Doug Williams did it first. Russell Wilson came next. And Patrick Mahomes is now the third African American quarterback to win a Super Bowl, and his explosive performance on Sunday confirmed, if anyone still questioned, that the era of the black NFL QB is upon us.
With the world watching, Mahomes brought the Kansas City Chiefs back from a 10-point deficit in the final minutes, catapulting the franchise to its first Super Bowl win in 50 years, 31-20, over the shell-shocked San Francisco 49ers.
For the first time in a week, there was an athletic performance impressive enough to distract sports fans from the tragic death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant.
“Mahomes' performance was uplifting and annihilates the narrative that African American quarterbacks are somehow less capable,” said Clint Crawford, an engineer, after getting a haircut at his favorite barbershop in Los Angeles Monday. “He executed when it counted most and demonstrated the kind of toughness and fiery resolve we came to expect from athletes like Tom Brady and Kobe Bryant.”
“There's a huge vacuum as a result of Kobe's tragedy, and Mahomes was Mamba-like at a time when it was needed for his team and all of us who are grieving, especially the African American community,” Crawford said.
Mahomes’ production, in fact, was reminiscent of Bryant, coming in the game’s pivotal moments in the fourth quarter. He connected under pressure on a 44-yard pass on third-and-15 that led to a score. Next possession, he attacked one of the game’s premier cornerbacks, Richard Sherman, and delivered a precise pass to Sammie Watkins for 38 yards that set up the decisive touchdown.
Mahomes, 24, became the youngest quarterback to be named MVP of a Super Bowl.
“He’s a game changer, a conversation changer,” said Michael Christian, 59, a retired bank executive from Northern Virginia who follows the NFL and African American players. “He is an amalgamation of everything before him. The result of past struggles, minds opened, opportunities afforded, institutional change at the high school, college and pro levels.
“But here’s the thing: He did all the physical things needed to do to win the Super Bowl. But he also led his team. He showed the intangibles that make great quarterbacks.”
Mahomes said in the days before the Super Bowl: “The best thing about it is you’re showing kids that no matter where you grow up, what race you are, that you can achieve your dream. For me, being a black quarterback—having a black dad and a white mom—it just shows that it doesn’t matter where you come from.”
He comes from the mold of Seattle’s Wilson, who led the Seahawks to the title in 2014 with ease over the Denver Broncos, when he completed 18 of 25 passes and threw two touchdowns. His elusive style and ability to escape the pass rush made him a double threat, confirming the idea that winning a championship did not require a traditional pocket passer.
Williams was even better than Mahomes or Wilson in his Super Bowl victory in 1988, when he threw for 340 yards and 5 touchdowns — including four in a record-breaking second quarter — in leading the Washington Redskins over the Broncos, 42-10. Williams became the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, and he did it standing in the pocket and delivering picturesque passes to his receivers.
“I’m a committed Redskins fan, but Doug made us all proud,” Christian said. “The game has changed since then. . . and it’s the black quarterbacks who are changing it.”
Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson was unanimously named this season’s Most Valuable Player over the weekend, a distinction he earned while dominating as a runner and as a passer.
Mahomes’ display Sunday emphatically underlined the shift in the NFL. Mahones, Jackson, Wilson, Houston’s Deshaun Watson and Kyler Murray of Arizona “have shown general managers, hopefully, that they have to stop with believing in mediocre quarterbacks who look like them over the versatile talents of many black quarterbacks,” Wayne Ferguson, an NFL Fantasy League stalwart in Las Vegas, said. “They can’t say, ‘It doesn’t win championships’ anymore. These brothers have paved a new way after Doug Williams, Warren Moon and others paved the way for them. It’s not taking a chance anymore.”
Christian said: “It’s taken a long time to get here. I’m old enough to remember when I could hardly find a black QB in the NFL. Black QBs always had the ability. They just needed an opportunity to be in the mix. Mahomes put a cherry on top of this new era.”
Added Crawford: “What a way to kick off Black History Month. Historical waves of change are in motion.”