Underpaid and underappreciated— Black quarterbacks in the NFL

(L-R) Former SWAC quarterbacks, James Harris (Los Angeles Rams), Doug Williams (Washington Redskins), and Steve McNair (Tennessee Titans) were listed on the ballot as ESPN.com’s Rank’Em: asks fans to rank the top ten African-American QBs of all time.

Black History Month is finally over. Rosa Parks can no longer be directed to the back of the bus of “eternity.” There are no longer any red lines drawn on the “baseball diamond of forever” for Jackie Robinson to cross. However, we must sneak a few Rooney Rule accountants into the boardrooms of the NFL to provide “reparations” to many of the Black players that were shortchanged for a century regarding “equal pay for equal play,” you dig…Let’s hit rewind for a moment and take a stroll through the neighborhood of former NFL QB Doug Williams.

According to an article posted on www.celebritynetworth.com, (Williams was drafted by) “the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1978, and was such an asset to the team, that they went all the way to the playoffs three times, during his time with them. They had never reached the playoffs before. In 1979, they made it all the way to the NFC Championship. When Doug Williams signed with the team, he was the only African American NFL starting quarterback. The Buccaneers paid him only $120,000 per year, the lowest salary of any quarterback in the league. There were 12 backup quarterbacks who had higher salaries. (When) he finally asked for more money, the Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse refused to bring his pay up to the level of other NFL quarterbacks. Doug Williams left the NFL and went on to play for the United States Football League from 1984 to 1985, appearing with the Oklahoma Outlaws, who later became the Arizona Outlaws. In 1986, he returned to the NFL, signing with the Washington Redskins. He led the Redskins to Super Bowl XXII and was named Super Bowl MVP.”

Compare Trent Dilfer, the Baltimore Ravens’ starting QB, and winner of Super Bowl XXXV to Doug Williams. Trent Dilfer had 129 interceptions in his career and only 113 touchdown passes. However, he supposedly “led” the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl title in 2001. While the team’s defense was particularly heralded for its work, Dilfer was also known for being a strong game commander when the Ravens had the ball. Dilfer may have “participated” in the Ravens’ Super Bowl victory, but he damn sure did not “lead” them to victory. Did I forget to mention that the Baltimore defense created five turnovers? Dilfer’s passing stats were 12 completions out of 26 attempts for 153 yards with 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions; less than glorious at best. The aforementioned are journeyman QB stats for any game, especially for a Super Bowl, but Dilfer still made well over a million dollars for the 2000 NFL regular season. According to the compensation levels even two decades ago, he was grossly overpaid. Compare Trent Dilfer’s stats to the numbers of former Redskins quarterback Doug Williams. Williams completed 18 of 29 passes for 340 yards and four touchdowns in the Redskins’ Super Bowl XXII victory against the favored Denver QB John Elway and the Denver Broncos. 

Fast forward to Russell Wilson. Current Denver Broncos and ex-Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has been playing in the NFL for over a decade. He began his career with the Seattle Seahawks since 2012 and has won one Super Bowl with the team.

Russell Wilson was the starting quarterback for the Seahawks in the Super Bowl XLVIII match against former Broncos QB Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Wilson threw for 206 yards in the game and two touchdown passes. He had a 123.1 passer rating with no interceptions as the Seahawks defeated the Broncos, 43-8.

The base salary for Russell Wilson in 2014 was $817,000, and the base salary for Peyton Manning in 2014 was $15,000.000.  Wilson had three zeros. Manning had six zeros. Manning made 15 times more dough than Wilson.

Fast forward to 2023. A majority of the NFL media seems to have the opinion at one time or another that the Cleveland Browns starting QBs Deshaun Watson and Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, also sitting in the first chair, may be valuable but not valuable to be at or near the top of the salary pyramid for starting QBs in the NFL. Lamar Jackson was injured for close to one half of the 2022 season, so his value was instantly downgraded. All they talked about was his upcoming contract negotiations and whether he should be offered a top-dollar contract extension. However, in December 2020 sportingnews.com posted this injury update on the Cincinnati Bengals OB Joe Burrow: (Burrow) “didn’t get a chance to contend for Rookie of the Year after suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 11. The No. 1 overall pick out of LSU had shown lots of promise for the Bengals before his rookie campaign had been cut short. Cincinnati had struggled to win games with a poor offensive line and subpar defense, but Burrow had shouldered much of the offensive load, proving he’s indeed the Bengals’ franchise quarterback going forward. The main timeline that matters to Bengals fans now is whether Burrow will be back in time for Week 1 of 2021.” 

All they seemed to be worried about was the comeback of Joe Burrow. With Lamar Jackson, their major concern seems to now be centered around whether his current injury will affect his future performance. We must now instantly cease whether we have a seat at the table and focus on not being forced to dive under the table for table scraps. We must not worry about being forced to go to the back of the bus. We must begin to concentrate on not being thrown under the bus.

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