Black Quarterbacks' Intelligence Still Scrutinized?

Recent rumors about Donovan McNabb and Cam Newton set off a timeworn debate rooted in racist stereotypes.

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Granted, intelligence isn't the only quality that determines who makes a great quarterback. In hindsight, the Oakland Raiders made a huge mistake in selecting quarterback JaMarcus Russell with the No. 1 overall pick in 2007, overlooking concerns about his drive and motivation. Some observers thought that he lacked the smarts for the position, but he scored a 24 on the NFL's intelligence-measuring Wonderlic Test, higher than Hall of Famer Dan Marino (16) and future Hall of Famer Brett Favre (22).

Because quarterback is the most mentally challenging position, the presumptive intelligence of those prospects is scrutinized more heavily than that of prospects at other positions.

After leading his junior college to the national championship, Cam Newton led Auburn to the national championship last season and won the Heisman Trophy. When questions arose about his mental capacity at the next level, Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon -- who was forced to play in Canada for six seasons when he refused to switch positions for the NFL and went undrafted in 1979 -- said that some of the criticism reflected racial bias. Dissenters pointed out that Ryan Mallett, a white quarterback from Arkansas who wound up being drafted in the third round, faced some of the same criticism.

But if Mallett isn't up to par upstairs, it doesn't raise doubts about every other white quarterback. We need to ensure that the same is true when black quarterbacks are evaluated.

Deron Snyder, an award-winning journalist who covers sports, politics and pop culture, is a regular contributor to The Root. He can be reached at deron@blackdoorventures.com.

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