this class of quarterbacks from the previous examples of rookie quarterbacks is... Anyone? Hello? Are you still listening?
*sheepishly raises hand*
Yes, you Danny.
Just like the rap game, football is an evolving beast. It never remains constant, it's continuously changing, and today's trend is actually yesterday's trend. Offensive minds don't look at last season and simply think "That worked so we better do it again." They're thinking "That worked, now they know it worked, what's going to work next?"
On the field it will probably all look very similar, but the read-zone option will only be successful if it adapts, and the players will only be successful if they adapt with it while being true to themselves.
DeSean Jackson recently stated that it would be foolish to try and teach Michael Vick to be a "pocket passer" because Vick's entire game is centered around what he can do with his legs and he's right. The entire reason Vick is here is because of how integral he was to the evolutionary process when he emerged in the early 2000's as what was widely considered to be the next generation of quarterbacks.
We just didn't know that Vick was ten years too early for that generation. Or perhaps, he's really what started it all. Unfortunately for you, we can't look at what Michael Vick started until we know what started Michael Vick.
Always Bet On Black! It Might Just Take 70 Years...
Could you imagine a scenario in which Michael Vick played quarterback if he was born in 1950 instead of 1980? Vick is 6 feet tall, 215 pounds, he's been clocked under 4.30 in the forty, and he's black. It's not as though it would have been unprecedented to see a black quarterback in that era, but it was certainly uncommon. And even when the opportunity did arise, it was hardly what you would refer to today as "quarterbacking."
In 1949, George Taliaferro became the second black quarterback in NFL history (the first, Fritz Pollard, played in 1920) and he attempted 284 passes in his entire career, but he rushed the ball 498 times and had 95 receptions.
Unfortunately evolution, as it is wont to do, was slow.
There wasn't a single black quarterback in the NFL in 1967. The forward pass, the West Coast Offense, and the Air Coryell Offense, was taking over. Where could the league now find room for a "black, running quarterback"? They couldn't, or they wouldn't. Were young black men being raised to play quarterback at all? And if they were, at what point were they switched to another position?
In 1974, James Harris became the first black quarterback to make the Pro Bowl when he threw for 1,544 yards, 11 touchdowns and 6 interceptions for the Rams. Harris won't be remembered by a lot of people, mostly because his career at quarterback was short, nondescript, and not very successful, but he's an integral part of what opened the door for young black men to find their way under center.
Gil Scott-Heron might not be a name known to most people that listen to T.I., but he was still setting the stage for the evolution of modern rap back in the seventies. But the NFL still needed it's Kool Moe Dee, Sugarhill Gang, KRS-One, Rakim...
Doug Williams never made a Pro Bowl. He completed 49.5% of his career passes with 93 interceptions in 88 games. He ran the ball more than your average QB, but he didn't run it a lot and he wasn't breaking off long legendary runs. (His career-long was 29 yards with 220 career attempts.) However, in 1978 Williams became the first black quarterback to be drafted in the first round (or any round earlier than the sixth) and in 1987 he became the first black quarterback to win the Super Bowl.
He is still the only black quarterback to win the Super Bowl.
By 1984, the NFL had been around in some form for decades. They had Taliaferro, Harris, and Williams, but they still didn't have a black quarterback that was a successful passer. It's not that racism was completely gone by the eighties, or now, but NFL coaches and execs would be quicker to get on board with the idea that "Yes, of course a black guy can play quarterback" if they had just seen it once. They needed someone that could bring "Black quarterback" to the mainstream.
Warren Moon started off his college career at West Los Angeles College mainly because he was black and he didn't want to play any other position besides quarterback. He would cite players like Roman Gabriel, Joe Gilliam, James Harris and Jimmy Jones as inspirations for him to maybe "play this game one day."
Gabriel was an Asian-American quarterback for the Rams and Eagles in the sixties and seventies, and he was a damn good one too. Gabriel made four Pro Bowls and led the NFL in touchdown passes twice under the tutelage of head coach George Allen, a disciple of Sid Gillman and a pass-heavy offense. (Write that down. It's going to be on the test later.)
In 1974, Joe Gilliam beat out Terry Bradshaw for the starting quarterback position in Pittsburgh. He became the first black quarterback to start a season opener since the AFL-NFL merger, but six games into the year head coach Chuck Knoll benched Gilliam for suspected "drug issues" and Bradshaw took over. The Steelers then won four Super Bowls with Bradshaw.
Jones was the starting quarterback for USC in 1969, 1970. He was the first black quarterback to appear on the cover of SI, he set many records (at the time) at USC, and in 1970, they beat an all-white Alabama team in Birmingham.
All of these players inspired Moon to believe that he could be a quarterback too, perhaps even at the highest level, and after setting records at West LA, he got some scholarship offers from bigger schools, including the University of Washington. He led the Huskies to a Rose Bowl the year before the 1978 NFL draft.
334 players were drafted in 1978, but none of them were named Warren Moon. If they had been, it must have been some white guy that coincidentally also had the name Warren Moon. All of his accomplishments earned him a trip to the Canadian Football League.
Bully for the CFL!
Moon easily became one of the most successful players in CFL history, winning five Grey Cups and becoming the first professional quarterback in any league to ever throw for 5,000 yards in a season. He followed that 5,000-yard season with 5,648 yards in 1983, and in 1984 he was finally accepted into the NFL. Moon was ready to tell mainstream football that "we can play too."
Even though he didn't even enter the NFL until he was 28, Moon is still fifth all-time in career passing yardage, eighth in career touchdowns, made the Pro Bowl every year between 1988 to 1995, and is in both the CFL and NFL Hall of Fame. Moon proved to a lot of people that there was nothing negative about being a "black quarterback" and the fact that he only rushed for 3.2 yards per carry and 1,736 yards in a 17 year career showed that you could be black, be a quarterback, and not be a "running quarterback."
But what about black quarterbacks that could run? Would they get their chance too?
Marlin Briscoe was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 1968 to be a QB. He started five games that year and threw for 1,589 yards, 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The Broncos traded him to the Buffalo Bills after the season and he was switched to receiver. Though he was a good receiver, making the Pro Bowl in 1970, he also still seemed like an interesting developmental quarterback. Nobody is considering switching Tannehill back to receiver, are they?
Willie Thrower was literally a black quarterback named Willie Thrower. He was a star at Michigan State but only got a brief shot in the NFL. Moon thanked Thrower in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech for his inspiration.
Perhaps if it wasn't for Moon's success in the CFL and in 1984, the Philadelphia Eagles wouldn't have drafted Randall Cunningham in the second round of the 1985 draft.
Cunningham really set the stage for what many modern football enthusiasts see as the running quarterback. His numbers as a passer often left a lot to be desired, but his scrambling and running ability was something never quite seen before from the quarterback position. Over his first three full seasons as starter (1987-1989) Cunningham completed only 54.3% of his passes for 9,994 yards, 68 touchdowns, 43 interceptions, and 6.7 yards per attempt.
But he ran it 273 times for 1,750 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 6.4 yards per carry. Not to mention the fact that the Eagles were winning.
The best was yet to come though, and in 1990 Cunningham threw for 3,466 yards, 30 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 7.5 yards per attempt, with 942 yards rushing and 8.0 yards per carry. The Eagles went 10-6 but lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Washington Redskins.
Randall Cunningham tore his ACL in the first game of the 1991 season. It was pretty much the end of Randall "Running Quarterback" Cunningham's career. He would rush for 549 yards in 1992, but after he turned 30 the following year, Cunning ham ran for just 942 yards in the next eight seasons.
Still, the "damage" was done. The torch had been passed along and with Williams, Moon, and Cunningham's success in the eighties, the nineties would pave the way for more opportunities for black quarterbacks. The only problem was that they didn't have much success.
Rodney Peete (drafted in 1989) had a long career, but not a great one.
Andre Ware (7th overall pick in 1990) didn't have a long career.
Jeff Blake couldn't replicate the success he had shown in 1995 and 1996.
Kordell "Slash" Stewart was the player that everyone wanted to see revolutionize modern football, but again he only became a stepping stone.
Steve McNair was the most successful black quarterback of the decade, perhaps representing a "poor man's Warren Moon," McNair was a big, burly, pass-first quarterback that had athleticism and ran for 6.7 yards per carry in 1997 but certainly isn't someone you'll remember because of what he could do with his legs.
Evolution: Donovan McNabb and Daunte Culpepper.
Now we had McNabb as a 6'2, 240 pound black quarterback that was taken second overall, could pass the ball well, but was also good on his feet especially for a guy that size.
Culpepper was drafted 11th overall, 6'4, 264 pound quarterback that threw for almost 19,000 yards in his first five full seasons with 129 touchdown passes and again, could move on his feet.
