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Patrick Mahomes says he, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson face ‘weird’ criticism as Black quarterbacks

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on Friday addressed “weird” criticisms that have been levied against him, Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray — all Black quarterbacks.

Mahomes, who was asked whether he is evaluated differently as a Black quarterback, said he found it curious that he, Jackson and Murray are challenged to keep providing themselves despite their respective successes in the league. Though he declined to comment on whether he is evaluated differently, he did acknowledge that other QBs in the league have not faced similar criticisms.

“Obviously the Black quarterback has had a battle to be in this position that we are, to have this many guys in the league playing,” Mahomes said. “I think every day we’re proving that we should have been playing the whole time. We’ve got guys that think just as well as they can use their athleticism.

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“It always is weird when you see guys like me, Lamar, Kyler kind of get that on them when other guys don’t. But at the same time, we’re going to go out there and prove ourselves every day to show that we can be some of the best quarterbacks in the league.”

Mahomes was speaking in the wake of anonymous comments about him and Jackson — as well as a bizarre, now-removed “independent study” clause in Murray’s extension with the Cardinals — that seemed to be based on their identities as Black quarterbacks.

One anonymous NFL defensive coordinator said Mahomes reverts to “streetball” if his first read is taken away. The quip was part of a series of interviews for a story by The Athletic that ranked the league’s quarterbacks and placed them into tiers (Mahomes was in Tier I as the No. 2 overall quarterback):

We love Mahomes because of his unorthodox throws, not because of his natural pocket presence. And when that disappears, that is when they lose games. I don’t think that is a 1. I think that is a 2. Nothing against the guy. I love the kid. But take his first read away and what does he do? He runs, he scrambles and he plays streetball.

In that same article, an anonymous defensive coordinator (it’s uncertain whether it was the same one who spoke on Mahomes) said he viewed Jackson more as a “football player” than a quarterback, saying, “I don’t (care) if he wins the league MVP 12 times. I don’t think he’ll ever be a 1 as a quarterback.”

The same coordinator said Jackson’s passing ability in tight games is the reason the Ravens have had difficulty advancing in the playoffs:

If he has to pass to win the game, they ain’t winning the game. He’s so unique as an athlete and he’s really a good football player, but I don’t (care) if he wins the league MVP 12 times, I don’t think he’ll ever be a 1 as a quarterback. He’ll be a 1 as a football player, but not as a quarterback. So many games come down to two-minute, and that is why they have a hard time advancing even when they are good on defense. Playoffs are tight. You have to be able to throw the ball, and he is just so inconsistent throwing the ball. It is hit or miss.

Murray faced criticism recently after signing a five-year, $230.5 million extension with the Cardinals. The contract included an “independent study” clause that mandated Murray spend at least four hours outside the facility studying that week’s opponents.

MORE: Why Cardinals gave Murray a strange ‘independent study’ addendum

The Cardinals have since deleted that language from the contract, calling it an unintended “distraction.” Regardless, many viewed it as a clumsy inference that Murray does not study as much as he should and simply relies on his athleticism during games.

Murray on Thursday blasted the clause as “disrespectful,” not only to himself but also Arizona’s opponents.

“To think that I can accomplish everything I’ve accomplished in my career and not be a student of the game and not have that passion and not take this serious is disrespectful and it’s almost a joke,” he said.

“To me, I’m honestly flattered that y’all think that at my size (5-10) I can go out there and not prepare for the game and not take it serious. It’s disrespectful to my peers, to all the great athletes and players that are in this league. This game’s too hard to play, the position that I play in this league, it’s too hard.”

MORE: Lamar Jackson negotiating his own contract extension

Mahomes, Jackson and Murray have combined for eight Pro Bowls, two NFL MVPs and two first-team All-Pro selections. They have a combined record of 109-48-1 as starting quarterbacks. Mahomes has a Super Bowl ring after rallying the Chiefs past the 49ers in 2020.

Those three have been among the best quarterbacks in the league statistically, and not just as dual-threat athletes. They have combined to complete 65.8 percent of their passes for 40,438 yards and 305 touchdowns to just 102 interceptions — a 3:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

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