The Stupidity of Earl Campbell’s Black QB argument

by John Boruk

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Wouldn’t it be nice when referencing a quarterback, there was no mention of race…ever

Black quarterbacks in college and pro football have become so prevalent that skin color is rarely mentioned anymore.

However that issue has now worked its way to the forefront again thanks to the absurdity of Texas Longhorns 1977 Heisman Trophy winning running back Earl Campbell, who was recently asked how to fix the Texas offense led by (white) quarterback Sam Ehlinger.

“Until the University of Texas realizes you have to have a black quarterback, and nothing against Ehlinger, you got to have a talented, black quarterback,” Campbell told the Austin American-Statesman, “All these schools that are winning, even in the pros, have black quarterbacks. When guys are not open, something can still happen.” 

Wow. 

Can you imagine the national outrage if Campbell was white only to conclude that the only way for his college to win was with a starting white quarterback? The hysteria would headline most newspapers and websites and would serve as first block analysis from ESPN to MSNBC. 

Never mind the quality of coaching at Texas, their inability to recruit blue-chip recruits at other positions, their dominance (or lack thereof) at the line of scrimmage or anything else geared towards the construction of a championship-caliber college football program, it has to be the quarterback and it must be a black one.

Funny how scoring points doesn’t seem to be a problem with the Longhorns this season. 

They racked up 38 against top-ranked LSU and they put up 27 against then tenth-ranked Oklahoma on October 12. The issue doesn’t seem to reside with Ehlinger or the quarterback position at all.

If you remove the cupcakes (Louisiana Tech and Rice) from the ‘Horns schedule, their defense has surrendered an average of 37.5 points a game. That typically won’t win you too many football games, no matter what level the game is being played at. By comparison, the Alabama Crimson Tide have allowed just 20 points against tougher competition in their five SEC games. 

Yes, Earl, I can see where the problems of Texas football appear to be the fault of the one white starting quarterback. 

But let’s counter Campbell’s ludicrous take by dissecting two of the most successful programs in college football: Alabama and Clemson, who have combined to win the past four national titles.

Interestingly, both programs have managed to win a pair of national titles and would you believe they both achieved greatness with a white quarterback and a black quarterback, or two black quarterbacks.

The 2015 Crimson Tide was led by Jake Coker (white), and two years ago the combination of (black quarterbacks) Hurts and Tagovailoa, who came in and rescued Bama against Georgia. In 2016, the Tigers capped off a championship season with Watson (black) and then followed up with a perfect 15-0 season under Trevor Lawrence (white).

Somehow the skin color of the quarterback doesn’t seem to matter to head coaches Dabo Swinney or Nick Saban, who have managed to build a championship program around the “best” quarterback on the roster and not the “whitest” or “blackest” one.

If Campbell wanted to build an argument around the success of black quarterbacks in college football, then he could have pointed out that six of the last eight Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks are indeed black. The quarterbacking position and offenses at the collegiate level have evolved to the point where they now utilize a quarterback’s full range of assets. 

In turn, NFL teams have taken notice and have tailored their offenses accordingly. No longer is the prototypical drop back passer the norm as offenses are now more multidimensional than ever and now they seem to incorporate the complete package at the QB position.

Ten NFL teams went into the 2019 regular season starting a black quarterback under center in Week 1, but I don’t think front offices across the league are counting because they want the best player, regardless of race, running their offense.

Remember when conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh was fired from ESPN after saying in 2003 in regards to Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, “I think what we’ve had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well.”

At the time, I didn’t necessarily think Limbaugh was accurate in his assessment of McNabb just like Campbell is off base with his outlandish take.

15 years later, black quarterbacks are doing better than they ever have and in the case of Russell Wilson, exceptionally well. What was once a hot button topic of discussion is now an irrelevant talking point.

Or at least it should be.

Until someone like Earl Campbell decides to shoot his mouth off.