Super Bowl: Warren Moon thinks he won’t be the lone Black quarterback in Hall of Fame for long
He makes the case for passers like Patrick Mahomes, Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb to join him
GLENDALE, Ariz. – The gold jacket looked good on Warren Moon.
That’s what the other Black quarterback pioneers thought as they watched their friend step to the lectern on Aug. 6, 2006, in Canton, Ohio, preparing to deliver his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech. Moon and the other members of that year’s class donned the jackets that signify that those who receive them are the “gold standard” in the game of football.
As far as Moon is concerned, James “Shack” Harris, Doug Williams and the late Marlin Briscoe are worthy of wearing the iconic blazer, too.
Briscoe, Harris and Williams each played key roles in the rise of Black signal-callers in major pro football in the United States. And although none were as prolific as Moon in their pro careers – for myriad reasons, including racism – they all shared a bond of achieving in the face of systemic oppression.
Moon, Briscoe, Harris and Williams kicked open doors to help the successful Black quarterbacks who followed, but Moon remains alone in the Hall of Fame. Without a doubt, however, Moon will have company one day in the exclusive club.
“When I watch these guys now, when you look at Patrick and Jalen being in this game together, there’s just so much pride in the fact that everything we [the trailblazers] did wasn’t in vain.” — Warren Moon
As the NFL prepares for the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles to face off Sunday in Super Bowl LVII, the historic matchup of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts marks the first time that Black passers will lead both teams on the league’s biggest stage.
The momentous breakthrough for Black quarterbacks both highlights their ascension in the NFL and indicates that others in this generation will likely punctuate their careers by being fitted for a jacket like the one Moon wears proudly.
“Definitely, this group of young guys playing right now, with the things they’re doing and the numbers they’re putting up, they’ve definitely got a chance to wind up in there [the Hall of Fame],” Moon told Andscape shortly before traveling to Arizona to attend the Super Bowl. “When I watch these guys now, when you look at Patrick and Jalen being in this game together, there’s just so much pride in the fact that everything we [the trailblazers] did wasn’t in vain.
“We look at these young brothers and they’re just thriving. They’re being drafted high in the draft. They’re going to Pro Bowls. They’re winning [The Associated Press MVP Award]. They’re getting contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. They’re getting big endorsement deals. They’re [among] the faces of the league. And when look at all of it, yeah, there are definitely guys in this group who can get there. You can see it.”
Mahomes’ path is crystal clear.
In all likelihood, Mahomes will win the MVP Award for the second time. He has only been the Chiefs’ starter for five seasons.
A generational talent, Mahomes at only 24 in 2020 became the youngest quarterback in NFL history to have a Super Bowl title, a Super Bowl MVP award and a league MVP award.
This season, Mahomes, now 27, led the NFL in passing yards, passing touchdowns and Total QBR. After suffering a high ankle sprain in the Chiefs’ AFC divisional round victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Mahomes played through pain in helping the Chiefs defeat the Cincinnati Bengals to win the AFC Championship. For the third time in the past four seasons, Mahomes will lead the Chiefs into the Super Bowl.
Both in individual and team accomplishments, Mahomes continues along a trajectory to becoming one of the all-time greats. There’s no doubt about it, Moon said.
“He is off to a tremendous start,” Moon said. “He’s probably off to the best start of any quarterback in the history of the game.”
Hurts’ start is something to talk about, too.
At 24, he’s among the youngest quarterbacks to lead a team into the Super Bowl. In only his second full season as a starter, Hurts emerged as the leader of the NFC’s best team and one of the league’s top offensive players.
Roundly criticized by league observers after stumbling at times as a passer before this season, the first-time Pro Bowler has proved his doubters wrong by succeeding spectacularly in the pocket throughout the Eagles’ run-up to Super Bowl LVII. Don’t be surprised if Mahomes and Hurts, who also continues to be a force in the Eagles’ running game, finish first and second, respectively, in the AP MVP voting.
“With what he’s done this season, Jalen has proved a lot of people wrong,” Moon said. “And when you see how hard he works, you could see him doing this for a long time.”
A player must have been retired at least five years before he can be considered for the Hall of Fame. Barring injury or other unforeseen circumstances, Mahomes, Hurts and others in this generation of star Black signal-callers won’t be hanging up their cleats anytime soon.
At 34, Russell Wilson is the dean of the group. The second Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl and a nine-time Pro Bowler, Wilson figures to be the second African American passer enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Before Wilson is eligible, Moon hopes that Hall of Fame voters change their minds about Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick.
“I definitely feel good about the chances of some guys in this young group, just as long as they stay healthy and keep playing at the level they have been, but I’d like Randall or Donovan and even Michael Vick to be in there,” Moon said. “I really believe that Randall and Donovan deserve to be in there because of their numbers.
“Michael Vick might not have had the numbers over the course of his career. For some [voters], it’s all about the numbers. And I understand that numbers and accomplishments are a big part of it. But there should be more to it than that. There are other things to consider when you talk about a guy like Vick, what he brought to the game and what he did for the game. It’s also about the impact anyone makes. That has to be considered, too.”
Among the current generation of star Black passers, Mahomes and Hurts are making a big impact. Their groundbreaking encounter in the Super Bowl is indicative of that. And one day, this entry on their ledgers just may help them share something else in common with Moon.