Pollard in football uniform staring off in the distance and striking a classic football pose; one arm is outstretched, while the other holds a football, as if he were about to throw it.
Fritz Pollard became the NFL's first Black quarterback in 1923

This list of Black starting NFL quarterbacks includes Black and African-American quarterbacks who have started in a regular-season or post-season game in the National Football League (NFL). The quarterback is the leader of a team's offense, directing other players on the field.[1][2] Some authors have contended that Black players have been excluded from playing quarterback in the NFL because of the belief that white players would not follow their leadership and the perception that Black quarterbacks lack intelligence, dependability, composure, character, or charisma.[3][4] Promising Black quarterbacks at the high school and college levels were often transitioned at the professional level to other positions, such as running back or wide receiver.[5][6][7] While a ban on Black players in the NFL ended in 1946,[1] the quarterback position was among the last to be desegregated.[2]

Although Black quarterbacks and other quarterbacks of color vary in physical size and playing style,[8] racial stereotyping persists.[9][10] A 2015 study found that even when controlling for various factors, black quarterbacks are twice as likely to be "benched", or removed from play, as white quarterbacks.[11] Other studies have found that sports broadcasters are more likely to attribute a Black quarterback's success to superior athletic attributes and a white quarterback's success to superior intellect.[12][13] It was not until 2017, when the New York Giants started Geno Smith in place of the benched Eli Manning,[14] that all 32 active NFL teams had started at least one Black quarterback.[15] That year, nearly 70% of NFL players, but only 25% of starting quarterbacks, were black.[6] 14 of the league's 32 starting quarterbacks were Black at the start of the 2023 NFL season, the most in a single week in NFL history.[16]

Pre-Super Bowl era

Racial antagonism should have no place in football, but unhappily the millennium has not yet arrived. Unscrupulous opponents did their best to knock Brown's gritty colored star cold. They were out to 'get' Pollard and they weren't too particular with how they got him. No white man would have had to take the punishment Pollard did.

— The New York Sun reporting on a 1928 Brown University game[17]

The quarterback position has changed over the years and did not exist in its modern form in the early 20th century. In the early days of football, quarterbacks were called upon to throw the ball, run the ball, and kick the ball; the forward pass was not adopted widely until the 1930s. However, tailbacks who played in the single-wing formation are "the equivalent of a modern-day quarterback"[18] or "the closest thing to it."[1]

In single-wing formations, popular in the early 20th century, a play typically begins with the center (C) throwing the ball to the tailback (TB), while the quarterback (QB) is used as a blocker.[19]
NFL rule changes in the 1930s led to a resurgence of the classic T formation, in which the quarterback (QB) lines up directly behind the center (C) to receive the ball in a hand-off. This led to a reduction in fumbles and the evolution of the quarterback from a blocker to a passer and leader of the offense.[19]

Single-wing tailback Fritz Pollard, a key figure in the early days of the NFL, became the league's first black quarterback when he started playing the position for the Hammond Pros in 1923.[1] By that time, he had already become the first Black head coach in the NFL, and prior to his professional career, the first Black quarterback All-American and the first to appear in the Rose Bowl. Pollard faced racism throughout his career, including from his teammates. In college, fans were reported to sing "Bye Bye Blackbird" when he took the field. Pollard would sometimes have to enter the field through a separate gate, or be driven onto the field in a car for his own safety, in order to avoid fans who chanted "kill the nigger" and threw bottles and bricks at him. After retiring from football, Pollard started the first black tabloid newspaper, the New York Independent News.[20] In 2005, Pollard was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.[1][21]

The demise of the competing American Football League (AFL) in the 1920s left a "glut of available white players eager to sign on with the NFL, rendering Black players expendable."[1] In 1926 there were five Black players in the NFL, in 1927 only one. With the onset of the Great Depression in the 1930s, economic pressures led to a further deterioration of race relations, and minorities were often vilified and scapegoated. When the Chicago Cardinals signed Joe Lillard in 1932, the same year a rule change expanded the forward pass and Franklin Delano Roosevelt won the US presidency with 75% of the Black vote, he was the NFL's only Black player at the time. Lillard started 12 games with the Chicago Cardinals, and although he threw passes, ran the ball, kicked the ball, and returned punts, he was used sparingly as a quarterback.[1][22]

