ESPN Network: | | | ABCSports | EXPN | FANTASY

Outside the Lines:
Who's No. 1?


Here's the transcript from Show 56 of Outside The Lines - Who's No. 1?

Host: Bob Ley, ESPN.
Story reported by: Jeremy Schaap
Guests: Warren Moon, former NFL quarterback; Jason Whitlock, The Kansas City Star columnist, and Professor Charles Ross, University of Mississippi.
Coordinating producer: Tim Hays, ESPN.

Announcer - April 22, 2001.

For years there's been a classic model for the premier position in sports.

Unidentified Male - Because the image is the quarterback drops back, he's calm, cool, sits there in the pocket, picks out his receiver.

Announcer - And for years African-American quarterbacks heard the excuses.

Unidentified Male - People say that I wasn't going to be able to learn the West Coast offense.

Unidentified Male - I understood that if there was somebody -- this was said -- left, then I was -- that they were going to get a better opportunity.

Announcer - Marlin Briscoe was alone in 1968, followed by other pioneers. In the last five years the number of black quarterbacks in the NFL has tripled, and yesterday saw history.

Unidentified Male - With the first selection in the 2001 NFL draft, the Atlanta Falcons select Michael Vick.

Announcer - Today on Outside The Lines - Are the stigmas and stereotypes finally dead?

Outside The Lines is presented by State Farm Insurance.

Joining us from ESPN studios - Bob Ley.

Bob Ley, host - Joe Gilliam was the first African-American to begin an NFL season as a starting quarterback. When he died this past Christmas night, only 49 years of age, he was sitting and watching an NFL game on television -- a game featuring opposing African-American quarterbacks.

Sometimes historical touchdowns are reached quietly, as with Gilliam's passing, and as with yesterday's selection of Michael Vick as the top NFL draft pick. As we've seen within the past two weeks through the smoldering rage in Cincinnati, race still matters in America. But in the artificial world of the National Football League, winning matters.

There were 22 African-American quarterbacks last season in the NFL; 14 of those quarterbacks were starters at various points. Progress? Absolutely, both numerically and qualitatively. Since Doug Williams, 13 years ago, days before he won the Super Bowl was asked that inelegant question - How long have you been a black quarterback? Michael Vick was in second grade then, too young to grasp the frustrations of aspiring quarterbacks forced to change their positions or grow up without real-life heroes.

Those passions, as well as the present-day reality and the dawning future are reflected in these voices captured by Jeremy Schaap.

Jeremy Schaap, ESPN correspondent - Terry Bradshaw, John Elway, Troy Aikman - They're members of an elite fraternity -- quarterbacks selected first overall in the NFL draft. A fraternity that yesterday initiated its first African-American.

Unidentified Male - With the first selection, the Atlanta Falcons select Michael Vick.

Unidentified Male - Fake this time -- faked out everybody. He's got Sanders in the clear at the 10 -- touchdown, Washington Redskins! It's a new Super Bowl record...

Schaap - Thirteen years after Doug Williams' dazzling Super Bowl MVP performance, Michael Vick's selection couldn't offer the same drama, but in the annals of black quarterbacks it was another significant milestone.

Michael Vick - I was just amazed. And a lot of people will remember that; you know, I'll definitely remember it. I'll definitely remember April 21, 2001, because it's the biggest day of my life.

Schaap - The impact of Vick's selection is being felt throughout the game, but particularly by black quarterback past, present and future.

It's significance certainly isn't lost on Marlin Briscoe who, more than 30 years ago became the first black starting quarterback in major professional football.

Marlin Briscoe - I think it's been a long time coming and -- but better late than never.

Schaap - D.J. Shockley is considered one of the finest high school quarterbacks in the country. He idolizes Vick.

D.J. Shockley - I have a poster on my wall at home of Michael Vick.

Schaap - The second overall pick in 1999, Donovan McNabb says he's happy to have been supplanted by Vick as the highest drafted black quarterback ever in the NFL.

Donovan McNabb - That's something that, as a black quarterback looking to another African-American quarterback being drafted No. 1, we're excited about it because I think that sort of, you know, it maybe hushes some of the viewers and some of the critics a little bit, to let them know that maybe the game has changed; maybe not.

Schaap - As a rule, McNabb shies away from the issue of race, but he was clearly confounded by the pre-draft questions regarding Vick's abilities -- the same questions that have often dogged black quarterbacks.

