As the race for the 2013 Heisman Trophy has sped along, a very interesting facet has emerged. Per usual, quarterbacks lead the field in terms of contenders for the prestigious award. But within the ranks of these contenders is a distribution of talent and statistics that will hopefully serve to finally eliminate racial stereotypes that have pervaded American football and the quarterback position.
Traditionally, African-American quarterbacks have been seen as dual-threat athletes. They have been viewed as being able to spread the field with their legs. But this has often come at the expense of them also being seen as weaker in terms of their throwing abilities, and therefore their potential to play the position at the professional level is often an issue. However, quarterbacks such as Doug Williams, Warren Moon, Donovan McNabb, and, more recently, Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III have done much to dispel this assumption.
On the other side, Caucasian quarterbacks have been automatically viewed as traditional pocket quarterbacks. They have not been the ones assumed to be unpredictable in terms of making defenses take into account both their running and throwing abilities. This has manifested itself in them being seen as better developed passers and therefore more prepared for the NFL. Quarterbacks like Tim Tebow and Collin Klein, during his time at Kansas St., have, however, helped to de-legitimize these positions.
Noting the examples above, one sees that there has been a steady march against race-based assessments of quarterbacks. Take a look at those at the forefront of the Heisman discussion this year and you will see another powerful presentation against these sorts of racial assumptions, and one that will hopefully serve to put them to rest. As it stands, Yahoo! Sports has quarterbacks Jameis Winston (Florida St.) , A.J. McCarron (Alabama), Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M), Marcus Mariotta (Oregon), and Bryce Petty (Baylor) as its top five contenders, with Jordan Lynch (N. Illinois) mentioned to have been gaining ground in previous tabulations. ESPN currently has the same exact top five, though in different order. Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville) has also appeared prominently in the Heisman discussion this year before taking a dip due to a loss to UCF.
Upon looking at the statistics of these contenders, three can be considered dual-threat quarterbacks, each having over 400 yards rushing, and four can be considered traditional pocket quarterbacks, each with about 150 yards rushing or less. Of the former, none are African-American. Mariotta is Samoan and both Manziel and Lynch are Caucasian. Whereas of the four traditional pocket passers, two are African-American (Winston and Bridgewater) and two are Caucasian (McCarron and Petty).
Whoever the winner ends up being, the excellent play of these athletes hopefully shows that there is no place for racial stereotyping in terms of assuming the abilities of quarterbacks. Significant progress has obviously been made in this regard, but there is still room for improvement. All athletes should be judged by their performance on the field, not the color of their skin, and this year’s Heisman race makes this very clear.