Tebow, Race, and First Take

Posted: January 9, 2012 in ALL II
Tags: , , , ,

The perpetually busy though highly acclaimed Editor-In-Chief wanted my take on a segment of First Take regarding Tim Tebow, race, and assessments of his ability as a quarterback.  I should say that I am writing this after watching Tebow throw for 316 yards, two touchdowns, and rushing for another in an unlikely win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team everyone felt confident as labeling best in the AFC despite injuries galore to most everyone of significance.  You can find the episode here and begin listening around 50:00 into the segment.

  • First, the extended opening about talking about the subject of race “head on” and that “everyone is friends” really undercuts the reality of the moment.  We know race is contentious especially when discussed by people in two different racial groups but there is no need for the extra sugar coating.
  • Rob Parker highlights a very good difference between young black players and older black players.  Young players enjoy the free formed controlled chaos that Tebow brings because – I think – they grew up watching quarterbacks possess a more athletic side with the ability to run and throw PLUS Tebow embodies a toughness people see declining in football in general (re: concussions).  Older players see Tebow as another exception to the rule: black, mobile quarterbacks are forced to be defensive backs and wide receivers.  Tebow gets a team to cater to him (players, coaching, and offensive design) and is allowed a chance to succeed.  This point totally dismisses the point that Tebow enjoyed phenomenal success in Florida amid is throwing deficiencies.  Winning national titles (though aided by Chris Leak for one) and playing at a premier program carries weight – for better or worse.  To be fair, high profile black quarterbacks did go on to be drafted and enjoyed support: Michael Vick (VaTech); Vince Young (Texas); Cameron Newton (Auburn).
  • Fewer things irritate me more than the witch hunt and populist movement to get rid of Kyle Orton.  I’ve whined about this for months but Skip highlighting Orton’s 4-14 record in his last 18 starts ignores the bottom five rushing attack (Knowshon Moreno led by the way), bottom five rush defense, and bottom five passing defense.  Orton’s numbers far outpace Tebow’s figures EVERYTIME.  When the team has him listed as the third quarterback behind Brady Friggin Quinn and he suddenly is starting, that is an organization bending to fan pressure.  If he cannot get it done in practice, logic suggests there is no way he could do it against an opponent and he didn’t for 55 minutes (sans Steelers game).
  • Kordell Stewart, who obviously takes this personally and understandably so, raised an interesting point about what happens when a black quarterback struggles.  There appears to be a lack of opportunities given to black back-ups and in some cases the leash can be pulled quickly when things do not work out.  Stewart was benched after three games following his team MVP the season before.  That is messed up undoubtedly but it should be noted that his team MVP season was not that impressive: 14TD, 11INT, 3100yrds, 7yrd/att, 5 rushing TDs, 8 fumbles.  Not exactly world beater.  But Stewart did not go on to brighter prospects either.  He simply faded.  One issue that needs to be put on the table is the number of black quarterbacks is significantly smaller than white quarterbacks.
  • His passion and frustration for a lack of black options should also account for skills being evaluated between white quarterbacks.  Brady Quinn should have an issue if he is sitting around and NO ONE seems to want to spend time on him.  Stewart raises the issue of Jake Delhomme but it should be noted that no one was giving him a shot in general and the Texans only called him up because they were down to their final QB – a 3rd string rookie.
  • Raising Kerry Collins is a bad example given the royal screw job done to Curtis Painter.  Again, not saying Painter is a world beater but to decide to go to another option instead of developing him is the exact issue Stewart is raising with black quarterbacks.  Don’t forget, the number of black quarterbacks – however- is still INCREDIBLY small and broad in talent levels.
  • Here is a brief list of black quarterbacks of value active or around during recent history (not including the great Tee Martin)*(year drafted)*: Steve McNair (95), Charlie Batch (98), Akili Smith (99), Shaun King (99), Daunte Culpepper (99), Donovan McNabb (99), Aaron Brooks (00), Michael Vick (01), Quincy Carter (01), David Garrard (02), Byron Leftwich (03), Cleo Lemon (04), Seneca Wallace (05), Jason Campbell (05), Vince Young (06), Tavaris Jackson (06), Troy Smith (07), Jamarcus Russell (07), Dennis Dixon (08), Josh Freeman (09), Mark Sanchez – minority- (09), Joe Webb (10), and Cam Newton (12) to name a few.
  • Many of these quarterbacks began as backups and eventually became starters. McNabb, to me, is BY FAR the most accomplished.  Second is probably Steve McNair.  Third is Michael Vick who is exciting but lacks health and playoff success.  Point is that this list goes downhill very quickly with surprises (Tavaris Jackson starting), youth success and building for the skill set (McNabb, Newton), busts (Smith, Russell), and those still waiting (Heisman Trophy Winner Troy Smith, Dennis Dixon, etc).  Point is, being slighted stands out more when there are far fewer viable options to do the job.  Many white starters and some backups out perform this list.  McNabb is a notable target of criticism by both whites and blacks for just about everything he does.  Absolutely unfair.

Ultimately, it is good to hear the emotions behind the Tebow saga which begin on the field but fester and develop almost always off the field.  After watching this performance, more young people will marvel and claim Tebow to be a boss while older players like Kordell Stewart will be left wondering what could’ve been.  What is true is that an unjust move in football comes to everyone all the time but I see a picture that is starting to look more balanced than years before and everyone should be happier about that.


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