When you hear those criticisms - too willing to run, not a great decision-maker, what thought flashes through your mind?

McNabb - Same thing I heard coming out. You know, people say that I wasn't going to be able to learn the West Coast offense, that my throwing style would have to change coming to the NFL, that, you know, I was too willing to run instead of keeping my eyes downfield. Well, I guess all of that has changed in the minds of some of the viewers.

Schaap - Last fall, in just his second season, McNabb led the Eagles to the playoffs and was selected to play in the Pro Bowl.

But coming out of high school, he heard the same refrain so many black quarterbacks have heard - switch to running back or wide receiver.

McNabb - When you play a position for so long, your mind is set only at that position. So, you know, when you tell me that I can't do something, I'm going to go out there and prove to you, as well as everyone else that's watching, that I can do it.

Schaap - But Marlin Briscoe wasn't that lucky. In 1968, he played 11 games at quarterback for the AFL's Denver Broncos, and he still holds the team's rookie record for touchdown passes; but the next year he was traded and converted to wide receiver, a position in which he won two Super Bowl rings with the Dolphins.

Briscoe - I went through a period of going from quarterback and then all of a sudden having to -- you know, having my dream taken away from me even though I had proven I could play.

Schaap - His dream denied, Briscoe still made history. Before Joe Gilliam, before James Harris, before Doug Williams and Vince Evans broke through, Briscoe was playing quarterback at the highest level.

Briscoe - To be a part of history is pretty gratifying to me. And to see that it's progressed to this point, where Michael Vick will not be judged on the fact that he's black, but the fact that he's a great athlete and quarterback; that's pretty historic for me.

Schaap - But as much as things have changes, Briscoe is still sensitive to the stereotypes that thwarted his ambition.

Briscoe - Unfortunately, as great a talent as he is, as great a skill that he has as a quarterback, in 1968 he would have had a great, difficult time convincing, you know, the hierarchy of the NFL that he was capable of playing the position. He would not have gotten that opportunity. He just would not have gotten it.

Shockley - Find your first, secondary, third receivers, and once you find them, you sit back in your pocket and you make a nice, strong throw.

Schaap - No opportunities have been denied D.J. Shockley.

Shockley - We made that very known from the beginning that I was going to be a quarterback and I was going to stay a quarterback.

Unidentified Male - He could be, probably, a D-1 receiver, but he has all the skills and tools to be a very good quarterback on the next level.

Schaap - Just about everyone wanted Shockley to be their quarterback.

Shockley - I have Michigan here, I have Nebraska...

Schaap - A high school senior in Atlanta, he'll soon be attending the University of Georgia, where he hopes to emulate Michael Vick.

Shockley - I mean, but you have this big old box of letters here, and it's continuous every single day.

Schaap - Perhaps this draft will herald the dawn of a golden age for black quarterbacks; the prejudices that hindered Marlin Briscoe -- even though that Donovan McNabb encountered, barely register with D.J. Shockley. For him and his generation, Michael Vick is the future.

Shockley - I mean, he's the new -- the new era of what's to come at the position of quarterback.

Schaap - For Outside The Lines, I'm Jeremy Schaap.

Ley - Before Warren Moon played 17 seasons in the NFL, he played six campaigns in the Canadian Football League, where he led the Edington Eskimos dynasty to an unprecedented five consecutive Grey Cup championships. He was signed with the CFL after a Rose Bowl-winning senior season at the University of Washington. He was not drafted by the NFL.

Now, with his recent retirement, the clock is running on his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Warren Moon joins us this morning from Kansas City.

Good morning, Warren. We saw history yesterday; was it a footnote, or was it a headline? Put this in perspective for us.

Warren Moon - Well, you know, Bob, whenever a black does anything first, it's considered history and it's considered very significant. But here you're talking about probably the most visible position in all of team sports -- a position that not only transcends leadership on the field and in the locker room, but also throughout an entire community. And depending on how well he does on the football field, that leadership could transcend all over the country. So this is a very significant step for black quarterbacks and blacks all over.

Ley - Take me back to when you came out as a Huskie in the late '70s. You were the Rose Bowl MVP, great offensive numbers, tremendous performance in Pasadena. How was it, and you reflect back on this a number of times, that you were not drafted?