1932 was also the year that segregationist George Preston Marshall founded the Boston Braves. The following year, Marshall renamed the Braves the Boston Redskins and brokered an NFL-wide ban on Black players. Joe Lillard was released, and by 1934, there were no Black players with NFL contracts. In 1937, Marshall moved the Redskins to the southern city of Washington D.C., which was still segregated, renaming the team the Washington Redskins. Marshall's so-called "gentlemen's agreement" barring Black players from the NFL lasted until after World War II, when the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) launched in 1946 as an unsegregated competing league. NFL owners relented and lifted the ban, although Marshall nevertheless refused to sign any black players to the Redskins until 1962, when he finally relented under threat from President John F. Kennedy to cancel the Redskins' 30-year stadium lease unless they integrated.[1]

The cover of George Taliaferro's baseball card is a stylized drawing showing a close-up of Taliaferro, smiling, holding a football as if he is in the process of "spiking" it.
1952 football card depicting George Taliaferro, who became the first Black player drafted in the NFL in 1949, and went on to play quarterback and six other positions until 1955.[18][23]

In 1949, George Taliaferro became the first black player drafted into the NFL. Taliaferro had previously played college football for the Indiana Hoosiers. He missed the 1946 season when he was conscripted into the US Army but returned to lead the Hoosiers in both rushing and passing in 1948. The NFL's Chicago Bears drafted Taliaferro in 1949, but he had already signed a contract with the Los Angeles Dons in the AAFC. The LA Dons later joined the NFL, and Taliaferro along with them. He played an unprecedented seven positions during his career, including single-wing tailback or quarterback, more than any player in NFL history. Taliaferro retired in 1955.[1][18][23]

Two other Black quarterbacks made brief appearances in the pre-Super Bowl NFL. Willie Thrower, "the first black NFL quarterback of the modern mold", played for Michigan State in college before playing one professional game at quarterback for the Bears, in relief duty, on October 18, 1953. Charlie Brackins, the NFL's first Black quarterback to have graduated from a historically Black college or university (HBCU), played one game as quarterback for the Green Bay Packers in 1955, missed both of his pass attempts, and was released by the team before the next game.[1]

First Black quarterbacks in the NFL (pre-Super Bowl era)
Years active Quarterback Team
1920–1926 Fritz Pollard Akron Pros, Milwaukee Badgers, Hammond Pros, Providence Steam Rollers, Akron Indians
1932–1933 Joe Lillard Chicago Cardinals
1950–1955 George Taliaferro New York Yanks, Dallas Texans, Baltimore Colts, Philadelphia Eagles
1953 Willie Thrower Chicago Bears
1955 Charlie Brackins Green Bay Packers
Source: Howard 2014

First by team (Super Bowl era)

Of the dozens of quarterbacks on the rosters of the 26 major league professional teams in the United States, Marlin is the only one whose skin is black ... But Marlin is not mainly interested in proving he can run the ball. What he's trying to show them is that a black man can run the ball club.

— The Spokesman-Review, 1968, writing about Marlin Briscoe[24][a]

In 1967, the American Football League agreed to merge with the NFL, becoming the American Football Conference, with most former NFL teams forming the National Football Conference. Although the first championship game between the two conferences, known as the Super Bowl, was held in 1967, the merger was not completed until 1970. Marlin Briscoe played for the Denver Broncos, an AFL team, in 1968, and is considered the first black quarterback to start a game in the modern NFL. Briscoe started his rookie year as a defensive back, but when the starting quarterback was injured, Briscoe was called to fill in. He started the last five games of the season, during which he threw 14 touchdown passes and was a candidate for Rookie of the Year. Nevertheless, he was released after the season, and later converted to a receiver.[1][15][22]

First black starting quarterback by NFL team (Super Bowl era)
No. Date Team Quarterback
1 October 6, 1968 Denver Broncos Marlin Briscoe
2 September 14, 1969 Buffalo Bills James Harris
3 December 3, 1973 Pittsburgh Steelers Joe Gilliam
4 October 20, 1974 Los Angeles Rams James Harris
5 December 15, 1975 New York Jets J. J. Jones
6 October 24, 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Parnell Dickinson
7 September 18, 1977 Los Angeles Chargers[b] James Harris
8 November 20, 1977 Cleveland Browns Dave Mays
9 September 16, 1979 Chicago Bears Vince Evans
10 September 2, 1984 Tennessee Titans[c] Warren Moon
11 September 15, 1985 Philadelphia Eagles Randall Cunningham
12 December 21, 1986 Dallas Cowboys Reggie Collier
13 September 20, 1987 Washington Redskins Doug Williams
14 October 4, 1987 Las Vegas Raiders[d] Vince Evans
15 October 1, 1989 Detroit Lions Rodney Peete
16 September 4, 1994 Minnesota Vikings Warren Moon
17 October 30, 1994 Cincinnati Bengals Jeff Blake
18 September 7, 1997 Seattle Seahawks Warren Moon
19 October 31, 1999 Baltimore Ravens Tony Banks
20 September 3, 2000 New Orleans Saints Jeff Blake
21 November 26, 2000 Kansas City Chiefs Warren Moon
22 November 11, 2001 Atlanta Falcons Michael Vick
23 September 8, 2002 Carolina Panthers Rodney Peete
24 October 20, 2002 Miami Dolphins Ray Lucas
25 December 29, 2002 Jacksonville Jaguars David Garrard
26 September 7, 2003 Arizona Cardinals Jeff Blake
27 November 2, 2003 Houston Texans Tony Banks
28 October 31, 2010 San Francisco 49ers Troy Smith
29 November 10, 2013 Green Bay Packers Seneca Wallace
30 January 3, 2016 Indianapolis Colts Josh Freeman
31 September 22, 2016 New England Patriots Jacoby Brissett
32 December 3, 2017 New York Giants Geno Smith
Source: Johnson 2017, Dator 2017, Gartland 2016, Ruiz 2016

African-American quarterbacks named league MVP

Six times in NFL history the league MVP has gone to a black quarterback. Four different quarterbacks have the award and two have won it twice, with Patrick Mahomes becoming the first black two time winner in 2022. The following year Lamar Jackson became the 2nd black two time winner as well as the youngest two time winner in NFL history.

Season Player Team
2003 Steve McNair Tennessee Titans
2015 Cam Newton Carolina Panthers
2018 Patrick Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs
2019 Lamar Jackson Baltimore Ravens
2022 Patrick Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs
2023 Lamar Jackson Baltimore Ravens

5,000 yard passers

Season Player Team Yards
2018 Patrick Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs 5,097
2019 Jameis Winston Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5,109
2022 Patrick Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs 5,250

Playoff starters

In 1974, James Harris became the first black quarterback to start and win an NFL playoff game.[4][8] Midway through the 1976 season, Harris was benched by his team's owner, Carroll Rosenbloom, who explained his decision by telling the press, "Unfortunately, the quarterback position is controversial enough without adding the color element."[2] After retiring, Harris became an executive for four teams and earned a Super Bowl ring in 2000 with the Baltimore Ravens.[2]

Warren Moon, who made seven playoff appearances, was the first black quarterback elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.[3] During his NFL career (1984–2000), he was the first black quarterback on four different teams.[1][22]

The 2023–2024 playoffs featured six starting black quarterbacks, the most in NFL history.[25][e]

Most playoff wins

Player Team(s) Wins
Patrick Mahomes Kansas City Chiefs 15
Russell Wilson* Seattle Seahawks 9
Donovan McNabb* Philadelphia Eagles 9
Steve McNair* Tennessee Titans 5
Kordell Stewart* Pittsburgh Steelers 5

*Indicates a quarterback who played for other teams but did not win a playoff game for them.

Super Bowl starters

In 1982, a players' strike cut the NFL season short to nine games. When a second strike occurred in 1987, the NFL, not wanting to lose games, hired replacement players. That year, black quarterbacks in the league tripled in number.[1]

On September 20, 1987, Doug Williams became the first black quarterback to start a game for the Washington Redskins, the team that had been segregated for so long by its former owner, George Preston Marshall.[27][28] Before starting for Washington, Williams had been drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and led them to three playoff appearances in three years.[1] Williams joined the Redskins in the 1986 season, when he threw only one pass (incomplete). He played backup for most of the 1987 season, but outperformed the first-string quarterback, and was made starting quarterback for the playoffs.[1] On January 31, 1988, he became the first black quarterback to start in the Super Bowl, and a few hours later, the first to win it, ironically wearing the Super Bowl ring of the last team in the league to integrate black players.[29] Williams threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns–Super Bowl records at the time–and was named Super Bowl MVP.[4][30] He was benched the next season and retired shortly thereafter.[1]

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was the seventh black quarterback to start a Super Bowl.[31] The combined Super Bowl records of black quarterbacks is 4–7. Williams and Mahomes are to date the only players to win the Super Bowl MVP award.[32] Only Mahomes and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson have started multiple Super Bowls. Both players won their first Super Bowl appearance, but lost their second. In 2023, Mahomes became the first to start three Super Bowls.[31] With the Chiefs' win, Mahomes became the first black quarterback to win two Super Bowls, as well as to win two MVP awards. The following year, he became the first black quarterback to repeat as Super Bowl champion.

Super Bowl LVII also marked the first time that both Super Bowl starting quarterbacks were black: Patrick Mahomes started for the Kansas City Chiefs, while Jalen Hurts started for the Philadelphia Eagles.[31][33] The Eagles are the first team to have two different black starting quarterbacks start a Super Bowl.

Black quarterbacks in the Super Bowl
Quarterback Result/Super Bowl Team
Doug Williams Won Super Bowl XXII (MVP) Washington Redskins
Steve McNair Lost Super Bowl XXXIV Tennessee Titans
Donovan McNabb Lost Super Bowl XXXIX Philadelphia Eagles
Colin Kaepernick Lost Super Bowl XLVII San Francisco 49ers
Russell Wilson Won Super Bowl XLVIII
Lost Super Bowl XLIX
Seattle Seahawks
Cam Newton Lost Super Bowl 50 Carolina Panthers
Patrick Mahomes Won Super Bowl LIV (MVP)
Lost Super Bowl LV
Won Super Bowl LVII (MVP)
Won Super Bowl LVIII (MVP)
Kansas City Chiefs
Jalen Hurts Lost Super Bowl LVII Philadelphia Eagles

Full list

In 2000, Doug Williams, Warren Moon, Marlin Briscoe and James Harris formed the Field Generals, "a fraternity for black quarterbacks". Cam Newton, attended the Field Generals' training camp as a youth.[8]

