You have heard the typical terms from NFL draft analysts when describing black quarterback prospects. Descriptive words like “He’s got size,” or “He’s a dual threat from the pocket” or “He’s a burner.” These words seem like they are only used when describing black QB prospects, while white QB prospects are described as having intelligence, intangibles, or leadership instincts. This is not to say that the white quarterbacks being described don’t have these attributes, but those descriptions seem to be rarely used with black quarterbacks.
Thankfully an analysis performed by the Washington Post has confirmed these suspicions about the racially coded language used by scouts to describe black quarterbacks. In their study, they found that there was a significant racial difference in the language used in NFL scouting reports to describe black quarterback prospects and that language was consistent with racial stereotypes about black people.
Here are some of the findings from their report:
A white quarterback prospect is more likely to be discussed in terms of intangible internal qualities for which he himself is responsible. He is smart, displays intelligence, and understands the game. He is a leaderwith command of the huddle. He is consistent, calm, and poised. He is credited for his production. He is good or even outstanding.
In contrast, a minority quarterback prospect is more likely to be discussed in terms of physical characteristics, to be judged erratic and unpredictable, and to have his successes and failures ascribed to outside forces. We learn about his hands, his weight, his frame, his body, parts of which are often either big or lean. He bolts prematurely, rather than stand in the pocket, or perhaps he hesitates before throwing dangerous passes. Less of a leader, he is asked to do things or given opportunities. His game has deficits. His footwork’s a mess. He has issues.
NFL scouts have a fixation on the physical characteristics of black quarterbacks and often used terms like “big” and “weight.” In fact, their data revealed that from all quarterbacks sampled the median weight was 223 pounds, but the use of the word “weight” was 27% more likely to describe a black quarterback. The term “danger” for dangerous thrower or runner was also used frequently with black quarterbacks, while white quarterbacks were described as “smart” and a “prototype.”
You can immediately see how problematic and unfair these depictions are for black quarterbacks who routinely lose millions because their draft position is impacted by racially coded language. And what is even more frustrating, is that the study revealed that black quarterbacks who were rated poorly often performed better in the NFL than their white counterparts.
We model these value deviations as a function of race, finding that minority quarterbacks outperform white quarterbacks by 1.22 units of excess SAAV (Season Average Approximate Value) and 10.22 units of excess CAV (Careeer Approximate Value) relative to their draft position. This is roughly equivalent in both cases to the difference between a typical backup quarterback and a complete bust. That is, minority quarterbacks continue to be undervalued in the draft process.
Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson is currently facing this type of bias from prominent NFL analysts, even though his college statistics are better than many of his white counterparts. This is a problem that is as old as football and is a function of a larger societal problem with how black people are viewed in general. Studies like this are important because it reveals the truth about what many in the black community have been saying for years, and it is past time for a change.
Flip the page to read the full data analysis report.