Why Hasn’t Colin Kaepernick Found a Home?
One of the enduring narratives of the 2016 NFL season involved ex-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick made waves when he publicly declared that he would not stand for the national anthem prior to games last season as a means of protesting social and racial issues.
Kaepernick decided to opt-out of his contract with the 49ers for next season, making him a free agent. While many of the biggest names have already found new homes since the free agency period opened, interest around Kaepernick appears cool.
Why is that?
He’s Still a Productive Player
While his career hasn’t gone as many had expected after he burst onto the scene with the Niners several seasons ago, Kaepernick is coming off of what was a quietly productive 2016. He replaced Blaine Gabbert as the team’s starting quarterback a few weeks into the season, and finished with a completion percentage of 59.2% along with 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
He was also effective as a runner, compiling 468 yards on just 69 attempts (6.8 yards per carry) along with a pair of scores. Other than some struggles with holding onto the football – Kaepernick fumbled nine times – he was pretty solid for San Francisco. To put it another way, Kaepernick’s play wasn’t the reason the 49ers went 2-14.
In light of his pregame protests, many fans all over the country claimed they would be boycotting the NFL. Television ratings for the first half of the season were noticeably down, and some attributed that to the “boycott” of Kaepernick.
The presidential election was really the likeliest culprit in the league’s early television struggles, as the ratings rebounded once the election was over with. The Kaepernick story was hot early in the year, but most seemed to forget about it the deeper we got into the regular season.
The reasoning behind the current tepid free agent market for Kaepernick is obvious. Teams are worried that signing him would offend/annoy a certain faction of the fanbase. These franchises obviously rely heavily on fans to buy tickets, merchandise, etc. With that revenue risk in mind, it’s understandable why teams would be hesitant to make the move.
NFL Teams Haven’t Shied From Controversy Before
There is a certain amount of hypocrisy involved in this mess. NFL teams suddenly acting as though they actually have scruples is a new one. NFL coaches and front offices always say that winning is the top priority, even if it means employing an unsavory character or two.
There are countless examples. The Dallas Cowboys signed defensive lineman Greg Hardy ahead of the 2015 season despite the horrid PR that comes with signing a player that had been accused of savagely beating an ex-girlfriend.
The Minnesota Vikings kept Adrian Peterson around after it came out that Peterson had beaten his own son. Ray Lewis was straight-up charged with murder, yet the Baltimore Ravens kept him on the roster for well over a decade. The Cowboys kept nose tackle Josh Brent around after he caused the death of a teammate in a drunk driving accident.
NFL teams have never been particularly shy when it comes to rostering players that have been accused or convicted of committing actual crimes. Yet, here we have Kaepernick, a 29-year-old quarterback with a track record of success at the NFL level, potentially being blackballed from the league because he didn’t want to stand up for the flag song.
Plenty of Suitors
Because he’s not exactly Tom Brady in terms of playing ability, teams will use that as an excuse for declining to have interest in acquiring Kaepernick. While he has endured his fair share of struggles, it’s also fair to say that Kaepernick has enjoyed more good seasons than bad ones as a starting QB.
It’s not like there’s no market for a quarterback. Teams like the Broncos, Texans, Jets and Bills are starved to solve their respective QB situations. Kaepernick would step into any of those locker rooms and would instantly become the best option at the position. Easily.
Kaepernick’s Off-field Contributions
In what is likely a blatant attempt to ease concerns, back in early March that Kaepernick has indicated that he plans to stand for the anthem next season. The player reportedly does not want his protests to be a distraction from the positive change he believes has been created.
In Schefter’s report, he cites numerous steps Kaepernick has taken off the field to try and make a positive difference. Schefter says that the Colin Kaepernick Foundation pledged to donate $1 million to community organizations helping underprivileged people. The foundation has donated $100,000 per month over the course of 10 months to a variety of organizations around America.
He also recently got involved with the “Turkish Airlines Help Somalia” movement. Somalia is currently facing a food and water famine that could endanger as many as six million people. Kaepernick took to Instagram to pledge his willingness to help get a cargo plane full of food and water to the ailing nation.
He’ll Find a Home Eventually
Colin Kaepernick is not Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers or even Matt Ryan when it comes to his ability to play quarterback. Even so, there is no debate that he is talented and skilled enough to at least be on a roster somewhere, even if he isn’t the No. 1 QB.
Will he eventually land somewhere? I would imagine so. As mentioned above, there is a lot of pressure on coaching staffs and front offices all over the league to win at all costs. Even if it means potentially losing a few season ticket holders, the desire to build a winning team trumps everything else in this league.
Kaepernick isn’t a perfect player, but the notion that he can potentially be blackballed from the league for taking a nonviolent social stand is inane, wrong and flat-out idiotic. Hopefully there’s a team out there willing to see through the noise.