KANSAS CITY, Mo. -The caller failed even to ask a question late Sunday night before Doug Williams made his feelings clear, both out loud and repeatedly.
The Kansas City Chiefs had just completed a 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game, which followed the Philadelphia Eagles’ 31-7 dismantling of the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.
And for Williams, the first black quarterback to start the Super Bowl and win the game’s MVP award, those accomplishments meant that something he longed to see finally happened: For the first time in NFL history, two black quarterbacks led their teams to the Super Bowl in the same season.
The Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes and the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts will face off on the league’s biggest stage in Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona.
Williams looked pleased, to say the least.
“That’s what I’m talking about! Yup! Yup! We have two black quarterbacks in the Super Bowl! cried Williams into the phone. “Man, after Jalen won earlier, I was pulling for Patrick. I was sitting here on pins and needles to see if that would happen.
“I have such a smile on my face right now, but I also have water in my eyes. I’m talking, but I don’t think I can even explain what that means. We’ve come a long way. It was so hard, so many barriers, but we did it. Two black quarterbacks in the Super Bowl!
It was a journey that lasted more than 100 years.
For most of NFL history, team owners had as much interest in allowing blacks to play quarterbacks as in paying capital gains taxes. The white men who ran the league—and there’s no sugarcoating that—believed that black men lacked the intelligence and leadership skills to succeed in the most important position in professional sports.
Of course, those were just racist myths, which Williams took a bat to during his iconic performance for Washington’s NFL franchise.
After Williams’ breakthrough in 1988, Russell Wilson, while playing for the Seattle Seahawks, became the second African-American passer to win a Super Bowl title, accomplishing the feat 26 years later. Then in Super Bowl LIV in 2020, Mahomes became the third black quarterback to join the exclusive club as he led the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl championship in 50 years.
Other black signal callers started in the Super Bowl. However, the two had never before faced each other in the NFL’s signature event.
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“Every time you take big steps and accomplish things that have never been accomplished before, with everything we’ve been through, all the obstacles… man, yeah, it means a lot to all of us,” Williams said. “It’s been such a long and difficult road, so, yeah, there’s a lot of emotion.
“When you have two black quarterbacks coming to this point, the guys leading the top two teams, there’s no denying what we can do. You cannot deny that we have gotten to this point, where we knew we could be, despite all the barriers. And to be those two guys… dude.
Those two, indeed.
In all likelihood, Mahomes will win the Associated Press NFL MVP Award for the second time in five seasons. He only started for the Chiefs for five seasons.
A generational talent, Mahomes at just 24 years old in 2020 became the youngest quarterback in NFL history to have a Super Bowl title, Super Bowl MVP award, and league MVP award.
This season, Mahomes, now 27, led the NFL in passing yards, passing touchdowns and total QBR. After spraining a high ankle in the Chiefs’ divisional round victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Mahomes played through the pain in helping the Chiefs defeat the Bengals for the first time in the teams’ last four meetings.
On third-and-4 at the Cincinnati 47-yard line late in the fourth quarter, Mahomes ran out of the pocket and gained nine yards before rushing out of bounds with eight seconds remaining on the game clock. With Mahomes out of bounds, Bengals defensive end Joseph Ossai shoved the five-time Pro Bowler.
Ossai was flagged for a 15-yard penalty. Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker made a 45-yard field goal with three seconds left.
Again, Mahomes (326 passing yards, two passing touchdowns) found a way to Kansas City, which has hosted the AFC Championship Game every season since becoming the Chiefs’ starting quarterback. For the third time in the last four seasons, Mahomes will lead the Chiefs to the Super Bowl.
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In both individual and team accomplishments, Mahomes continues along a trajectory to become one of the all-time greats.
Then there’s Hurts.
In just his second full season as a starter, Hurts, 24, has emerged as the NFC’s best team leader and one of the best offensive players in the league. He had a rushing touchdown Sunday in the Eagles’ win at Lincoln Financial Field.
Harshly criticized by league observers after fumbling at times as a passer earlier this season, the first-time Pro Bowler proved his doubters wrong by spectacularly succeeding in the pocket during the Eagles’ run to Super Bowl LVII. Don’t be surprised if Mahomes and Hurts, who continues to be a force in the Eagles’ running game as well, finish first and second, respectively, in AP MVP voting.
Also, never forget: While being interviewed by reporters during the 2020 NFL combine, Hurts was asked if he would consider switching positions. It’s fair to assume that the Eagles are happy that Hurts is still playing quarterback.
“Both of those guys are just great kids,” Williams said. “Patrick is out [to support an event Williams has a key role in organizing], and I’ve been texting Jalen all year. Just seeing that those guys are the first two to do it, and the guys they are, couldn’t make me happier.
With the phone conversation winding down, Williams was asked to predict the outcome of the matchup between the Chiefs and Eagles. It wouldn’t go there.
“Nope,” Williams said, his comment punctuated by a hearty laugh. “I’m going to have fun tonight and be happy for Patrick and Jalen.”
But before hanging up, Williams offered one last tidbit.
“Also, there are two black quarterbacks in the Super Bowl,” Williams said. “In any case, I can’t lose.”
Jason Reid is the senior NFL writer at Andscape. He likes to watch sports, especially any games involving his son and daughter.