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McNabb speaks on race in the NFL

Last night HBO's real sports ran an interview with Donovan McNabb in which he discussed the plight of black QBs in the NFL. Now first, I want to state the obvious. This really couldn't be worse timing. It's one thing to be in a controversy when you're out winning games and playing well, at least then you have lots of good will on your side. However, when things aren't going well on the field people are less apt to be interesting in what you have to say off it.

That said, let's focus on what he really did have to say.

In an interview on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" to be broadcast Tuesday, McNabb said black quarterbacks "have to do a little bit extra" because there are relatively few of them, adding "people didn't want us to play this position."

McNabb said if he passes for 300 yards and his team wins by a touchdown, critics will say, "Oh, he could have made this throw here. We would have scored more points if he would have done this."

Now there's no doubt in my mind that there probably is a certain level of racism out there. I know fans have said things to me at games and bars about McNabb that can be taken any other way. I know that every time an analyst is discussing  a black QB he inevitably has to start his analysis by saying how "athletic" the guy is. That said, I'm not sure I buy what McNabb is selling here. The fact that he's subjected to undeserved criticism has alot more to do with the fact that he plays in Philly than with the fact that he's black. I can't think of any white QBs in this town that haven't gotten more than their fair share of grief from fans. Maybe you could point to AJ Feeley, but don't forget the fact that he was a backup who filled in for only a handful of games. You can bet that if AJ started a full season and didn't win a superbowl he'd start hearing it as well. Kevin Kolb will hear it. It's a fact of life in this town. While it was probably never as bad for a guy like Peyton Manning in a town like Indy, he didn't have a free pass. Manning was dogged with the "choke artist" moniker his whole career and fans/detractors alike always questioned his ability to win the big game.

As for his assertion that "people didn't want us to play this position" I have no doubt that it was at one point true, but isn't it pretty obvious that it's no longer the case? In fact, you could say that the evidence suggests that teams are looking to black QBs first. The last two years saw a black QB taken #1(Jamarcus Russell) and #2(Vince Young) respectively. In 2005 another black QB, Jason Campbell was taken in the first round. So black QBs account for half the of QBs taken in the first round in the last 3 years.

What I suppose disappoints me most about McNabb's comments is that rather than take pride in that fact he seems to lament it. There's no doubt in my mind that his success has paved the way for teams to get over whatever preconceived notions they may have had and to be confident in taking these young, black QBs in the past few years.

By the way, if anyone cares to listen I delved much more into this subject on the BGN Live podcast today.

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