In honor of African American History Month 2024, we will talk about one of the most talented pairs of black rookies ever in the NFL. As we know, black quarterbacks are still significantly underrepresented, along with African American head coaches. The combination of a brand new starting QB and head coach being both black and on the same team is unprecedented. Both being of pro-bowl quality in their first year is even rarer.

As we know, I am describing rookies CJ Stroud and DeMeco Ryans of the Houston Texans. A team we forgot existed since the Massage Monster era in 2020 and now will never forget.

Before we jump in, make sure you catch Defiant Takes’ first African American History Month article of 2024 here.

African American History In The Making

DeMeco Ryans and CJ Stroud are both anomalies in the NFL already. Ryans is one of four black head coaches in the NFL. Stroud is one of 14 starting black QBs in the NFL as of 2023. This is in a league where 71% of the players in the NFL are people of color, and 58% are black.

african american history month

DeMeco Ryans and CJ Stroud (Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports).

A typical diversity goal for many companies is for the company to have a similar ratio of diversity hired as employees as exists in the community (if not more). The NFL’s community of players is 58% black. As a result, 19 of the starting QBs should be African Americans. If we extend that number to coaches (who are often former NFL players themselves), there would be 19 black head coaches too.

African Americans have been in the majority in the NFL since 1960, so it’s not as though there is a small pool of former players who would be eligible coaches in the league too. Or the children of coaches of color (like so many coaching trees we see in the NFL).

Percentage-wise, only 44% of starting QBs were African Americans in the 2023–2024 season. 12.5% of head coaches in 2023–2024 were black.

We aren’t making any records for black excellence to cover in future African American history articles.

 CJ Stroud  & DeMeco Ryans

There’s always a little trouble in paradise (Photo courtesy of Pewter Report).

Very few people had CJ Stroud and DeMeco Ryans make it to the playoffs this past season. We should have known better—if African American history has taught us anything, it’s that greatness can come from anywhere when black individuals come together.

Obviously, besides race, the young age and lack of experience are also noteworthy in this dynamic duo. Ryans is 39, and CJ Stroud is 22. It was both gentlemen’s first year in their roles. Truly noteworthy. CJ Stroud did make offensive rookie of the year, but unfortunately, Ryans was not named head coach of the year. The league can make it right next year.

Record-wise, DeMeco Ryans had a 10-7 record in his first year as head coach. The advent of a 17-game schedule is rather new. However, this puts DeMeco in a similar camp with these coaches of greatness in their rookie years: Sean Payton, Mike Tomlin, and George Halas.

This is also keeping in mind that the Houston Texans weren’t impressive roster-wise. They had talent, but much of it was untapped prior to 2023. In other words, Ryans did a lot with a little.

Everything is always right in the end (NFL Memes/Facebook).

CJ Stroud is also in good company, record-wise. He is one of three QBs to lead the league in passing yards per game and touchdown/interception ratio the same year. He is the first black and rookie QB to do so. Who were the other two gentlemen? Tom Brady and Joe Montana.

Stroud also tied the NFL rookie record for most pass touchdowns in a playoff game (3). He’s joining some other NFL greats in this tie, like Sammy freaking Baugh, Dak Prescott, and Brock Purdy.

We would be remiss without comparing CJ Stroud and the future GOAT, Patrick Mahomes. He’s the first QB to have 225 passing yards or more and three or more passing touchdowns in the first quarter since Mahomes in 2021. Now that’s an African American history stat we can get behind, unlike the percentage of black head coaches in the NFL. I discussed the phenomenon of the lack of black head coaches in the NFL last African American History Month in 2023 here.

The Houston Texans QB is a football god who will likely take the GOAT mantle from Patrick Mahomes by the end of his career. There are so many more impressive stats and records he had in his rookie season.

Where Are We Heading?

Darryl Stingley preseason

Darryl Stingley would be so proud (Courtesy of WTHR News). The wide receiver is also an icon to celebrate during African American History Month (and year-round).

As a football historian who loves African American history (in the NFL especially), I’m not much of a prediction-maker. I prefer to observe over guessing. I believe the sky is the limit when it comes to what DeMeco Ryan and CJ Stroud can accomplish together. Along with some other future African American history makers on the Houston Texans roster.

Players on the offensive side of the ball, like Nico Collins and Tank Dell, shined this season. Defensive players like Will Anderson Jr. and Derek Stingley Jr. also stood out. It’ll be amazing to see how they continue to grow next season as a team.

Did I forget any rookie black head coaches and QB pairs that are as inspirational as DeMeco Ryans and CJ Stroud? Any other teams with black rookie head coaches and QBs on the team the same year, period? Let me know down below!