Bryan Altman, CBS Local Sports
Any given week in the NFL there’s a pretty good chance that a quarterback that started a particular game might not finish it, and chances are it might not have anything to do with injuries. Quarterbacks that fall outside of the bracket of elite quarterbacks like the Brady’s and Rodgers’ of the world are often shuffled in and out of starting roles at an alarming rate. Most will tell you that it comes along with the job description. If under perform and you sit. Perform well and you play. That’s the quarterbacking code.
However, according to a new study conducted by economist Brian Volz of Assumption College in Worchester, MA, racial factors might also be at play when it comes to quarterbacks being benched or not.
According to the study, which was published in The Journal Of Sports Economics, from 2001-2009, black NFL quarterbacks were “between 1.98 and 2.46” times more likely to be benched than their white counterparts.
The study looked at NFL quarterbacks who started the first game of the NFL season for their team. Volz reasoned that because they started Week 1, they were most likely starting based on merit and not due to any injuries to other quarterbacks on the team at that point of the season.
Volz then looked at football-related factors that might have influenced the decision to bench the starting quarterbacks over the course of the season, such as age, experience, performance, the quality of the second-string quarterback, and whether the primary quarterback sustained any injuries.
In addition to that, he also looked at factors off the football field that might have had an effect, such as how many black residents live in the team’s home city to see if racial bias from fans might have made a difference in the decision.
In doing so, Volz found that black quarterbacks in areas with high black populations were still just as likely as black quarterback in predominantly white markets to be benched. His conclusion based on that is that “owners are simply responding to the desires of their customers.”
Volz’s findings are troubling and even though there have been record numbers of black players at the quarterback position in recent years in both college and in the pros, the issue will have to be addressed.
In 2015, there were six black starting quarterbacks that started the season for their respective teams. As of today, only one has been replaced due to performance based issues and that’s San Francisco 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick.