First and Twenty: The First Showdown of Starting Black QB’s


The NFL opened the 2013 season with nine African American quarterbacks of the 32 starters, the most in NFL history.  And although the number has since dropped a couple of spots due to injuries and various other reasons, the topic of the black quarterback has become somewhat of a moot point.  In tonight's Monday night matchup, two of the current seven black QBs will take the field as Colin Kaepernick looks to end a two-game skid for his 49ers as they travel to the nation's capital to take on Robert Griffin III and the Redskins, who have also dropped their previous two.  As the faces of their respective franchises, it sheds a light on progress of not only sports but our country as a whole, as 34 years ago it was a totally different scenario.

September 30, 1979, played host to one of the most significant games in NFL history, however if you were to look it up in a book, or better yet even a Google search, it would hardly yield a mention.  In week five of the 1979 season, the 4-0 Tampa Bay Buccaneers took on the 2-2 Chicago Bears on a beautiful sunny day in the Windy City at Soldier Field.  The star of the show was undoubtedly Bears running back Walter Payton, but  on this day there was something else taking place that no one had ever seen before in the NFL.  Starting at quarterback for the Bears was Vince Evans, who was in his third year in the league and was making his third career start.  On the opposite side of the field was Doug Williams, the first round draft choice of the previous year who was in the midst of his 15th start.  The significance?  It would mark the very first time there would be two black starting quarterbacks going head-to-head in an NFL game.

The game was tight and did not bolster huge stats from either side of the ball with the exceptions of two big plays, one from each squad.  Tampa Bay's running back Jerry Eckwood raced for a 61-yard touchdown to give the Bucs the lead early in the second quarter.  At the time, it was the longest running play from scrimmage in the franchise's brief history (founded in 1976).  On the other hand, Walter Payton grabbed a screen pass from Vince Evans and took it 65 yards into the endzone to give the Bears their only lead in the fourth quarter.  But it was Williams who would emerge as the brightest star, completing an 8-yard touchdown pass to Issac Hagins with 5:08 remaining to not only give Tampa the win, but also the distinction of being the league's lone undefeated team at the time.

So while there is little fanfare that is made about this "historic" moment in recollection of league events, I thought it would only be fitting to pay homage where it is due.  With only 11 black quarterbacks ever to throw a pass in the NFL prior to this game, I believe it warrants recognition.  So as we continue to watch the likes of Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaeperncik, RGIII, E.J. Manuel, Geno Smith, and even Jason Campbell in Cleveland, remember what steps it took to even get to this point.