Moon - Well, first of all, I signed about six weeks before the draft -- but basically I signed to go to the Canadian Football League because I just wasn't getting the interest from the National Football League to play the position of quarterback. A lot of people didn't think I was tall enough, which -- I'm the same height now. A lot of people didn't think my arm was strong enough, which it was stronger then. They didn't think I could run a pro-style offense because we ran more of a versatile type of offense in college.

So I had all these different critics say all these different things about me, but nobody really came out and watched me throw or put me through an individual workout to see if I could not do all these different things.

Ley - But did you know exactly what was going on, despite, you're too small, your arm's not good enough -- there was a code there, wasn't there?

Moon - I knew exactly what was going on but, you know, Doug Williams came out the same year as me, too, so he was a high-round first pick. So it was really hard to figure out -- well, you can't say it's all racism.

But I think the big thing is after looking at it years later, was that, if you're a black quarterback coming out and you're not ready to play, maybe, right away then they're not going to take the time to groom you and, say, draft you and maybe groom you for the next two or three years. Where Doug was a guy who was going to come out of college and play right away, maybe I wasn't able to -- ready to play right away out of college. But maybe a year or two down the line I could've been, but they didn't want to put that time into me, as far as grooming me and getting me ready to play.

Ley - I'm going to pick up on that point as we continue this morning.

We will be back with Warren Moon in a moment, and we'll also be joined by the rest of our panel - a columnist who believes race may still color some NFL personnel decisions and a professor who has studied the integration of the National Football League.

McNabb - If you tell me, you know, you can't go out and lead the Eagles team to a successful season because of the color of your skin, you should try moving to a receiver, I think you'll help them out a little bit more, and I'll just look at you, smile, you know, go on my way, play the quarterback position and show you that I can do it.

Ley - The words of Donovan McNabb, the No. 2 selection in the 1999 draft.

We are back with Warren Moon, and also joining us this morning, also from Kansas City, Jason Whitlock, columnist for "The Kansas City Star" and Charles Ross, a professor at the University of Mississippi, author of the book -- and we love this title, professor, "Outside The Lines - African-Americans and the Integration of the National Football League." He joins us from Oxford, Mississippi.

Jason, let me get your perspective - headline or footnote?

Jason Whitlock, "The Kansas City Star" sports columnist - Oh, I think this is definitely a headline. I think -- I don't know if a lot of people are aware that Michael Vick is the first black quarterback selected No. 1 overall in the NFL draft. I was reading "The Washington Post" this morning, and they made mention that he's the second left-handed quarterback to be the No. 1 pick, not that he was the first African-American.

So I think it's an issue, and I think people are interested in it, but perhaps the media is a little bit behind the times, or maybe they just slept on this. I don't know.

Ley - Well, Chuck Ross, the numbers tell us there has been progress. Has there truly been progress?

Dr. Charles Ross, author and professor, University of Mississippi - I think so. If you look from the first African-American quarterback to play in a regular-season NFL game -- Willie Thrower in 1953 -- Charlie Brackens followed him in 1955, James Harris in 1969, Joe Gilliam 1972, and Warren Moon played in the '80s and the 1990s. I think there has been some significant progress, and hopefully we will see more black quarterbacks coming into the league following Mr. V.

Ley - But Warren, there were still questions, because Michael Vick is 20, he's played only a couple of dozen games -- less than two dozen -- about whether he could pick up the offense. Is he sharp enough to learn the Atlanta playbook -- and they may be valid questions for someone who's 20 years of age, but being a black quarterback, there's a whole other history with those criticisms.

Moon - Well, I think that's the problem he's going to have is he just doesn't have a lot of experience playing the game yet. But as far as his athletic ability and everything, he's clearly so much further ahead of everybody else; that's why there was no question about him being the No. 1 pick. And I think any quarterback, no matter what color he is -- black or white -- is going to have problems at first. You go through those growing pains as a young player.

But this kid has so much ability that it's just a matter of time before he becomes a major star in the National Football League.

Whitlock - Bob, I'd like to interject this - I think race is an issue for the white players as well, coming into the NFL and the NBA. We had a kid here, Justin Smith that played at Missouri -- a great, white athlete. When I talked with him this week leading up to the draft, he thought people were very skeptical of his athleticism because he's white. And I think that does play a factor.

I know Wally Zerbiak complained about that before he went into the NBA draft. So, yes, I think we all carry stereotypes into the draft -- who fits into what mold, or who fits into what position. And it affects white players, maybe not to the degree, but to some level it affects the white players just the same.

Ley - Warren, do you see that?

