(Updated 9/29/2013) Last season, Perry Green and Stephen Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk squared off over which Black quarterback in the National Football League is best. Riley touted Carolina’s Cam Newton as his personal favorite while Green cited a sparkling rookie season by Washington’s Robert Griffin III to form his answer. Now, nearly a year later with both teams combining for a 1-5 record for the first three games of the 2013-2014 season, Green and Riley revisit the topic as a lot of the luster has fallen off for both signal callers. So who’s the best Black quarterback in the NFL? Riley and Green sound off in their latest debate.
Riley: I’m still sticking with Newton. If I had to start a team today, it wouldn’t even be about color for me because I seriously believe Newton is the best young quarterback in the league, period. It’s about ability for me and no one can match Newton’s intangibles when it comes to size, arm strength, athleticism, mobility and leadership. Carolina has been in every game they’ve played this year and Newton officially broke out of his so called “slump” last week by annihilating the New York Giants. He’s a Heisman winner and a collegiate championship winner so the pedigree is definitely there. If he ever got the right coach and weapons around him this wouldn’t even be a discussion.
Green: The Black quarterback has been on the rise in recent years as more teams experiment with the read option. And while RGIII hasn’t had nearly the same explosiveness as he did last season, it’s unfair to properly grade him since he’s clearly not himself. When fully confident and in rhythm, there’s no question Griffin is the man. But for now, I’ll have to go with Seattle’s Russell Wilson for the title this year. He’s accurate, smart and mobile and he doesn’t make mistakes. Wilson’s so good that he may still be the best Black quarterback in the NFL.
Riley: If you look around the league none of the read option quarterbacks are doing anywhere close to the damage they were last year. The NFL is catching up with the fad so how much of Griffin’s underperformance is based upon defenses adjusting to him rather than recovery from an injury those doctors have already cleared him for?
Green: Depending on the type of player you are, a defense can adjust to your game and still get destroyed due to the greatness of that player. So I understand that the read option is working as prolific as it was last year but I still see Griffin as that rare talent that has the ability to transcend the NFL no matter what’s going on in defensive coordinators’ meetings. And if the question falls down to Griffin over Newton then the answer for me would be a clear yes. Either way, I’ll still take Wilson over both quarterbacks. Wilson is the more accurate passer and seems to just make better decisions on the field.
Riley: Take away the read option and quarterbacks are forced to play pocket passer and it’s clear that Newton is better outfitted for such a task while Griffin has struggled mightily in that role, often seeing his team go down by 30-plus points before he starts slinging for garbage statistics. It’s more a reflection of poor performance than rust from a long layoff. Defenses have figured RGIII out but he hasn’t figured out NFL defenses. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Redskins finish 4-12 this season under his guidance. I’ll go a step further and say it wouldn’t surprise me if he was benched at some point this season because that’s how poorly he has played. Wilson and Griffin may have similar games to Newton but neither has his size or toughness. One season into the NFL and Griffin couldn’t sustain the contact
Green: Newton’s overwhelming size doesn’t make him any less injury prone than Griffin. One shot similar to what RGIII sustained last year against Baltimore Ravens’ massive lineman Haloti Ngata and any NFL player would’ve been seriously injured. That’s what makes Wilson so special. He’s smaller than both Newton and RGIII yet he’s probably more durable. He’s a smart football player who knows how to avoid major contact, minimizing the risk of being injured. And while Newton has been solid this year, Wilson’s team is undefeated at 4-0. Wilson has also beat Newton twice when both of their teams have faced off against one another. The Seahawks are primed for serious contention this season so America will be getting the chance to decide who their pick is for the best Black quarterback in the NFL before it’s all said and done.