Barry Switzer has no filter. He says what’s on his mind.
That’s not the same as saying what you really believe. Some of us sometimes talk without thinking, and Switzer does his share of that.
Which is how he came to declare on a Nashville radio show that he’s “always said I’d never recruit a white quarterback.”
Switzer drew the predictable response from the what’d-he-say? crowd and from the reverse-racism crowd.
It’s difficult to have a serious discussion about race in America these days without riling up some faction. Not that Switzer was seriously discussing race.
He was kidding around, folks. He was just talking. That’s what makes him such a good interview. A quarter century after his final OU game, almost 20 years after his Super Bowl, Switzer remains more interesting and in some ways just as relevant as 90 percent of the guys still coaching football.
You just have to remember that you can’t always go by what he says. You have to go by what he means.
The idea that Switzer wouldn’t recruit a white quarterback would be news to Kelly Phelps and Troy Aikman and Mike Gundy and a horde of other Caucasian optioneers. Heck, Switzer made Aikman a wishbone quarterback and started him against Miami and Texas.
If you’ll permit me to play dime-store psychologist for a minute, I’d guess that Switzer thinks in terms of race less than almost anyone I’ve ever met. He sees race. He knows who’s black and who’s white and who’s purple-and-pink striped. He just doesn’t consider it all that much.
When Switzer says he’d have to have a black quarterback, this is what he means. He’d have to have a black-style quarterback. Admit it. If we think of a run/pass quarterback, an athletic quarterback, we imagine a black QB. That’s the way our minds have been trained, especially those over a certain age.
“My offense is a quarterback/fullback offense,” Switzer said, which by the way was true in the ‘80s but not in the ‘70s. Who knows what Switzer’s option would look like in the 21st century? And who knows what his quarterback would look like? But we know what his quarterback would have to do.
“I’d have to have a Jamelle Holieway, J.C. Watts, Thomas Lott,” Switzer said. “Those guys are gonna be my quarterbacks. They’re great runners, they’re great ballcarriers and … able to pass, complete some, and those guys could. Those guys could throw and run.”
Actually, there he goes again. Holieway and Lott couldn’t throw. Not by 21st century standards. Which brings us back to the genesis of Switzer’s pronouncement. Johnny Manziel.
If Switzer’s ‘bone remained alive in Oklahoma in 2010, would he have gone to Kerrville, Texas, trying to sign Johnny Football? Are you kidding me? Switzer would have pitched a tent on the Guadalupe River and gone after Manziel with the same passion he used on Holieway and Turner Gill.
Manziel would have made a monumental wishbone quarterback. And Switzer knows it.
Remember, Switzer got his butt in a sling on another recent radio show, this one in St. Louis, for calling Manziel an “arrogant little prick.” Switzer went on to say he didn’t like Manziel’s antics, particularly how Young John seemed willing to show up his coach, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin.
But in that same interview, Switzer said of Manziel, “He's the best I've seen. I've never seen a quarterback in college football take control of a game like he does and put up the numbers he does. It's fantastic what he's done against good competition … he’s the most dominant, most dynamic college quarterback I've ever seen.”
So someone seriously thinks Switzer would bypass the “most dynamic” QB he’s ever seen, just because he’s white?
I ran into Switzer the other night at a Thunder game. Talking about those radio shows, he laughed so hard my sides hurt. Said people take him too seriously. Repeated his line after the only white quarterback he’d sign is one with black parents. Then he laughed some more.
Switzer has many faults. Racial insensitivity isn’t one of them. If we all talked about race as freely as does Switzer, the dialogue would be much more advanced in 2014 America.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at . He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.