If you couldn't have Griffin unless you had Vick, then you couldn't have Vick unless you had the previous 2,000 words of history I just spat out. First you had to accept that black men could have the opportunity. Then you had to have enough opportunity to see them do well. You couldn't just switch them to another position because you were more keen on their running ability than their passing ability. Willie Thrower? He hardly knows her since you cut him in 1954.
Then you had to have a black quarterback that was one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. Then you had to have players that changed how the game was played.
Then you had to have Vick.
Vick's Vapor Run
It didn't matter if he was black, a quarterback, a halfback, or Nickelback -- the point was that Vick was unlike anything we've ever seen. Men his size shouldn't be able to run that fast. Men who can run that fast should be able to throw footballs that hard. How do you defend a guy that can outrun almost anyone on the field that also has the threat to throw a 50-yard touchdown pass?
The difference between evolution and revolution could be as simple or as complex as one letter.
The success of Michael Vick in the NFL is debatable. He's made the Pro Bowl four times, he's gone to the postseason four times, he's led the league in yards per carry five times, his career YPC is 7.0 and his career Y/A in passing is 7.0. He's respectable but more than anything, he's an icon.
An icon for young black men that wanted to grow up to be the most exciting player in the NFL. That didn't want to have a coach tell them that they had to switch positions when they started playing in high school, or when they were given scholarships to college but only if they played cornerback, or that they wouldn't be drafted in the NFL unless they switched positions.
Vick wanted to play quarterback in college, and Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer agreed that would be for the best. This wasn't going to be an automatic "6-footer with 4.25 speed let's put him at corner" situation. Not anymore. Not with how well Vick could throw or run an offense. Not when we had seen Cunningham play. The dominoes fell for Vick and even if he hasn't lived up to the hype that is "Michael Vick" he was still electrifying. He still is.
Vick spoke last year about how he respected the fact that Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan was utilizing Griffin by staying true to himself. By not trying to do something that had worked for someone else, not emulating the success of the "west" that was so popular, but by continuously stressing what makes you special and different from everyone else:
"You have to give credit to Coach (Mike) Shanahan," Vick said. "You can have a guy with all the talent in the world, but if you don't know how to use it, what's the point? So a lot of credit to Mike Shanahan, and a lot of credit to RGIII, staying true to his game."
He also wasn't shy about saying that he felt that RG3 and Newton must have idolized him:
"I think it's a great comparison," Vick said on WLZL-FM, via The Washington Post's "D.C. Sports Blog". "I think guys like RG3 idolized me as they grew up playing football. I think Cam and Robert Griffin III both were inspired by me and my play. And that's me being a trend setter, game transcending, and guys wanting to emulate one another. ... And I think that's what it's all about. I wanted to emulate Steve Young and be just like him, and Charlie Ward, and Randall Cunningham, guys who played before me."
I don't know if Vick was entirely aware of any "idolization" that Cam and RG3 specifically may have had for him, but I think he's somewhat correct here either way. Warren Moon was a passer. Randall Cunningham was a runner. Steve Young was a significantly good passer, but a threat on the ground unlike any white guy we were used to. I also think it's interesting that he brings up Ward, the Florida State Heisman-winning QB that decided to play in the NBA rather than the NFL unless he was a first round pick.
Charlie Ward is 6'2, 190 pounds. During his senior year at FSU, he completed 69.5% of his passes for 3,032 yards, 27 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 8.0 yards per attempt, 157.8 rating. He was told that he was probably a "third-to-fifth round pick" because of his stature and because of the possibility that he'd still choose basketball.
Russell Wilson is 5'11, 206 pounds. During his senior year at Wisconsin, he completed 72.8% of his passes for 3,175 yards, 10.3 yards per attempt, 33 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, and a 191.8 rating. He was drafted in the third round and could have chosen a baseball career.
Though Wilson is more stout, posted better numbers, and wasn't much of a threat to choose baseball, what if he had come before Ward? Would that have changed the minds of NFL general managers about Ward, or would that have inspired Ward to go on with football? You have to have the guy that sets up the guy that sets up the guy that changes everything. Evolution.
Or in the case of the evolution from Fritz Pollard to Warren Moon to Randall Cunningham to Michael Vick -- Revolution to not make "the switch."
Seneca Wallace refused the switch. Troy Smith refused the switch. Pat White refused the switch. And even if none of those players became great, they still refused. They refused so that Robert Griffin III could refuse and so that Russell Wilson could refuse.