Moon - Yes, I do see that, because I think stereotypes are a little bit more important, or probably a little more vocal than the racial slurs or the racial aspect of it because players and hire personnel people are looking for certain types of athletes at certain types of positions. And that's why a lot of black quarterbacks were penalized for their athletic ability is because usually they were pretty good athletes, so they wanted to change them to a position where you needed a better athlete, like defensive back or wide receiver. So a lot of times we were penalized for being good athletes because that stereotype was to put the best athlete at the position where you needed the best athlete.

Ross - I think that's a very good point. Charlie Ward is playing with the New York Knicks today, and he was the Heisman Trophy winner in the 1993-1994 season. And easily he could've played in the National Football League and made a tremendous contribution.

Ley - But Warren, you know the premium on winning in this league and the temptation that must be for -- if you've got a multifaceted player, who can run and throw and elude defenders, if you're down on a goal line position -- and Vick may not start, necessarily, as a rookie. There's a lot of political correctness pressure against, perhaps, using him as a slot back or putting him into a goal line situation. Can you understand the dilemma that might exist for a coach, now, with this situation?

Moon - Yes, because you're going to be tempted to try and get a guy with this type of athletic ability on the field somehow, some way, and most coaches try and get their best 22 players on the field, regardless of what position they play. You looked at -- you saw that with Kordell Stewart. Even though -- he probably wasn't the quarterback at that time because of his experience, they wanted to get him on the field in some way, shape, form or fashion, and they did that. And then, finally, they groomed him to become a quarterback.

So there's going to be that temptation to put a Michael Vick on the field as fast as possible, whether it's at the quarterback position or not. But I would hope that he would opt not to want to do that and just become a quarterback, sit back and learn and try and figure out what it takes to play that position before he actually gets out there on the field.

Ley - OK Warren, you raised the point earlier of grooming quarterbacks for the future; we're going to pick up on that in just a second.

We'll be back with Warren Moon, Jason Whitlock and Professor Charles Ross in just a moment. Outside The Lines.

Moon - That's always been my biggest complaint about the National Football League, when it comes to young, black quarterbacks is they won't give them the opportunity to be groomed for the future, where other colored quarterbacks they will.

Ley - Warren Moon, that was three years ago -- his remarks.

And now look at some numbers -1990, a total of five black quarterbacks in the league, two carrying clipboards. '95, seven black quarterbacks, four of them carrying clipboards. And by the year 2000, 14 backup quarterbacks and eight starters; 14 black quarterbacks at one point or another did start.

But the point is, Warren, there are more backups now, so do you feel that what you talked about three years ago, basically, is on a curve towards improvement?

Moon - Yes, there are more backup quarterbacks right now that are black, but are these guys really going to be the guy that they're grooming for the future? You could see that in Minnesota with Dante Culpepper; they let him sit on the sideline for a year and kind of groom himself before he -- they actually put him on the field. I think that happened with Aaron Brooks; he was in Green Bay and then came to New Orleans and got his chance.

But I really don't know if some of these other guys are being drafted for that -- to say, hey, we're not going to make this guy play, we're going to let him sit back, learn and groom him for the future. I really don't know how much of that is still going on.

Whitlock - Bob, I don't want to suggest that things are perfect, but they have significantly improved. No, they're not perfect, but I think, in this atmosphere we have today, that if a Warren Moon and Doug Williams were coming out, they'd go one and two in the draft. You look at the comparisons - Michael Vick is compared to Steve Young, a white quarterback. They used to never go on. If a guy was black, he was always compared to other black players.

So things have improved dramatically, and I really contend that in this atmosphere that we have today there's so much pressure to win in the NFL, it's such a high-stakes game, that Warren Moon, Doug Williams -- they would have been one and two in the draft.

Ley - Warren, give me a sense of the fraternity of African-American quarterbacks. You talk to guys who have played, and it seems like its -- Doug Williams picks up the phone, calls the young guys and talks to them. Is it an unofficial club and fraternity that feels a very special bond?

Moon - Yes, I really think it is. I've talked to a lot of these young guys that have come out in the last four or five years and have really been able to give them a lot of advice about what to expect coming into the league. And a lot of these guys were familiar with me playing -- and even, like with Donovan, he said I was one of idols growing up, which is very flattering.

But to be able to talk to these guys and give them some insight into what to expect, because it's going to be a little bit different for them, is really good to know. And I'd like, at some point down the line, for all of us to somehow get together and, you know, maybe play some golf and just kind of trade stories and get to know each other even a little bit better.

