Black quarterbacks changing perceptions in NFL playoffs

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Young quarterbacks have been the dominant storyline of the 2013 season.

Of the 12 NFL playoff teams, six start quarterbacks that are either in their first or second year. The days of needing an established veteran at the quarterback position may be over.

Of those five young starting quarterbacks, three are African-American. Rookies Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson will play each other in the premier wildcard game this weekend, with the Washington Redskins hosting the Seattle Seahawks Sunday afternoon. Colin Kaepernick gets a week off, as he helped lead his San Francisco 49ers to a bye.

And while our common notions of the how much experience is needed for a quarterback to to lead a team to the Super Bowl may be changing, the notions that many have for the black quarterback may finally begin to change too. RGIII, Wilson and Kaepernick have shown just how far black quarterbacks have come.

In the last two decades, most black quarterbacks were known for their running ability, athleticism, or physical gifts much more than their accuracy, efficiency or leadership. Players like Michael Vick, Daunte Culpepper, Kordell Stewart, Akili Smith, Aaron Brooks, Vince Young, Tarvaris Jackson and Jamarcus Russell all fit nicely into that stereotype. Even smart leaders – like Steve McNair and Donovan McNabb – were never lauded for their brains the way their white counterparts were.

Kaepernick, RGIII and Wilson are all leading their teams differently. They all can (and have) hurt opponents with their feet. But it’s what they’re doing with their arms and heads that have put their teams in the playoffs this year.

Check the trio’s quarterback average quarterback rating this season: 100.2.

News flash — let’s go beyond “they’re great with their legs” kind of praise.

After sitting on the bench most of his rookie year, Kaepernick started the final seven weeks of the regular season after an Alex Smith injury (Kaepernick actually saw playing time in all 16 games though). Smith was having a career year before the injury, but coach John Harbaugh stuck with Kaepernick even after Smith was healthy because of how dangerous the 49ers offense is with Kaepernick at the helm.

He’s a frightening runner, but what scares opposing defensive coordinators more is his accuracy. He’s got nice touch on deep balls — he’s 13 of 24 for balls thrown 20-plus yards – and allows playmakers like Vernon Davis and Randy Moss to display their big-play ability. Smith was a solid quarterback, but Kaepernick makes San Francisco a legitimate Super Bowl contender.