What we have now is breaking into the mainstream for a set of players, or "playas," that were going to do it differently even if you thought their ideas were "silly" or "crazy." We had our "Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em" but would we get our "The Chronic"? And if we did, what would be the follow-up album?
From Rapper's Delight to Yeezus: Like it or not, what's hot is hot
Think back. Way back. Think back to a time that seems long ago, with dinosaurs and horse-drawn dinosaurs. That's right, think all the way back to when I was talking about great first seasons by a quarterback and how the rest of their careers went.
Remember how I said this:
What you are going to see with a lot of these players that had good rookie seasons at quarterback (though there aren't many of them) is that a good number of them peaked early. What does it tell us about Wilson, Griffin, and Luck?
Not as much as it should as I continue to move well past 3,000 words.
Well, the point of that is that evolution means that we can't exactly use history as a hard-and-fast rule to determine the future. We can't use Kellen Winslow Sr. to determine the fate of Jimmy Graham. Tight ends are different now. The game is different now. Nothing can be used to predict or even project the future of Graham, Rob Gronkowski, or any other 6'5 tight end that's not supposed to move that fast.
And for that reason nothing can be used to predict the future of Griffin, Newton, Wilson, and Kaepernick. We just don't have anything else to go off of. And it's not just about being a black quarterback either.
Locker and Tannehill also should have the athleticism to pull of a similar offense, especially Locker if he's healthy enough. The Titans and Dolphins should and likely will use some variation of an option this season with their giant, agile quarterbacks. At least if they want to adapt with the newest version of "the game."
This isn't the first time, nor will it be the last time that the game changes.
It's that West Coast vs East Coast battle
Or another way to put it: "Big E" goes "to Pac"(ific Ocean)
FIG: Falways. Ibe. Glosing. No, that's not right. FIG: Football. Is. Gameplanning.
The champion, whether it's on the high school level, college level, or the pros, is often a team that has the scheme that you can't stop. You can't stop it because you weren't prepared for this. As soon as a coach found an athlete that could do something that nobody else could do, like a 6-foot Michael Vick running a 4.33 forty, then you start thinking of new ways to do things.
If you put electricity in front of Tesla, you best believe that motherf---er will find something to do with it.
I am by no means a scheme expert, but I can quickly think off the top of my head of the Wing-T formation, Bellevue High, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the Chip Kelly Ducks, Steve Spurrier, the Pistol, Josh McDaniels, Wildcat, and of course Bill Walsh. The first person to think of that thing within the rulebooks that you didn't think of yet... wins!
It didn't just start with Walsh and the "West Coast Offense." It didn't only begin with Don Coryell and the "Air Coryell" system either. Though the modern forward passing game could be attributed to a lot of people, as anything that major usually should be, Sid Gillman is certainly one of the main pioneers.
Gillman coached the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL from 1955-1959, finishing with a record of 28-31-1 in five seasons. In 1960 he moved over to the upstart AFL and became the first ever head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. During his last year in the NFL, the average amount of passing attempts per game by the league was 25.8.
During his first season in the AFL in 1960, the average number of passing attempts was 33.0.
Gillman led the Rams to a 10-4 record in their first year, finishing 3rd (out of 8) in points per game with 26.6. The offense was inconsistent, scoring 3 or less three times, but scoring 184 points over their final four games of the year. 25-year-old Jack Kemp, unwanted in the NFL, was 211-of-406 for 3,018 yards, 20 touchdowns and 25 interceptions. He was 1st Team All-AFL that year.
The Chargers moved to San Diego the next year and improved to 12-2.
The offense and team sputtered in 1962 to a 4-10 record, but in 1963 they really started making a difference on the game. The Chargers went 11-3 and won the AFL Championship, scoring 28.5 points per game along the way. They beat the Boston Patriots 51-10 in the Championship Game. The Chargers were led by 35-year-old Tobin Rote, who put up a league-leading 59.4% completions and 8.8 yards per attempt in the "high-powered" (can you imagine 20 touchdown passes being "high-powered" now?) offense.
Gillman spread the field and made the deep pass the cool new thing to do. One observer may have even said that Gillman was "too legit" but that can't be proven. The only thing that could be proven was that you couldn't touch it, but many would emulate it.
Gill a man an offense, and he'll score for a day
Teach a man to run a passing offense, and the Raiders win the Super Bowl?
