Sunday, December 11, 2011

Robert Griffin III: A Sign of Progress

Robert Griffin won the Heisman Trophy. A first for Baylor and the 5th Black QB to win the award. 

It's a big sign of progress for Black quarterbacks that Griffin not only won the Heisman but that he and Cam Newton before him are the modern QB these days. Big, strong, dual-threats with great arms, personality and character. Entering the NFL in the post-Vick/McNabb generation facing less stereotypes.

You can trace the modern evolution of how the Black QB is perceived looking at the 5 guys who won the award. Andre Ware and Charlie Ward were phenomenal quarterbacks who never got a shot to succeed in the NFL due to the times and not fitting the mold. 

In between them and Troy Smith, Tommie Frazier and Michael Vick took college by storm. Steve McNair and Donovan McNabb proved they could be dual-threat quarterbacks who could pass first and think. They followed the footsteps of James Harris, Marlon Briscoe and Doug Williams, who made bold statements in Tampa Bay and Washington.

Smith was still a victim of perception even though he won the Heisman with an overwhelming vote. He was undersized despite the fact that he proved himself and no chances were made for him. He had a few flashes in the NFL but never had much of a shot. That's more than the guy who beat him for the national title, Chris Leak, can say as Leak didn't even get drafted.

Cam Newton is standing on the shoulders of giants. The fact that his NFL career is treated like a normal hyped rookie QB and limited worries about racially coded coaching moves/language in describing him (although it still exists), is a sign of progress.

After the Bowl game he could have 40 passing TDs, 4,000 yards and 10 rush TDs. Insane. 

Robert Griffin is even more progress as the well-spoken, poised, team-oriented leader usurped a lot of the buzz from preseason favorite Andrew Luck. If you know me, you know I'm a diehard Luck supporter and believe in his gifts. I didn't think most people would be behind Griffin but here I was hearing folks all over root for him over Luck for not just the Heisman, but the No. 1 overall pick.

RG3 had a phenomenal year from Day 1 when he beat TCU and then went on to beat Oklahoma and Texas. The only Texas team they didn't beat was Texas A&M and he still had 430 yards, 3 TDs and an INT. It was more important than record, he had a better season than A. Luck. 

(I'm hoping that Tim Tebow's success paves the way for option QB's to have coaches willing to change for them but I doubt it since 1) Tebow's success is a misnomer and 2) Black QBs have typically little wiggle room anyway so why suspect one anomaly will lead to more when they never did it before.

Plus it's an insult to Griffin to say that. He's a better passer and at 6-2 (ironically the same size as Charlie Ward), he has better size to stand in the pocket. He's no option quarterback if you peep his stats above. Watch the connotations of that)

The Black quarterback has made a lot of progress. There is still plenty of work to do with the perception of them as thinkers and quarterbacks, not just athletes with super arms. There is still a belief that QB's have to fit a certain mold or type and if they look a certain way, they have to do (X, Y, and Z).

But Robert Griffin is another sign of Black quarterbacks succeeding and it being less and less of a surprise how they do it. A friend of mine said it best last year: Future Black QBs are going to want to be Cam Newton and Robert Griffin type field generals who have intelligence and skill.

It's also progess for the Baylor sports program. 10 years ago, Baylor men's basketball had a terrible scandal involving a teammate killing another teammate and his coach slandering the dead player as a drug dealer after reports indicated. Now they have the best football player AND the best female basketball player in the country AND a successful men's basketball program that can recruit elite talent.

Cheers to RG3 and here's hoping some team in the Top 10 takes him to a similar impact to Andrew Luck. Finally something good to cheer about after this strange college season.

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