When it was announced last Friday that Taysom Hill was getting the start over Jameis Winston in New Orleans — due to Drew Brees’ rib injuries — it raised a lot of eyebrows.
And when we found out that Winston wasn’t going to be “part of any offensive packages on Sunday,” it pissed people off.
This very site even wrote about it.
A Black quarterback, the No. 1 overall pick in 2015, who threw for 5,000 yards and 30 touchdowns last season, was now being relegated to clipboard duty for a white undrafted quarterback who had yet to play a full game since his senior year at BYU (2016), and only had 20 passing attempts in his NFL career.
Black people should be upset, right?
Because Jameis Winston isn’t the hill you want to die on.
Let me explain.
In a post-Colin Kaepernick world where qualified Black quarterbacks are still being blackballed from a league with only three full-time Black head coaches, conversations on this matter can be triggering. That’s what happens when a horrendous white quarterback like Nathan Peterman, or a pathetic white head coach like Adam Gase can still get a job in the NFL.
Reasons like this are why lssa Rae’s “I’m rooting for everybody Black” comment became a battle cry.
Wale even made a song about the saying. It’s the kind of affirmation you need as a Black person in this country. Especially when we live in a nation in which the current president won’t concede his loss to a ticket that featured a Black woman.
However, Winston has always been an odd case. As a Black man who has spent his entire life living in the South in places like Alabama, Florida, and now Louisiana, it’s bewildering to grasp just how aloof he can be when it comes to understanding what Black people can and cannot get away with in that region. And when you add in the fact that he plays the most popular position in American sports, you would think that Winston wouldn’t do so many of the things he’s done in his career.
There were silly things, like stealing crab legs in college, as well as a myriad of other stupid decisions. And then there were serious things. Like settling a sexual assault lawsuit, or getting suspended for groping a female Uber driver.
He also did this.
But despite all that, Winston had still been able to achieve a level of privilege that no black quarterback should be allowed to achieve based on the precedent that America and the NFL have set.
Well, that was until Sunday happened.
Because at 30 years old, and in his first career NFL start, Hill led the Saints to a 24-9 victory over the Falcons. He went 18 for 23 with 233 yards in the air, and rushed for 2 touchdowns. He outplayed a former MVP in Matt Ryan who has Julio Jones on his team.
Before the game, for some, it seemed like the move by Sean Payton to “just want to know” if Hill could be their future quarterback was a disaster waiting to happen.
After the game, Payton looked like the smartest guy in the room.
The irony of it all is that we’ve seen something like this before in make-believe and in real life. On the big screen, Willie Beamen was a quarterback at heart but played multiple positions before he was given a chance under center in the 1999 film Any Given Sunday. And in the NFL, Kordell Stewart began his career playing almost every position on the field with the Steelers before he was named their starting quarterback.
The difference is that Hill is white. Beamen doesn’t exist. And Stewart had to play out of position even though he was a really good college quarterback who once did this.
Now, just imagine if more Black quarterbacks got chances like the one Taysom Hill got on Sunday. Opportunities to show that you are good enough, and that your athleticism is a plus at the position, not a negative.
If that ever happened, then maybe Black people wouldn’t be forced to root for everybody Black. We could simply cheer for who we like, instead of who we feel we have to protect and uplift.