Making Way For Pat: Exploring The History Of Black QBs In The Super Bowl


In the days leading up to Super Bowl LV between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a lot of attention has been paid to the quarterback matchup between Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes. With six Super Bowl titles, 14 Pro Bowl selections and three MVP trophies, many consider Tom Brady to be the greatest quarterback to play football at any level. Meanwhile, Patrick Mahomes has quickly risen up the list of all-time great quarterbacks by appearing in three straight AFC Championship games, winning a Super Bowl title and en route to winning a second MVP trophy. On Sunday, fans may witness a matchup between the two greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game of football.

With that said, Mahomes is not just playing to win a Super Bowl title or assert himself as the greatest quarterback in pro football history. Seven days into Black History Month, he could very well become the first Black quarterback to win more than one Super Bowl title. Russell Wilson came within inches of doing it, but he fell one pass play short. Donovan McNabb fell three NFC Championships shy of doing it himself. Now, Mahomes has a chance to follow in the footsteps of a number of trailblazing quarterbacks and lead the way to history. Before Mahomes takes the field, let's look at the playmakers who paved the way for the young quarterback from Kansas City.

Super Bowl XXII: Doug Williams

On January 31, 1988, Doug Williams took the field at Jack Murphy Stadium as the first Black quarterback to start in a Super Bowl. Not only was he the first Black quarterback to start in a Super Bowl, but he was not truly a starting quarterback to begin with. He entered the season as a backup quarterback and finished with an 0-2 record in the regular season. Stepping up in the playoffs, he led the Washington Football Team to two victories, but the Super Bowl was a different ball game. Standing on the other side, future Pro Football Hall of Fame Quarterback John Elway was ready for the game. Elway and the Denver Broncos shot out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarterback. Fortunately, things quickly turned around for Williams and company. In the second quarterback, Washington scored 35 unanswered points. Williams also became the first quarterback to throw four touchdowns in one-quarter of Super Bowl play. Washington closed out the season with a 42-10 win over Denver and walked away with the Super Bowl XXII title. Williams also walked away with the Super Bowl XXII MVP trophy.

Super Bowl XXXIV: Steve McNair

Twelve years after Doug Williams became the first Black quarterback, Steve McNair became the second. Much like Williams, McNair was also a graduate of a historically Black university, Alcorn State. In the winter of 2000, McNair led the Tennessee Titans into the Georgia Dome to take on Los Angeles Rams. Referred to as the "Greatest Show on Turf," the Rams were favored to move around the turf with ease and take home their first Super Bowl title in more than 50 years. However, that was not the case. The Rams and Titans battled in a fairly low scoring affair. Trailing by seven late in the fourth quarter, McNair led the Titans down the field in one of the greatest fourth-quarter Super Bowl drives. Unfortunately, the Titans came up one yard short as Kevin Dyson stretched the ball as far as he could to only end up inches shy of tying the game.

Super Bowl XXXIX: Donovan McNabb

One year after McNair and company fell short against the St. Louis Rams, Donovan McNabb and the Eagles lost to the Rams in the NFC Championship. In 2002 and 2003, McNabb and the Eagles also ended their season one game shy of the Super Bowl by losing in the NFC Championship. Fortunately, McNabb was able to breakthrough in 2004 by defeating Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons. Unfortunately, the Eagles entered the game with an injured star receiver by the name of Terrell Owens. In spite of his injury, Owens and McNabb were able to connect on nine passes for 122 yards. However, it was too little to overcome the Patriots as Tom Brady won his third Super Bowl.

Super Bowl XLVII: Colin Kaepernick

Before Colin Kaepernick ignited a social justice movement that would change the NFL forever, he was a star quarterback destined for success. At the age of 25, Kaepernick entered Super Bowl XLVII after completing nearly 80% of his passes in the 2012 NFC Championship and finishing with 233 yards. His success in the NFC Championship did not immediately translate in the Super Bowl. Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers fell behind the Baltimore Ravens by a score of 21-6 in the first half. However, things quickly changed when Beyoncé literally delivered a lights out performance during halftime. Following the performance, the lights went out in the Mercedes-Benz Super Bowl and the teams were stuck in their respective locker rooms for an extended period of time. When the San Francisco 49ers came out of the lockers, they were locked in. Scoring 17 unanswered points in the third quarter, the 49ers looked to take the lead in the fourth quarter. On the contrary, Joe Flacco was able to lead the Ravens to two field goals in the fourth quarter and help Ray Lewis win a Super Bowl title in his final pro contest.

Super Bowl XLVIII: Russell Wilson

One year after Colin Kaepernick fell short in the Super Bowl, Russell Wilson and the Seattlehawks represented in the NFC in the Super Bowl. Much like Doug Williams, Wilson and Seattle faced off against a tough Denver Broncos team with a future Hall of Fame quarterback. This time around, Wilson stood opposite of Peyton Manning. Fortunately, Wilson's teammates on defense, Richard Sherman, Bruce Irvin and Cliff Avril, stifled the Broncos offense. Holding the Broncos to eight points, the Seattle Seahawks dominated the Broncos and won by 35 points.

Super Bowl XLIX: Russell Wilson

One year after facing off against the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, Wilson made history yet again. He became the first Black quarterback to start in two Super Bowls. Squaring off against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, Wilson did not have his best day throwing the football. With only 21 attempts, Wilson completed 12 passes for 247 yards. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Seahawks were up by 10, but they blew the lead with about eight minutes left to go. In an explicable move, Seahawks Head Coach Peter Carroll and company opted to throw the ball from the one-yard line with the game on the line. Tragically, Wilson dropped back and threw an interception to secure Brady's fourth Super Bowl title.

Super Bowl XL: Cam Newton

In 2013, Beyoncé performed at halftime of the Super Bowl and a Black quarterback participated in the game. In 2016, it was the same case. Is Beyoncé to thank for this? Who knows? On a more serious note, Carolina Panthers Quarterback Cam Newton was on a tear during the 2015-2016 regular season. The Panthers started the season on a 14-0 run before ending with a 15-1 record along with the top seed in the NFC. Things only got better in the playoffs. During the Divisional Round, the Panthers shot out to a 31-0 lead on the Panthers before the Seahawks posed a strong comeback in the second half. One week later, the Panthers dominated the Arizona Cardinals and won by 35 in the NFC Championship. Heading into the Super Bowl, the Panthers were heavy favorites against the Denver Broncos, but things didn't go according to plan. Newton and the Panthers ran into an all-time great defense led by future Hall of Fame linebacker Von Miller. The Broncos would emerge with the Super Bowl title by defeating the Panthers 24-10.

Super Bowl LIV: Patrick Mahomes

Patrick Mahomes proved to be worth the hype in Super Bowl LIV. After winning an MVP and leading his team to an AFC Championship appearance during the 2018-2019 season, Mahomes and company returned to the scene with greater goals in mind. This time around, Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs finished the job and won the Super Bowl by defeating a tough San Francisco 49ers team, 31-20. With two touchdowns and 286 yards, Mahomes became the second Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl MVP.

Super Bowl XLV: Patrick Mahomes

For the second year in a row, Patrick Mahomes is back in the Super Bowl. In 2019, Tom Brady and the Patriots won the Super Bowl. In 2020, Mahomes and the Chiefs won the Super Bowl. In 2021, they'll face off for quarterback supremacy. Who will take home the title?

Photo Credit: Getty Images


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