(ThyBlackMan.com) One of the biggest storylines of the upcoming 2022 NFL season is that some notable and accomplished quarterbacks are playing for new teams this year. Indianapolis’s Matt Ryan and Denver’s Russell Wilson are playing for new teams this season despite rewriting the passing record books for their previous franchises in Atlanta and Seattle, respectively. Wilson’s Denver debut for the 2022 season is particularly big for Broncos fans as they have found another Hall-of-Fame caliber quarterback for their team since Peyton Manning retired following the 2015 NFL regular season. Perhaps it is also appropriate that Wilson, a Black quarterback, arrives in Denver for the first season following the passing of former Denver Bronco Marlin Briscoe, who is an important figure in pro football history, as the first Black starting quarterback of the modern era.
In late June of 2022, Marlin Briscoe died at the age of 76. Briscoe lived a professional football league career that had some historic moments to it because in 1968, he became the first starting Black quarterback in the modern professional football history for the Denver Broncos of the American Football League. The American Football League would eventually officially merge with the National Football League in terms of operations and team schedules in 1970. Briscoe stood in relief for injured Broncos starter Steve Tensi, and in 11 games and five starts in 1968, completed 93 passes in 214 attempts for 1,589 yards, 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Marlin Briscoe ended up leading the team in virtually all the important passing statistics that season but that would unfortunately be his last season playing quarterback.
Despite being a successful and exciting college quarterback nicknamed “The Magician”, Marlin Briscoe as a Black man was subjected to the ignorant, racist stereotypes that restricted Black men from playing the quarterback position seen as a cerebral, thinking position on the football field. His performance making football history starting for the Broncos in 1968 was impressive enough that he was the runner-up for AFL Rookie of the Year but the Broncos decided to move on from him in spite of his successes and he was never able to find a chance to play quarterback again. Marlin Briscoe did play eight more pro football seasons including with two Super Bowl-winning Miami Dolphins teams. Briscoe was again part of history as a member of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins.
For today’s generation of NFL Black quarterbacks, the words said about Marlin Briscoe at his celebration of life serve as a reminder of how critical he was to pro football history. “He was a pioneer who despite the racial and social challenges and barriers he had to endure, he persevered and quite literally achieved things that were not possible before his time,” said Adrian Dowell, the UNO Athletic Director. Actor John Beasley added, “You watch the current quarterbacks in the NFL such as Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, you’re watching what Marlin did. Marlin was the Mike Vick of his days, or Mike Vick was the Marlin Briscoe of his days”. The NFL needs to remember those words in particular as many of the most popular quarterbacks in today’s NFL are Black men and there needs to be a Marlin Briscoe decal on NFL helmets or a season-long ad celebrating the barrier he broke even if Briscoe played only one year of quarterback for a then-rival football league. Marlin Briscoe should be acknowledged on the field in some important way during the 2022 NFL season by the National Football League.
Staff Writer; Mark Hines