The NFL was slow to replicate Gillman, but not Al Davis. The Oakland Raiders head coach was a disciple of Gillman's and when he took over the AFL's Raiders in 1963, they were as pass-heavy as anyone. The Raiders attempted 442 passes that year compared to 357 rushing attempts, with 26-year-old Tom Flores going 8-1 as a starter with 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
The Raiders finished 2nd in the AFL in scoring and went 10-4 in Davis' first season.
Davis stepped down as Raiders coach after the 1965 season, but he passed his knowledge along to the likes of John Rauch (Raiders coach from 1966-68, finishing 1st in scoring in '67 and '68, winning the '67 AFL Championship) and John Madden (1969-78, you may have heard of him.)
Under Davis, Flores posted the best season of his career to date. He also helped quarterback Cotton Davidson, the 5th overall pick in 1954 that had disappointed his entire career, to a Pro Bowl appearance in 1963.
In Flores' one season under Rauch, he made his only Pro Bowl appearance. The next year, the Raiders made the switch to Daryle Lamonica and went to the Super Bowl, losing Super Bowl II to the Green Bay Packers. Interestingly, Lamonica was a 12th round pick by Green Bay in 1963 but he ended up signing with the Buffalo Bills (they drafted him into the AFL that same year) and he had four forgettable seasons with Buffalo.
Then in '67 he went 13-1 and threw 30 touchdowns along with 3,228 yards under Rauch. Over the next six seasons, two under Rauch and four under Madden -- all of which descends down from an early version of what is now most commonly known as "the west coast offense" -- Lamonica made four Pro Bowls, threw for 16,000 yards, 145 touchdowns, 103 interceptions, and the Raiders reigned as one of the best teams of the era.
In 1973, the Raiders moved from Lamonica to Ken Stabler. A second round pick in 1968 by Oakland, Stabler would have to wait over half-a-decade before he got his shot under Madden. A "raw" player with only 129 career pass attempts going into '73, Stabler led the league in completion percentage and made the Pro Bowl. Stabler again made the Pro Bowl in '74 but the Raiders were stilling struggling to get over the hump of winning the AFC championship. Until finally...
Seventeen years after their inaugural AFL season, seven years after their inaugural NFL season, and eight years after hiring John Madden, the Oakland Raiders won the 1976 Super Bowl with Stabler leading the league in completion percentage and touchdown throws.
Madden coached just two more years and retired from the league at the age of 42. From Gillman to Davis to Rauch to Madden, the game continued to change.
Gillman wasn't quite as successful with the Chargers during this same period but he did see quarterback John Hadl make four Pro Bowls as one of the most prolific QBs of the era. Meanwhile in Oakland, Flores returned as coach and oversaw Super Bowl championships in '80 and '83, albeit with a more subdued passing offense under Jim Plunkett.
But the forward-pass movement had only just begun.
/faintly from the back row: "stooooppp!!!"
Did I hear someone yell "Say some shit about Don Coryell?!"
About 30 years before Moon led the Huskies to a Rose Bowl victory over mighty Michigan, a guy by the name of Don Coryell played cornerback for Washington. He is not a name as well known as Moon, he is not in the official Hall of Fame, but he had an impact on the game that would change it forever. Players are in the Hall of Fame because of Don Coryell.
Not entirely different than you buying a Jay-Z album in small part because of M.C. Hammer.
After years of running (and helping to improve, invent) an I-Formation offense at USC, Coryell took over as head coach of San Diego State in 1961. He went a ridiculous 104-19-2 during his tenure and helped oversee them graduate to Division I football. How did he do it? Like every innovator, like how the Shanahan's utilized RGIII and how Pete Carroll copied that: You work with what you have.
"There were a number of reasons why we developed the passing game with the Aztecs," Coryell said several years after leaving San Diego State. "We could only recruit a limited number of runners and linemen against schools like USC and UCLA. And there were a lot of kids in Southern California passing and catching the ball.
"There seemed to be a deeper supply of quarterbacks and receivers. And the passing game was also open to some new ideas."
Unable to recruit the best running backs and lineman to a school that was close to giving up on football, Coryell decided to entice passers and pass-catchers instead.
The sneaky son-of-a-bitch (God rest his soul) taught USC the I-Formation and then moved south and started the passing game. What other choice did he have?
"Finally we decided it's crazy that we can win games by throwing the ball without the best personnel," Coryell said. "So we threw the hell out of the ball and won some games. When we started doing that, we were like 55-5-1."