Ley - And Chuck Ross, the game has changed, though, has it not, because the premium on speed and, of course, that "athletic" code word that is so often ascribed to African-American athletes. But black quarterbacks are out there -- in fact, this morning in the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," Bob Christian, who is a fullback of the Falcons said Chris Chandler -- and you could have a quarterback controversy -- is one of the best quarterbacks in the league if we give him time to throw.

Which raises the question, certainly, of the speed of defenders and how the nature of the quarterback position has evolved.

Ross - Yes, I think the quarterback position has definitely evolved. All positions, for that matter, on the football field have evolved in terms of you're having tremendous athletes out there that bring a lot of speed and can put a tremendous amount of pressure on the quarterback.

For this young man I think one of the fundamental points will be that he had the ability to fail. I think that young quarterbacks come into the league -- he's going to make some mistakes. John Elway was not perfect when he was drafted No. 1, Troy Aikman was not perfect, Peyton Manning was not perfect.

And so this young man -- they're going to have to have some patience with the young man because he's going to have some failures and they need to stay behind him. And hopefully he will turn out to be the potential outstanding player that many people think he would be.

Ley - But the seminal question, Jason, something changed -- we just saw the numbers -- at some point. Be it in the late '80s, early '90s, something changed. The switch was turned somewhere, attitudes changed, realities dawned on people. What was it?

Whitlock - Well, I think it's just the effectiveness of quarterbacks that are a bit more athletic. The defensive players have gotten so fast and so athletic that if you can't move back there in the pocket, you're chopped liver. The era of the drop-back quarterback that doesn't move around, that doesn't do anything, that's dead and gone. You have to be able to move; that's what it takes to win on a consistent basis.

Donovan McNabb, the success he's had. I just think some of these athletic quarterbacks, starting with a Steve Young, even going all the way back to Fran Tarkington, paved the way for some of these great athletes to remain at quarterback instead of being moved to receiver or defensive back.

Ley - Warren - in one sentence, the toughest thing for Michael Vick is now what?

Moon - I think, just the transition of dealing with everything that's going to be asked of him; the expectations. He's going to be asked to be Superman when he gets on the football field, and hopefully he doesn't have to live up to that. Hopefully, he'll be given the time and be able to be groomed, and when he's ready to get out there on the football field, those things will happen, believe me.

Ley - All right. Gentlemen, thank you very much. Thanks to Warren Moon; good luck as you become a civilian. And Jason Whitlock, always a good read; and professor Charles Ross, thank you very much.

Next, a report on Michael Vick and whose questions he will be fielding tonight on "SportsCenter."

Ley - You can access the interactive Outside The Lines on; the keyword - OTL Weekly. Our site features a complete library of streaming video of all our Sunday morning programs, as well as transcripts. And, on our message board, you can join or begin public discussions on our programs, and most Sundays we sample e-mail from the in box. We invite your comments, suggestions and criticisms to

Michael Vick, No. 1 selection at the age of 20, heading for Atlanta, promise and questions. Who better to talk to him about it than a former No. 1 overall QB selection, Peyton Manning-Michael Vick. Peyton Manning our "SportsCenter" conversation tonight around 11:00 Eastern after the Astros and the Cardinals.

Announcer - Outside The Lines is a presentation of ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports. For more, log on to

Ley - At noon Eastern over on ESPN2 - baseball today. Barry Bonds 502 and counting, recalling his career highlights. The incredible comeback, also, of Tim Raines and Marison Mettle -- their battle to 61 in '61. Karl Ravech, Harold Reynolds, Buck Showalter in one hour on ESPN2.

And our Major League baseball game tonight - Astros and Cardinals at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

I'm Bob Ley; we will see you next Sunday morning for Outside The Lines. Now, we take you back to Madison Square Garden in New York city. It is day two of the NFL draft, the top of the fourth round with our army of reporters across the league. And your host for today's coverage - Mike Tirico as we close out the NFL draft. We'll see you later.

Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories

weekly OTL logo

Weekly Outside the Lines

Send feedback to the weekly OTL show

Mission statement of weekly Outside the Lines show

2001: Transcripts, videos of weekly OTL show

Copyright ©2001 ESPN Internet Ventures. Terms of Use and Privacy Policy and Safety Information are applicable to this site. Employment opportunities at