Why are so many NFL quarterbacks blue-eyed?

Thursday, February 1st, 2024

I knew that Steve Sailer had asked, “Why are so many NFL quarterbacks blue-eyed?” but I hadn’t looked into it, until Razib Khan linked to a 2014 piece:

Intrigued, I did a little research with the help of Google and NFL.com, and it turns out that over 80% of Superbowls have been won by Quarterback with blue eyes, a ratio of over 4 to 1. What’s more, of the twenty-three modern era quarterbacks in the NFL Hall of Fame, twenty-one have light colored eyes. That is not a misprint. That is over 90%. If you were to include guaranteed first ballot HOFer’s Peyton Manning, Bret Favre and Tom Brady, it climbs to an astounding twenty four of twenty six. (In 2014, no quarterbacks were voted as HOF semifinalist; however, of the six quarterbacks eligible, only sky blue-eyed Phil Simms has won a Superbowl, setting a record for completion percentage in the game and winning the Superbowl MVP award).

Only two Hall of Fame quarterbacks have brown eyes, Warren Moon and Otto Graham. For any coach in the NFL (or vegas bookie), this should be a stunning revelation. According to a New York Times article by Douglas Belkin, blue eyes make up less than twenty percent of the people born in the U.S. today, about 1 in 6. Even when you concede the fact that racism played a large part in the earlier days of the NFL (and some would say even now), and therefore use only statics from the population of Caucasian Americans for comparison, blue eyes are still only found at a rate of approximately 34%, or 1 in 3. Only in Estonia and some Scandinavian countries does the percentage of blue eyes even approach that of the NFL Hall of Fame’s 90+%.


According to my wife, (a certified retinal angiographer who has worked with America’s top retinal surgeons), it is well known amongst eye surgeons and ophthalmologists that there are dramatic physiological differences between light and dark colored eyes. In fact, light eyes, or those with less melanin present, are at a greater risk for macular degeneration as well as reacting very differently to certain stimuli than dark colored eyes. For example, when given dilation drops before an exam or surgery, it is common knowledge that brown eyes require more medication, sometimes up to twice as much, take longer to dilate and stay dilated for a shorter period of time than their lighter colored counterparts. If eye color accounts for this diverse a reaction to a temporary medication like dilation drops, it stands to reason that they would react differently to other stimuli as well, like air temperature or perhaps even the bluish tint of the winter sun. This concept has largely been ignored by the athletic community.


If any other occupation required a similar visual skill as the NFL quarterback, the men often admiringly referred to as gunslingers, then perhaps actual sharp shooters, or what we might call a sniper today, is a good place to look for validation. As it turns out, it was once common knowledge that the best sharp shooters possessed light colored eyes. In a famous 1890 short story by Ambrose Bierce, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, the author writes, “He observed that it was a grey eye and remembered having read that grey eyes were keenest, and that all famous marksmen had them.” In reality, it was so well known light colored eyes made for the best snipers that the Canadian military conducted tests in the late 1800’s on the very subject. They not only found lighter eyes seem to perform better as snipers, but certain colors can be seen at great distances better than others resulting in a change of their infantry’s uniform color from red to grey, the very first official camouflage and, what would suddenly appear to be a huge advantage for the Oakland Raiders. (Jim Plunkett finally comes into focus).


  1. BHS says:

    My mom’s family were all blue eyed. All of them were great shots with my mom and uncle competing nationally at the college level. My grandfather was a pistol fast draw and trick shooter and I qualified ‘Master’ every cycle on the range, (95% +.)

    There’s some nurture going on but nature too.

  2. Phileas Frogg says:

    The position that racial and ethnic differences are strictly superficial, and have no performative effect on a persons life, is, at this point, absolutely untenable.

    As a tangential observation, within combat sports such observations are actually quite common and accepted; different races/ethnicities have different combative qualities, on average, which can be anticipated. On a more particular level there is always a discussion of attributes (length, power, stamina, etc) and how particular fighters weaponize or leverage their physical attributes in peculiar ways to get the win. Jon Jones weaponizes length and wrestling, Strickland weaponizes pressure, Diaz brothers weaponize pace, Pereira weaponizes power/pressure.

    For example:


    Another great video:


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