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Sunday’s Super Bowl will mark the first time in NFL history that both teams’ starting quarterbacks are Black — Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs and Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles. Former NFL star Doug Williams, who was the first Black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl 35 years ago, joins John Yang to discuss the significance of this historic moment.
Tomorrow's Super Bowl will mark the first time in NFL history that both teams starting quarterbacks are black. Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles Jalen Hurts. It was 35 years ago that Doug Williams became the first black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl. He threw a record setting four touchdowns in a single quarter and was the game's MVP as Washington beat the Denver Broncos 42 to 10. But since then, only seven Super Bowl Quarterbacks have been black.
I recently spoke with Doug Williams. I asked him about the moment when Kansas City kicked a game winning field goal to set up this weekend's historic matchup.
Doug Williams, former NFL Quarterback: I'm sitting there wondering, this ball go up through the uprights. And when it did, you know, I can honestly say that I got chills. I mean, I got chills, I got emotional, I got tears in my eyes. No water was running down, but it was dead. And I couldn't move for a few minutes. I just kept saying to myself, yes, yes. It wasn't about the fact that at that moment were going to have two young black quarterbacks going to the Super Bowl. It was really about the guys who were denied opportunity before me to get a chance to play in quarterback in the National Football League. You look at it from the standpoint. If they hadn't gotten that chance, would Doug Williams be the first with these two guys been the first two black quarterbacks? And you just can't help but to take yourself back and just wonder why and feel for those guys who didn't get a chance.
The Super Bowl for some people is the only game they watch, or maybe one of a handful of football games, NFL games they watch each year. What's the significance that they're going to watch two teams, each team led by a quarterback who is black?
It's not only significant, it's historical, because this is the first time we've had two black coaches. We had one black quarterback to be the first. We've had other guys like Russell Wilson who's won, but it took him 25 years after I had won mine for us to get another black quarterback to win one.
You talk about black quarterback, historically, you know, the myth has always been you can't lead a team to the championship, you can't think you're not good leaders and things like that. But I think these two guys have proven not only to themselves, but to the fans that they play for, but to the America who watched football. If you're an NFL fan, you got to look at this as a historical moment and you got to take it as that and say that, what? We don't have to talk about this no more. We got two black quarterbacks who play the Super Bowl now.
Let's just let everybody get a chance to play. If you black, white, green or whoever, if they're good enough at that position, let them play. I hope we reached that plateau, which I know we probably hadn't. And you got some people out there would never accept this, but it is what it is, and you just got to go forward and not worry about the ones who want you.
You've talk about when you were starting out in the league that it wasn't your abilities, your capabilities that people were questioning, but that some were questioning your ability as a leader. Do you think that the eleven starting quarterbacks who were black, who started this season have erased those doubts in people's minds?
When you look at it realistically, you know, think about the comeback player of the year. Geno Smith, one of those black every level stars quarterback. I think the doubt of whether or not they can lead a team, that part has been erased. You know, they understand. They see it with their own eye, that it's not about the color of a guy's skin, it's about his ability to play and lead an individual. And these guys certainly can do that.
This weekend does show us how far the NFL has come since you broke into the league in 1978, but it also reminds us how far the league has to go in other areas. Where would you like to see more progress?
Let me say that a few years ago there was two black coaches who led their team to the Super Bowl, Tony Dung and Lovie Smith. At that particular time, I really thought that the league would have looked at that from a standpoint and said, you know what? We need to get more black coaches who can lead our team, because they certainly led their team. But it didn't happen the way I thought it would happen. I think that is the one area that really needs to be worked on. The coaches, the general managers. You know, you get black coaches and there's so many guys out there, it's not like somebody comes to say we don't have anybody to choose from. Come on, man. You got (inaudible) enemy. You got Coach Caldwell, (inaudible). You got Todd Bowles who got a job this year. You got so many, so many coaches out there just waiting on that one opportunity. So it all starts there. so, yeah, this is a week to celebrate, but hey we got months and Sunday to do better than what we've done.
You've got a son who's an assistant coach down in the New Orleans for the Saints. When he — his resume gets to the point where he's looking for a head coaching job, do you think he will get a fair shake?
Well, let me tell you, he's a young man that is passionate. He knows what he's talking about. He's been around some of the best coaches and Sean Payton, and he's 30 years old. My estimation, he can work his way up the line to be the offensive coordinator, the head coach. You got to give him opportunity, nothing else, just an opportunity. And I'm looking for the day when he gets that chance, an opportunity to be exactly what I think he should be and what he wants to be.
We should mention his name is DJ Williams and his father Doug Williams. Thank you very much for your time and your thoughts.
Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
One more note, tomorrow history will be made again, but this time on the sidelines. Autumn Lockwood of the Philadelphia Eagles will become the first black woman to coach in a Super Bowl game.
Watch the Full Episode
John Yang is the anchor of PBS News Weekend and a correspondent for the PBS NewsHour. He covered the first year of the Trump administration and is currently reporting on major national issues from Washington, DC, and across the country.
Rachel Wellford is a general assignment producer for PBS NewsHour.
Winston Wilde is a coordinating producer at PBS News Weekend.
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