Back in 2003, Rush Limbaugh got himself in all sorts of trouble for saying during his (brief) tenure as a pregame show analyst for ESPN that Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb wasn't as good as the media claimed:
"I don't think he's been that good from the get-go. I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. They're interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think there's a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he really didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."Five and a half seasons later, McNabb is still a pretty good quarterback, with his team in the playoffs again.
But, it's worth taking a statistical look at black quarterbacks' performance in the NFL.
The source for my data is ESPN.com. It lists for the seven years 2002-2008 all the quarterbacks who have thrown at least 224 passes in a season (14 per game) — in other words, the busiest 32 to 34 quarterbacks per year — the "regulars."
One thing that jumps out of the data is that 2003, the year of the Limbaugh brouhaha, was the peak year in recent times for black quarterbacks. Among the top 32 quarterbacks that year, blacks accounted for over one quarter of all yards throw. In 2008, however, blacks only accounted for 14.7% of all yards passing among the top quarterbacks, a typical percentage for the last four seasons:
Black quarterbacks tend to run better on average, but with Michael Vick in prison, none of the black regulars did much rushing in 2008.
So, it looks like Limbaugh's general assertion that black quarterbacks tended to be overhyped by the press has been borne out by the following half decade of statistics.