The Aztecs went undefeated in 1966. Coryell's defensive coordinator? You ready for this? You ain't ready for this. No seriously, are y'all ready for this? (bust out the beat: do do do dooo dodododododoo I might have been writing for too long now.) Are you ready to hear who Coryell's defensive coordinator was at SDSU?
Holy shit, it all links back together!
"We'd go to these clinics, and afterward, everyone would run up to talk to (USC coach John) McKay," Madden said in 2006. "Coryell was there because he introduced (McKay). I was thinking, 'If (McKay) learned from him, I'll go talk to (Coryell).' "
The Coryell coaching tree is as impressive as anyone, including the likes of Madden and Joe Gibbs. He hasn't been put in the Hall of Fame, but he put players there. He never made the Super Bowl, but he put coaches there.
In 1973 he left SDSU to coach the St. Louis Cardinals, helping
Stan Musial win MVP quarterback Jim Hart go from nobody to Pro Bowler. In 1974, the Cardinals went 10-4, their best record since 1948. Here is a breakdown of Hart in the six years before Coryell arrived and his five years under Coryell:
The player had to do his part, but the game -- the game, yo -- still had to dictate the success of the playa. Jim Hart wasn't much of a player but after Coryell he crushed a lot. When Coryell went to the Chargers in 1978 he helped a quarterback go from obscurity to the
pass-crushin' Hall of Fame.
Probably one of the coolest things ever is the evolution of Dan Fouts into a Hall of Fame quarterback. Here is Fouts before and after Coryell:
Fouts in five seasons and 49 games before Coryell:
Fouts 1978-1986, 121 games:
Welcome to the next generation of the NFL, bitches.
Unfortunately, the Chargers never made the Super Bowl with Coryell and Fouts, but they finished first or second in each of his first five seasons as head coach there. And of course, in a new system, Fouts wasn't just a flash in the pan. He was literally a player that wasn't being utilized to the best of his abilities until a coach came in and said, "Try it my way."
This is the same fundamental principle that Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, and Colin Kaepernick are facing right now. This isn't as easy as pointing to rookie seasons. You can't simply say that just because "x" happened
that "x gonna give it to ya" that "y" will happen. It's an amalgation of all of that. It's most important to remember that these examples of Sid Gillman, Al Davis, John Rauch, John Madden, and Don Coryell are just examples of quarterbacks (not just quarterbacks, but quarterbacks that had previously been mediocre-to-bad in their careers beforehand) being taught to play to the highest of their capabilities.
Players like Lamonica, Hart, and Fouts are examples of these guys. They aren't the only ones.
Gibb Me a Break, Gibb Me a Break, Stop writing this art-i-cal
Coryell disciple Joe Gibbs got his first head coaching job with the Redskins in 1981. They had never won the Super Bowl. The quarterback was old and not good.
Joe Theismann in 99 games (56 starts) before Gibbs:
Theismann, starting at age 32, in five seasons under Gibbs:
Theismann made two Pro Bowl appearances under Gibbs (his first and only two) and won a Super Bowl in 1982, and then lost a Super Bowl in 1983. In 1986, they made the switch to 25-year-old Jay Schroeder, and he made his first and only Pro Bowl. In 1987, the Redskins started Schroeder but a shoulder injury hampered him all year. Washington went ahead and won the Super Bowl anyway with... you guessed it... Doug Williams.
The Redskins traded Schroeder in 1988 and tried to go with Williams, but he wasn't very effective. By 1989 they made the switch the Washington State Coug Mark Rypien. Gibbs would spend the rest of his coaching career (the first incarnation) with Rypien, a sixth round pick, at QB.
Rypien made two Pro Bowls under Gibbs and won a Super Bowl in 1991, winning Super Bowl MVP honors. When Gibbs retired in 1992, Rypien had 97 career touchdown passes in 65 games.
Rypien, only 30 when Gibbs retired, would throw just 18 touchdowns over the rest of his career.
Well, that's it for this article.
A Bill-ion Reasons To Walsh Football
I think that Carroll and Bill Walsh have a lot in common. Nothing more imperative about that comparison other than the fact that I think the two dudes look a lot a like. But also these are guys that came into the NFL without a lot of hype, and (hopefully) both changed the game and made major impacts on franchise when they left.
But Walsh had a lot of good learnin' before he got to the 49ers in 1979.
Walsh's first coaching gig was under John Rauch with the 1966 Oakland Raiders. Gillman > Davis > Rauch > Walsh.
