Gardner Minshew lit up the New York Jets on Sunday, Dec. 5, going 20 of 25 for 242 yards with two touchdowns in a 33-18 Eagles win. Minshew started in place of injured QB Jalen Hurts. The backup’s performance has some wondering if he should be the starter for Philadelphia.
There’s a saying that floats around sports talk airwaves. The most popular guy in town is the backup quarterback. Fans and certain media members live and die on a week to week basis based on the performance of their favorite football team. When the backup QB starts and plays well, particularly after the starter struggles, there is always a sense that the backup is the key to success.
Add in the the racial dynamics in this micro example, as well as the macro that is the NFL as a whole, and things get even more complicated.
But they shouldn’t have to.
The Eagles rank eighth in red zone success rate (66 percent), fifth in third-down conversions (45.4 percent) and 10th in points per game (25.9). Hurts trails only Lamar Jackson in rushing yards for quarterbacks. He had a stretch from weeks 7-11, as the No. 1-ranked QB in the NFL in QBR (75.0).
He had a bad game against the New York Giants, throwing three interceptions in a loss, and suffered the ankle injury that forced him to miss the game this past Sunday.
To put it simply, Hurts is the Eagles starter.
“He’s played really good football when he’s in,” HEAD COACH NICK SIRIANNI SAID of Hurts, “so when he’s healthy and he’s back, he’ll be our starter.”
A vote of confidence from the head coach should stop any hint of a controversy, but that won’t be enough for some.
The NFL historically has operated under the premise that white quarterbacks are inherently better than Black ones. Despite the success of so many great Black quarterbacks.
We all remember Bill Polian’s absurd assessment that Ravens QB Lamar Jackson should move to running back before the 2018 NFL draft. Jackson has been an All-Pro and MVP at QB.
Of course there was Nolan Nawrocki’s stinging critique of Cam Newton ahead of the 2011 Draft, where he referred to Cam as being “disingenuous” and having a “fake smile.”
Cam has been a league MVP, an All-Pro, three-time Pro Bowl player, OPOY and OROY. He also led the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl.
There are many more examples to point to that are indicative of beliefs still maintained by the powers that be in the NFL. Even in the face of successful current Black QBs Patrick Mahomes, Dak Prescott, Jackson, and Kyler Murray.
Somehow that success is seen as the exception or an anomaly. But with white QBs it’s a given.
This isn’t about Minshew per se. He’s a fine quarterback, but there is a reason the Eagles have him as a backup and not the starter. Despite decent numbers and early hype in Jacksonville, he wasn’t able to win consistently.
But he will likely be given multiple chances to hang around the NFL and find a job somewhere, because there will always be belief that he can play.
And of course there is the video that went viral showing Minshew and his dad celebrating the win.
This is being eaten up by every single news outlet around the country. Words like “passion” and phrases like “love of the game” and “this is what it’s all about” have been thrown around.
Great moment for Minshew and his dad, but let’s not get carried away here. At the end of the day a quarterback needs to be judged by his ability to help his team win games.
But white QBs often get these “bonus points” for things that aren’t measurable.
Why aren’t Black QB’s afforded the same opportunity?
Colin Kaepernick last played in the NFL in 2016. We’ve all seen some of the pedestrian white QBs that have played since then. Kellen Clemens, T.J. Yates, Josh and Luke McCown, Brock Osweiler, Ryan Nassib, Brandon Weeden … the list goes on and on.
The belief is there is “something” there with these guys. But we’ve all seen. There isn’t.
So, good for Minshew and the Eagles. They won the game. He did what a backup is supposed to do. Play well when and if his number is called. But there is no need to start pushing any narratives or controversy beyond that.
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