PHOENIX – Philadelphia Eagles coach Nick Sirianni is thrilled young aspiring football players all over the world will get to watch two Black quarterbacks face each other for the first time in the Super Bowl.
He's also pleased they get to watch two really, really good quarterbacks.
“I'm really excited for both quarterbacks, what they can represent to a ton of kids,” Sirianni said at Monday's Super Bowl media night. "Not only are they two African-American quarterbacks, but they're the two best quarterbacks in the NFL this year. First-team All-Pro, second-team All-Pro.
“They both play at the highest level.”
There are many storylines for this Super Bowl, but the duel between Philadelphia's Jalen Hurts and Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes is right at the top of the list.
The significance of Sunday's matchup in Glendale, Arizona, isn't lost on Mahomes.
“I think about it a lot,” Mahomes said. "The quarterbacks that came before me — Shack Harris, Doug Williams — that laid the foundation for me to be in this position. It goes across all sports. If you think about Jackie Robinson and the people who broke the color barrier in baseball, I wouldn't be standing here today if it wasn't for them.
“To be lucky enough to be in this position — and play against another great guy like Jalen — it will be a special moment. I'm glad we're here today, but how can we keep moving forward? How can we motivate kids who are younger, who want to follow their dreams to be a quarterback?"
It's not just the quarterbacks who are relishing the groundbreaking matchup. Chiefs running back Jerick McKinnon said players are well aware of what they're witnessing.
“There's history being made,” McKinnon said. "That's a beautiful thing. Something I can look back and tell my kids that, ‘I was a part of that, I experienced that.’ So it's a blessing. This whole experience is a blessing.
“To have that on top, just adds to it.”
In addition to being good, both quarterbacks are also tough.
Hurts missed two games late in the season with a shoulder injury that's still bothering him. The Eagles haven’t had to lean on him in two lopsided playoff wins. He has 275 yards passing and two TDs along with 73 yards rushing and two scores, pedestrian numbers by his standards.
Mahomes hobbled around on a badly sprained ankle to help the Chiefs beat the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 and advance to their third Super Bowl appearance in four years.
“It's amazing — especially being Black History Month as well,” Eagles cornerback Darius Slay said. “I'm thankful for this moment, to be a part of this. This is crazy with two Black quarterbacks in the Super Bowl, one of the biggest games in the world."
Washington's Doug Williams was the first Black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl following the 1987 season. That's back when Black quarterbacks were fairly rare across the NFL.
This season — 35 years later — began with 11 Black QBs starting in Week 1 and now ends with a historic matchup.
Mahomes can become the first two-time winner if he leads the Chiefs to victory on Sunday. Hurts aims to become the fourth Black QB to win the Super Bowl, joining Williams, Mahomes and Russell Wilson.
Steve McNair, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton and Wilson also started in a Super Bowl and lost.
Now it's Hurts vs. Mahomes.
After McKinnon heard that Sirianni said the two quarterbacks were the top two in the league, he had a one-word response: “Facts.”
“It’s going to be a showdown — all four quarters,” McKinnon said. “It’s going to come down to the last second. Jalen Hurts is phenomenal, I’ve been watching him since college. The things he does and brings to the table are phenomenal.”
AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi contributed to this story.
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