He spent 1968-1975 as an assistant to the legendary Paul Brown with the Bengals. And if you want to talk about integration of black players into the NFL game, you probably start somewhere with Paul Brown. But that's for another day. (Or is it?) Or we could also point to the fact that Brown was Otto Graham's (remember him?) coach for all of those championships.
In 1976, Walsh became offensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers. This unfortunately came two years before Coryell arrived in San Diego, otherwise that would have made this story even more amazing.
After two years at Stanford, Walsh took over the San Francisco 49ers in 1979. Up until that point, people would have referred to the 49ers as:
- Garbagetown, USA
- Trash City
- A team full of idiots and dumb-dumbs
- Red and gold? More like dead and old.
- Just really big pieces of shit
You might still hear phrases like that, but Walsh did make them respectable. Walsh took everything that he had learned up to that point and the 48-year-old turned a team around in a major way. This wasn't exactly the same as Coryell and Gillman but it was a passing offense. It was a hell of a passing offense.
The year before Walsh, the 49ers finished 28th in total offense and 27th in scoring and went 2-14.
In the first year of Walsh they went 2-14 again, but they finished 16th in total offense and 6th in scoring. Over his last seven years as head coach of San Francisco (1982-88) they never finished lower than 4th in scoring offense. After a 17-3 loss to the Giants in the 1985 playoffs, New York head coach Bill Parcells said:
"What do you think of that "West Coast Offense" now?"
And a term was born. Unfortunately for Walsh, it has been bandied about by just about anyone to talk about a vertical passing attack. Bernie Kosar referred to the '93 Cowboys as a "West Coast Offense" when it was meant to be a comparison to the "Air Coryell" offense. Well, same diff' right?
Not quite. (Though admittedly this author has taken his own liberties with the term to save time.)
Walsh had been developing the West Coast Offense under Paul Brown. An unknown Virgil Carter came out of nowhere to lead the league in completion percentage in 1971 and a third round pick by the name of Ken Anderson enjoyed great success under the tutelage of Brown and Walsh.
In his first year with the Niners, Walsh tried as he might with Steve Deberg. He led the NFL in completions and attempts in 1979, but Walsh wasn't squeezing enough dressing out of this turkey. I guess we might as well call it quits with this "west side joke" am I right, fellas from Westside Connection?
Until one day Walsh looked over at a guy and said "Hey, Ken Anderson was a 6'2 third round pick. How tall are you Joe?" and then Joe Montana said, "I'm 6'2." And then Walsh scratched his chin and said "Hmm.. what round did you get picked in." "Ummm... third, coach?"
"Yeah, that's right bitch. You're my new starter."
And that's how
babies are born Super Bowl are won.
Montana and Walsh would spend the rest of their lives together. They lived in a cabin up in Lake Montaguena until Walsh's passing in 2007. Not in a weird way, but they were best buds from my understanding, how could you not be after winning the Super Bowl in 1981, '84, and '88? Walsh built Montana into perhaps the greatest quarterback of all-time, and Walsh passed his knowledge on to George Seifert -- the guy that won another Super Bowl with Montana in '89 and then Steve Young in '94.
Is it just coincidence that we are rounding back to Young? No, it's not. Because at this point I'm pretty sure I've literally named every player and coach or human being to even say the word "football."
The Walsh tree extends to Seifert, Mike Shanahan, Mike Holmgren, Gary Kubiak, Jon Gruden, Andy Reid, and on and on. As a matter of fact, in 1994, Seifert's offensive coordinator for that Super Bowl-winning team was Mike Shanahan. In 1995 and 1996, his defensive coordinator was...
In 2012, Carroll saw Shanny work RG3 into a new offensive scheme and therefore implemented the same basic style around Wilson, and they both branch off of the Bill Walsh tree, and that actually is some sort of coincidence probably. Do you see where I am going with this?
Good. Tell me. *sheepish laugh*
Evolution, Amalgamation, In Total, Vis-a-vis, Objection
What I've been driving at from MC Hammer to Ice Cube to the East Coast/West Coast battles between Notorious B.I.G and Tupac Shakur down to James Harris and Doug Williams and Warren Moon and Randall Cunningham to Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III while examining Sid Gillman, Al Davis, Don Corryell, Bill Walsh, Joe Theismann to Doug Willams again and then Mark Rypien, the Washington State Cougars, while never forgetting that we must also look at the rookie seasons of Dan Marino and Marc Bulger and to a lesser extent Aaron Rodgers when you're talking about Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson and of course you can't overlook the impact that Hammertime had on the U.S. in a post-Cold War era, if you want to know why I bring this up well really we need to look back a little further.
