Yesterday, I was reading a fascinating article about the history of black quarterbacks in the NFL. It isn’t a particularly pretty story, but it’s a decidedly intriguing one. You know by now that what I read frequently influences what I write, so today we’re going to run through the top ten best black quarterbacks in NFL history. In today’s world, there are certainly more black QBs than there have been in the past (9 starters last season, in fact), but it remains a predominantly white position. All of the guys on this list have worked to change that.
1. Warren Moon, who initially had to play in the CFL when no NFL teams would take him, went on to become one of the most prolific quarterbacks in league history. Moon played for the Houston Oilers, the Minnesota Vikings, the Seattle Seahawks, and the Kansas City Chiefs. No. 1 is the only Hall of Famer on today’s list.
2. Doug Williams, who played for both the Washington Redskins and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during his career, is the only black quarterback to win a Super Bowl. In 1987, Williams led his ‘Skins to a blowout victory over the Denver Broncos.
3. Steve McNair played for the Houston Oilers, the Baltimore Ravens, and the Tennessee Titans, but he’s best remembered for his time in Tennessee. McNair, who died tragically in 2009, led the 1999 Titans squad to the Super Bowl, losing a painfully close game.
4. Randall Cunninghamn played most of his long career with the Philadelphia Eagles, ending with short stints at the Minnesota Vikings, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Baltimore Ravens. Cunningham, many say, was Michael Vick pre-Michael Vick. Cunningham rushed for 4,928 yards in his 16-year career. Cunningham has been on the Hall of Fame ballot since 2006, but has yet to be voted in.
5. Michael Vick, despite his legal woes from a few years ago, remains one of (if not the) greatest running quarterback the NFL has ever seen. The man’s not a bad passer either; talk about a dual threat. Vick is most well-known for his lengthy stint with the Atlanta Falcons, but he has since been on the rosters of both the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Jets.
6. Donovan McNabb spent 11 of his 13 years in the NFL at the helm of the Philadelphia Eagles (seems to be something of a trend today). McNabb and the 2004 Eagles appeared in the Super Bowl. Although No. 5 ended his career with uninspiring one-year contracts at the Washington Redskins and the Minnesota Vikings, he will always be remembered as one of the league’s top players.
7. It would be remiss to write a list about great black quarterbacks without including James Harris, the first black quarterback in the NFL. Harris played for the Buffalo Bills, the St. Louis Rams, and the San Diego Chargers during his career. Most notably, Harris led the Rams to back-to-back conference championships and, subsequently, Super Bowl appearances.
8. In the pre-Big Ben days (I know, I know, they’re hard to recall), the Pittsburgh Steelers had a black quarterback named Kordell Stewart as their starter. Stewart played 8 fantastic seasons with the Steelers before going on to spend short periods of time with the Chicago Bears and the Baltimore Ravens.
9. It might seem odd to include a current player on this list, but I really believe that the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson is deserving. Wilson, drafted in the third round, went on to win the Super Bowl his second year in the league. Credit where credit’s due to the Legion of Boom, but Wilson is a threat in and of himself too. I think he has the potential to become one of the greats.
10. Daunte Culpepper's 7 years with the Minnesota Vikings saw him put-up some of the most solid statistics any black quarterback ever has. After a knee injury ended Culpepper’s tenure with the Vikings, he played with the Miami Dolphins, the Oakland Raiders, and the Detroit Lions without great success. Nonetheless, he takes the final spot on today’s list due to his early career.