Once again, the world discusses Kaepernick

by Gary Shelton on June 14, 2020

in general

Sunday, 4 a.m.

Al Sharpton is talking about Colin Kaepernick. He wants him to get his job back.

Pete Carroll is talking about Kaepernick. He said some teams have called him to gauge interest.

Doug Williams is talking about Kaepernick, if only to explain why the Redskins haven't been talking about Kaepernick.

And so it goes. Considering that he's a guy who the NFL threw away four years ago, there remains a lot of conversation about Kaepernick, who has become so much more as a symbol than he ever was as a star.

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Hue Jackson is talking about Kaepernick, saying that he wanted to sign him just before he went 0-16 with the Browns.

The Titans aren't talking about Kaepernick, except maybe privately. They've been linked by ESPN as a possible landing spot.

Terrell Owens is talking about Kaepernick. Kaepernick has not responded, but one imagines it would be to say: "Don't help, Terrell. Okay?"

And so the never-ending conversation continues. It has been four seasons, an entire NFL career, since the 49ers released Kaepernick. Hundreds of players have lost their jobs since then, and the calendar keeps turning.

But Kaepernick has become a symbol of all that is wrong with the privilege of the NFL. Writers throw around the word "blacklisted" as if it were a proven fact more the supposition. Kaepernick took a knee -- perhaps you heard about it -- and to some, that is the only issue that matters. Never mind that others who took a knee continue to play in the league. There are celebrities who speak as if signing Kaepernick means an instant Super Bowl victory for whichever team is courageous enough to get his name on the dotted line, even though he's never won a Super Bowl (he did play in one).

But is it that simple? Do such things as success, or a lack of it, and pay, and opportunity weigh in, too. Even in hindsight, it is possible to argue whichever way you like in the case of Kaepernick. Even now, you can paint him as a victim or a villain.

On a personal note, I could give a flying pancake about the outcry over Kaepernick's protest. We are a nation built on protests, and many of us grew up in the 60s, and we saw our on-campus movements in college. If Kaepernick wants to excersize his rights as an American, if he wants to wear controversial socks, well, more power to him. We are immersed in protests lately, and much of it is productive. The lesson is there.

As a quarterback, however, Kaepernick had a lot of flaws. A lot of people have lost sight of those.

In his six seasons with the 49ers, Kaepernick had a losing record (28-30). So let's not assume that he's got a short cut to the Super Bowl. Frankly, he was kind of a one-year wonder. He won 12 games in 2013, and went to the Super Bowl but that was his only year when he won double-digit games. He fell to eight wins in 2014, two in 2015 and one in 2016.

You know who else were short-lived successes? Josh Freeman. Vince Young. Tim Tebow.

In his last season, I watched Kaepernick play against a thoroughly underachieving Bucs' team. He completed fewer than half of his passes, had a rating of 56.4 and seemed completely ineffectual. If an NFL team wanted to sign Kaepernick, it doesn't want to be seeing tapes of that game.

Should Kaepernick have immediately gone on the backup circuit, the way a lot of quarterbacks do? Maybe. But was he willing? I've still never seen Kaepernick discuss the money he wanted. I've never seen him take the Jameis Winston tact of going somewhere as a backup and working his way back into a job.

Either way, it seems like yesterday's argument. If a team signs Kaepernick now, and he doesn't succeed, his supporters will blame the time he has lost and the opportunity he has received. Nobody wins unless Kaepernick, somehow, leads his team to win.

The thing is, it has pretty much worked out for both sides. Kaepernick has become an icon, a symbol of the way a man can be forced out of league if he presses the wrong buttons, a representative of fighting the good fight. The league has gone on and continues to print money.

Would it have been better if Kaepernick had gotten a tryout here or there and been sent on his way, like Freeman? If he had, the odds are that he would be just another former player now.

As it is, he remains a hot-button topic, and a league continues to dangle a job as if it is his for the taking. A lot of game days have come and gone since Kaepernick has been gone. Does a team really want to invite the circus to town by signing him, by enduring the headlines wondering when he might start, and why he isn't already?

Oh, yeah. And there's the Super Bowl?

Could he win two in his first season back?

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