Black starting quarterbacks in the NFL
Quarterback Years active Team Source
Fritz Pollard 1920–1926 Akron Pros, Milwaukee Badgers, Hammond Pros, Providence Steam Rollers, Akron Indians [1]
Joe Lillard 1932–1933 Chicago Cardinals [1]
George Taliaferro 1950–1955 New York Yanks, Dallas Texans, Baltimore Colts, Philadelphia Eagles [1]
Marlin Briscoe 1968* Denver Broncos [1]
James Harris 1969–1981 Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Rams, San Diego Chargers [1]
Joe Gilliam 1972–1975 Pittsburgh Steelers [1]
Dave Mays 1976–1978 Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills [1]
J. J. Jones 1975 New York Jets [1]
Parnell Dickinson 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers [1]
Vince Evans 1977–1983, 1987–1995 Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Raiders/Oakland Raiders [1]
Doug Williams 1978–1982, 1986–1989 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington Redskins [1]
Warren Moon 1984–2000 Houston Oilers, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs [1]
Randall Cunningham 1985–2001 Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens [1]
Reggie Collier 1986–1987 Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers [1]
Willie Totten 1987 Buffalo Bills [1]
Rodney Peete 1989–2004 Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Oakland Raiders, Carolina Panthers [1]
Andre Ware 1990–1993 Detroit Lions [1]
Major Harris 1990 Los Angeles Raiders [1]
Jeff Blake 1992, 1994–2005 New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens, Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears [1]
Steve McNair 1995–2007 Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans, Baltimore Ravens [1]
Kordell Stewart 1995–2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, Chicago Bears, Baltimore Ravens [1]
Tony Banks 1996–2001, 2003–2005 St. Louis Rams, Baltimore Ravens, Washington Redskins, Houston Texans [1]
Ray Lucas 1996–2003 New England Patriots, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens [1]
Charlie Batch 1998–2001, 2003, 2005–2012 Detroit Lions, Pittsburgh Steelers [1]
Donovan McNabb 1999–2011 Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings [1]
Akili Smith 1999–2002 Cincinnati Bengals [1]
Daunte Culpepper 2000–2009 Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions [1]
Aaron Brooks 1999–2006 Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders [1]
Anthony Wright 1999–2001, 2003, 2005–2007 Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Giants [1]
Shaun King 1999–2004[34] Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals
Spergon Wynn 2000–2001 Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings [1]
Jarious Jackson 2000–2003 Denver Broncos [1]
Henry Burris 2001–2002 Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears [1]
Quincy Carter 2001–2004 Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets [1]
Michael Vick 2001–2006, 2009–2015 Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers [1]
Rohan Davey 2002–2005 New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals [1]
David Garrard 2002–2010 Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets [1]
Byron Leftwich 2003–2007, 2009, 2012 Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers [1]
Seneca Wallace 2006, 2008–2011, 2013 Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers [1]
Quinn Gray 2004–2008 Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs [1]
Cleo Lemon 2006–2007 San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars [1]
Jason Campbell 2005–2013 Washington Redskins, Oakland Raiders, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns [1]
Vince Young 2006–2013 Tennessee Titans, Philadelphia Eagles [1]
Tarvaris Jackson 2006–2013 Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks [1]
JaMarcus Russell 2007–2009 Oakland Raiders [1]
Troy Smith 2007, 2010 Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers [1]
Dennis Dixon 2009–2010 Pittsburgh Steelers [1][35]
Josh Johnson 2009, 2011, 2018, 2021 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, Washington Redskins [1][35]
Pat White 2009 Miami Dolphins [1][35]
Josh Freeman 2009–2013, 2015 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts [1][35]
Joe Webb 2010–2011, 2017 Minnesota Vikings, Carolina Panthers, Buffalo Bills [1][35]
Thad Lewis 2012–2013 Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills [1][35]
Cam Newton 2011–2021 Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots [1][35]
Colin Kaepernick 2011–2016 San Francisco 49ers [1][35]
Terrelle Pryor 2012–2013* Oakland Raiders [1][35]
Robert Griffin III 2012–2014, 2016, 2019–2020 Washington Redskins, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens [1][35]
Russell Wilson 2012–present Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos [36]
EJ Manuel 2013–2017 Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders [35]
Geno Smith 2013–2014, 2016–2017, 2021–present New York Jets, New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks [35]
Teddy Bridgewater 2014–2015, 2018–2022 Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins [35]
Tyrod Taylor 2015–2018, 2020–2021, 2023–present Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, Houston Texans, New York Giants [1][35]
Jameis Winston 2015–2019, 2021–2022 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints [35]
Dak Prescott 2016–present Dallas Cowboys [35]
Jacoby Brissett 2016–2017, 2019, 2021–2022 New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns [35]
Brett Hundley 2017 Green Bay Packers [35]
Deshaun Watson 2017–2020, 2022–present Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns [35]
DeShone Kizer 2017 Cleveland Browns [35]
Patrick Mahomes 2017–present Kansas City Chiefs [35]
Lamar Jackson 2018–present Baltimore Ravens [35]
Kyler Murray 2019–present Arizona Cardinals [37]
Dwayne Haskins 2019–2020 Washington Redskins / Football Team [38]
P. J. Walker 2020–present Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns [39]
Jalen Hurts 2020–present Philadelphia Eagles [40]
Justin Fields 2021–present Chicago Bears [41]
Trey Lance 2021–2022 San Francisco 49ers [42]
Jordan Love 2021, 2023–present Green Bay Packers [43]
Tyler Huntley 2021–present Baltimore Ravens [44]
Malik Willis 2022 Tennessee Titans [45]
Bryce Perkins 2022 Los Angeles Rams [46]
Desmond Ridder 2022–present Atlanta Falcons [47]
Joshua Dobbs 2022–present Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings [48]
Anthony Brown 2022 Baltimore Ravens [49]
Anthony Richardson 2023–present Indianapolis Colts [50]
C. J. Stroud 2023–present Houston Texans [51]
Bryce Young 2023–present Carolina Panthers [52]
Dorian Thompson-Robinson 2023–present Cleveland Browns [53]
Jaren Hall 2023–present Minnesota Vikings [54]
Only seasons and teams with game starts are listed.

*Marlin Briscoe and Terrelle Pryor converted to receiver after starting their NFL careers as quarterbacks

See also


  1. ^ Briscoe added, "The black player may have to go through some things ... But I'm talking about the average player, not my particular case. On this team, I didn't have that problem. There wasn't any racial problem."[24]
  2. ^ The Chargers were based in San Diego, California at the time.
  3. ^ The Titans were based in Houston, Texas at the time, playing as the Houston Oilers.
  4. ^ The Raiders were based in Los Angeles, California at the time.
  5. ^ The six quarterbacks were Jalen Hurts (Philadelphia Eagles), Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens), Jordan Love (Green Bay Packers), Patrick Mahomes (Kansas City Chiefs), Dak Prescott (Dallas Cowboys), and C. J. Stroud (Houston Texans).[25]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu Howard, Greg (2014-02-06). "The Big Book Of Black Quarterbacks". Deadspin. Archived from the original on 2019-03-04. Retrieved 2019-03-10.
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