Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon made major waves earlier this year when he suggested that some of the criticism directed at former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was motivated by race. Despite the criticism, Newton became the first overall pick in the draft, and he’ll be given a full opportunity to become the Panthers’ first true franchise quarterback.
Given that quarterback Terrelle Pryor may not even be given a chance to play quarterback, Moon is expressing similar opinions. In a recent interview with Hank Koebler and Jason Braddock of the NFL Red Zone Report, Moon addressed his concern that race is possibly fueling the presumption that Pryor can’t play quarterback.
“It really bothers me because this kid has won a tremendous amount of football games as a quarterback at Ohio State, a major university in a major conference,” Moon said. “They’ve won BCS bowl games, he’s been a major star in those bowl games. If you look at his numbers he’s a 61 percent passer in college, he’s first or second all-time in all of their passing statistics at Ohio State University, but for some reason they don’t want to give him an opportunity to play quarterback. It just saddens me that people still think that way. This is a kid that just needs a little bit more fine-tuning, he needs to be coached a little bit better, but he’s got all the skill set in order to be a great quarterback and I just don’t understand why we still have all that narrow-minded thinking when it comes to great athletes like a Terrelle Pryor, like a Cam Newton, or anyone else that has great athletic ability. African-American quarterbacks get penalized because of their athleticism sometimes.”
But Newton ultimately didn’t get penalized; that’s where Moon’s argument crumbles a bit. That said, Moon made a pretty good point in comparing Pryor to a fellow former Washington quarterback. “Jake Locker’s a guy that I never heard mentioned playing another position,” Moon said. “They just mentioned him going maybe a little bit lower in the draft, but he ended up going to the number eight pick as we all saw. I think people are willing to give him the time to perfect his skills and some of the things he needs to work on to be a big-time quarterback in the pro game. And I just wish they would do that for other guys. Because like I said, if you look at what Terrelle Pryor has done on the football field he’s been as good as any quarterbacks in the country.”
Locker is regarded as a project of sorts, with footwork and accuracy issues being attributed to his baseball career — and the NFL apparently willing to give him the time to complete the transition. Ditto for Tim Tebow, an athletic white quarterback who has a long way to go to become an NFL pocket passer, but whom the Broncos nevertheless made a first-round draft pick in 2010.
We’d like to think that race isn’t an issue in matters of this nature, in part because the obsession with winning and/or remaining employed would prompt a NFL coach to make colorblind decisions as to any position on the depth chart. And in part because we’d like to think society has evolved to a point where certain characteristics unrelated to performance don’t matter.