Look, about 14 billion years ago this thing called the Big Bang happened...
No, we don't need to start at the end actually. We need to go back to the beginning.
In 2013, Russell Wilson seems poised to have another good season and hopefully is just the beginning of a very good career. A significant portion of Wilson's success will come due to the threat of a "zone read" play that can be worked into the offense on occasion. That offense was "borrowed" by Carroll and Darrell Bevell from Mike Shanahan, a disciple of the West Coast Offense in San Francisco that took over the Broncos in 1995 and ran a similar, but more run-heavy version of the WCC on the way to Super Bowl wins in '97 and '98. (Oh, and John Elway had the best seasons of his career.)
Shanahan was helped by offensive line guru Gary Kubiak in Denver. Carroll has the zone blocking scheme of Tom Cable. So the pieces lined up for Carroll to take those ideas from the Redskins in 2012 because his quarterback is also athletic, agile, smart, and can throw a nice deep pass.
This is in no small thanks to players that broke the NFL color barrier not only overall, but specifically at the quarterback position; because eventually they refused to make the switch. Players like Fritz Pollard, George Taliaferro, Marlin Briscoe, James Harris, Doug Williams, Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, and eventually Michael Vick. In Week 1 of the 2013 season, the NFL could have eight starting quarterbacks that are least part African-American.
It took until 1978 before a black QB was drafted before the sixth round, and now you've got Newton, Griffin, Kaepernick, Wilson, Manuel, and Smith being taken over the last three years. And they all needed to be a part of the evolutionary process of having someone to look up to. Manuel, the 16th overall pick in this years draft, idolized McNabb. Indeed, Newton did idolize Vick. Somebody is looking at these players now and thinking, "Maybe I can do that too." just like Warren Moon once said about the very few non-white quarterbacks in America at the time he was going to high school.
And maybe a 5'11 quarterback somewhere in this (or another) country of any race is thinking, "If Wilson can do it..."
The future of Kaepernick, Wilson, RGIII, Newton, and any other quarterback that's only in his first couple of years in the NFL is not beset in stone. It's penciled on paper like a flow you'll totally pretend was made up in a rap battle later on in front of Wilmer Valderrama. The "follow-up" album for Kaepernick, Wilson, Griffin, and Luck will either be successful, disappointing, or so-so. Newton being an example of a player that played almost exactly the same as he did as a rookie, and viewed as a disappointment. Was it really a disappointment, or is simply too legit for fans? If Wilson has the exact same season, or even if he plays a little worse, does that make him a failure? Wilson has been through too much and fought too hard to give up now. Will the read option give up on him? Is it the next version of the "West Coast" or "Wildcat"?
In the end, he has to remember this: Stay true to yourself.
We don't have a way to foretell the future of these players, because up until recently with the advent of a vertical passing attack, quarterbacks weren't producing this much.
Up until recently, rookie quarterbacks weren't playing anywhere near this well.
Up until relatively recently, a young black quarterback struggled to keep his job before being switched to another position.
Up until recently, the zone read option wasn't being run in the NFL.
But there was a time when the forward-pass wasn't utilized very heavily. There was a time when 30 pass attempts in a game was ridiculous. There will always be a time when there isn't, and there will eventually be a time when there is.
In this scenario, Michael Vick is M.C. Hammer. He was supposed to be the guy that could rap, dance, and have a positive message that would be the next wave of rap into the mainstream, but instead he was just one of the trendsetters. He was the one that helped open the door for people that you may not normally even associate with a rapper like Hammer, but even he was once signed to Death Row.
And rap, just like the game of football, is ever evolving. What's seen today can't be seen tomorrow. What is successful tomorrow, couldn't possibly be known today. You borrow from everyone. Bill Walsh could "sample" Sid Gillman and Pete Carroll could "just straight up take" some stuff from Mike Shanahan. Who would have thought that the same styles presented by the likes of Hammer, Kris Kross, Wrecks-N-Effect in the early-90's would eventually become Too $hort, 50 Cent, or Kanye West, to the eventual aggressive youth of someone like Tyler, the Creator?
"Aggressive Youth"? Hmmm... maybe there's an analogy there somewhere.
If you decided to skip to the end, or just need a break, this infograph pretty much explains everything: