What do Byron Leftwich, David Garrard and Quinn Gray have in common?
1. They are the three QBs on the roster of the Jacksonville Jaguars. They appear in that order on the Jags' depth chart.
2. Leftwich was the 7th overall selection in last year's draft and had a great rookie season last year. Garrard, who has battled Crohn's disease, was a fourth-round pick a couple of years ago out of East Carolina and the fifth QB taken (after David Carr, Joey Harrington, Patrick Ramsey and Josh McCown), and Gray, a second-year player out of Florida A&M, led the Frankfurt Galaxy to the NFL Europe title in 2003.
So what? Do you say? The Jags disappointed last year and are rebuilding. Leftwich could be a great one, and the other two, well, who knows. And you may be right.
But one think that black-and-white text isn't able to show you is that all of these quarterbacks are African-American. And that fact could be a very important development because it could be the first time in NFL history that all active QBs on an NFL roster are men of color (I'm not an expert on the history of NFL rosters, but I think that this is the case). Given the history of discrimination at the QB position (you'll remember that the term "black quarterback" used to be used without thinking as frequently as 15 years ago, while today it's almost not in use unless you're Rush Limbaugh, the reason being that the James Harrises and Doug Williamses of the world paved the way for many, many others), it's both unfortunate that it's taken this long for this to happen and very fortunate that it has finally happened. Hopefully, no NFL front office examines race when determining whether a player can play a position. Clearly, the Jacksonville Jaguars do not.
Perhaps this development does not need a lot of fanfare behind it. I don't think the MSM (that's mainstream media, for all of you non-bloggers out there) has picked up this story, for whatever reason. Perhaps because the color of one's skin doesn't matter any more in professional sports, so much so that the MSM just didn't think it's a big deal. Or perhaps they just plain missed the story.
Why am I reporting it? Because I recall seeing Doug Williams play for Grambling in person over 20 years ago, that's why. And I recall how great he was. And while it was great that he did get national recognition playing for football-strong but otherwise relatively obscure Grambling, with his talent and demonstrated ability he should have been playing for a top SEC school. He didn't get the chance, but then he showed everyone what he could do on the ultimate national stage when he put up incredible numbers (I believe he threw for over 300 yards and threw 5 TD passes) in one of the Redskins' Super Bowl wins in the 1980's under Joe Gibbs. Still, even with that amazing performance, the NFL still was slow to open up to quarterbacks of color.
You may see the Jacksonville Jaguars on TV in the next month or so, but you may not notice the QBs on the sideline helping send in plays or offering encouragement to Byron Leftwich.
And you'll say that's the way it should be. You only notice the backups when they get called into action.
But if you notice David Garrard and Quinn Gray, you'll see how far the journey of the African-American QB has progressed.
And you should also say that's the way it should be.