Adam Schefter put out a tweet the other day that garnered a lot of attention. He informed all of social media that a workout /interview session was being held for Colin Kaepernick on Saturday in Atlanta (sadly I will be missing it by about 10 days). NFL teams will be invited to watch the former Super Bowl runner up throw passes and talk to him about potentially playing in the NFL again.
This of course was met by polarizing response. People took to social media to talk about how he was terrible or conversely, that it was about time. I lie somewhere in the middle of these two takes. Firstly, It has been three years now since we’ve seen Colin Kaepernick throw in the NFL. So he is definitely removed from his prime. That said, I think Colin Kaepernick was a decent NFL quarterback when he played. On a team completely devoid of talent and being coached terribly, he posted 16 touchdowns and threw 4 interceptions in 12 games (he started 11 of them).
Detractors will say that he left the pocket two quickly. However, I would counter that the team’s system should be based on the talent available rather than trying to force someone to play in a way that is not suited to their skills. If you’d like to see a coach doing that well look at what the Baltimore Ravens have done with Lamar Jackson. I’m not saying the two are equally talented or that Kaep is nearly as good an athlete. My argument is simply that John Harbaugh found himself in a position to draft a quarterback that couldn’t be more different from the quarterback he had coached for years (Joe Flacco). In a year he has transformed the Ravens roster (drafting Hollywood Brown, Myles Boykin and Justice Hill who are earning reps while developing as part of this new Ravens offense) and the team invested in versatile running back Mark Ingram.
So while I think that Colin Kaepernick was by all metrics a low-end starter who needed a system to be successful (this is true of about half of the starters in the league), I don’t believe anyone should lose their right to earn because of things unrelated to the job. Colin Kaepernick proved in his time in the NFL, that he was good enough to compete for a starting job. He is definitely no longer worth the money in a free market that he once was; he is not asking for it either.
What’s interesting is, this conversation isn’t about football. Several owners and GM’s in depositions claimed that they felt fear of the political storm that would have accompanied the signing of the former 49ers Quarterback. In one deposition there were even discussions where Patriots owner Robert Kraft admitted to warning the other owners of backlash they would receive from the President if they were to sign the controversial quarterback.
Even for people who feel strongly that he should or shouldn’t be on a roster. The outrage/outcry isn’t there when Joe Flacco and Eli Manning were still starting this season despite being completely washed by any measure. It wasn’t there when Brandon Weeden was signed by the Texans after Deshaun Watson was injured. Josh Johnson was watching NFL Red Zone on his couch rather than game film and even he got a chance to return to the NFL in 2018. Yet, this did not seem to bother anyone. If this is truly about his skill set, why are people not equally outraged that these players are getting a shot? The reason why is that Kaep knelt during the anthem and wore offensive socks and others conformed and did what they were told.
***Sidenote: There are those who still make the argument that they should do what they are told because these guys get paid millions of dollars. There’s a reason that they make the money they make and that you and I don’t. Simply put, they are worth more. They generate more income than you or I and therefore they are worth more. Don’t be jealous. It doesn’t look good on you and the argument is put forth by people who don’t understand unionized workplaces or basic economics.
Kaepernick gets criticized in a world that pretends to demand freedom but take issue with protest. Social media is filled with people railing against 2019 as an age that is too sensitive yet, are made sensitive by a player breaking ranks and using his platform to stand (or kneel) for something that someone believes in. On one hand there are those who can’t believe Don Cherry was fired for comments deemed insensitive but take no issue to a Quarterback losing his job for reasons that are not related to his performance.
So now, if we take a step back and look at this workout for what it is, it’s fairly clear that it’s a sham. It was orchestrated by the NFL, on short notice and on a Saturday as opposed to a Tuesday (when these types of workouts typically take place). Doing so on a Saturday means that NFL coaches won’t be present as they’ll be travelling or preparing for Sunday’s games. Scouts are largely assigned to college recruitment at this time of year. Also, NFL caliber receivers are not readily available to assist in the workout. Colin Kaepernick was given a “take it or leave it offer” (as reported by ESPN) and a short timeline to make a decision. They didn’t involve him in the process and continued to set the guidelines that, as established are not equitable.
So why would the NFL set up a workout for a player they would prefer not to be on a roster? What is in it for them? The first thing that came to mind is that this is a way to repair their legacy after being forced to settle in the collusion lawsuit. The NFL is clearly obsessed with their image and this rationale makes sense. The other reason is teams actually want to take a look at Kaepernick and they want to use this as a cover to “kick the tires” and not get as much criticism for showing interest. Finally, this may be part of the terms of the undisclosed collusion agreement where the NFL needed to make amends by assisting Colin Kaepernick in finding employment in the NFL.
So, I’m happy that Kaep is getting another shot. Hopefully he will be evaluated for his ability. I don’t think he will have much to offer given his absences from the game and his age. However, with the collusion case settled, the NFL (which is a unionized environment), are doing what they can to get #7 another shot. I do hope the best for the aging NFL quarterback. Giving him a fair opportunity is as important to a free society as it is to the man who suffered the consequences for his protest over the last three years.