Are we sure Kaepernick is being blackballed?

by Gary Shelton on May 15, 2017 · 1 comment

in general

Monday, 4 a.m.

In the ongoing debate over the lack of a signature by Colin Kaepernick, let us agree on this:

We aren't talking about Tom Brady.

If a team, any team, were to go out and sign Kaepernick today, the end result would not be Lombardi Trophies. We aren't talking about Canton, and we aren't talking about records, and we aren't talking about confetti failing late in the evening. We aren't talking greatness. We aren't talking victories. We aren't talking about comebacks.

When it comes to Kaepernick, there are many ways to judge the noise, but that one seems to be regularly overlooked. So many people want to get loud over the fact that they perceive that Kaepernick is being shunned,

 Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on

and the outrage of it all has caused a good many people to lose their blooming minds. We love to find a rebel and a cause, and so we overlook Kaepernick's large, and many, shortcomings.

Through all of the shouting, you might believe that Kaepernick is an elite quarterback who could step into any huddle in the league and take it to success. That's blarney.

The truth is that Kaepernick is a mediocre quarterback on the slide. He won one start last year; he won two the year before last as he failed to make an awful San Francisco team any better. He played like a man barely hanging onto his job, and when he opted out of his contract, he pretty much let go. Looking back, that was a tragic misplay; Kaepernick had a team, and he left on his own.

I'll be honest. I don't know how much Kaepernick's political stance (he didn't stand for the national anthem last year) has to do with his current unemployment. Some, I'd guess. The owners of the NFL aren't exactly sitting around listening to the Grateful Dead and talking about the peaceful protests of their youth. We aren't talking about progressive people who danced in the Age of  Aquarius here.

But I know this: If a team -- any team -- were to sign Kaepernick this week, I don't think parades would be scheduled.

That, I suspect, is what's going on. Owners aren't blackballing Kaepernick because they don't have to. They can just find another reason not to sign him -- and there are a lot of them -- then resume counting their money.

Still, it looks awful for the league. If you'll remember, Josh Freeman got a few looks after he left the Bucs. Ryan Leaf got looks after he left the Chargers. Vince Young was checked out by the Eagles. A lot of rotten quarterbacks have proven they cannot play in one city, yet they have been looked at closely by other teams. Even JaMarcus Russell got tryouts.

But I do know this: There are reasons a-plenty not to be interested in Kaepernick on a non-polical basis.

Look, no one has said that Kaepernick is being blackballed except the media and assorted players. Part of the whole mystery of this is the silence that comes along with it. Kaepernick won't say what role he's looking for or what he expects it to pay. Teams aren't saying what role they'd hire him for or what flaws he must overcome.

Kaepernick's old boss, Jim Harbaugh, spoke up for Kaepernick recently. Others have suggested that Kaepernick would push whatever competition he had for a starting position.

Well, no. He wouldn't. And that's part of the problem. If Kaepernick sees himself as a starter, or if he imagines he would be paid like one, well, he's deluding himself.

Look across the league. Kaepernick isn't going to start for New England, or for Baltimore or Cincinnati or Pittsburgh. He isn't going to start for Indy or Tennessee or Kansas City. He isn't going to start for the Raiders or the Chargers or the Giants. Or the Cowboys or Vikings or Bears. Or the Lions or the Bucs or the Saints. Or the Panthers or Falcons or Seattle. Or Washington or Denver. Now the draft is over, he isn't going to start for the Texans or the Bears or the Eagles.

In fact, the only teams that should be (but aren't) interested are Cleveland, the Jets or the 49ers, teams that have truly desperate quarterbacking situations.

(Some critics were driven crazy when the Cardinals signed Blaine Gabbert last week. But remember, Gabbert beat out Kaepernick last season and started the first five games of the season. Even the 49ers couldn't make up their minds between the two).

Could some team use Kaepernick as a backup? Maybe. But Kaepernick demands a certain amount of offense be tailored to him, as Tim Tebow did. His vegan diet is a concern. He isn't an easy fit.

Still, you ask again. Could his politics play a part in his unemployment?

Again, it's possible. Kaepernick's stance didn't play well with the paying public, after all. And even the possibility offends the fair play sensibility in us all. We'd hate to think that a non-football issue could sway judgment.

Personally, I'd guess his politics are part of all of it, but only a part. At this stage of the game, Kaepernick simply isn't worth what little upside he has anymore. What's the old saying? A knight should never rescue a damsel from a  backyard filled with dragons? A team is taking on a lot of baggage with Kaepernick.

Here's my guess: If a team were to sign Kaepernick, he'd be fine. A new start would probably dissuade his political stance. He'd be a good citizen, and he'd be popular with his teammates. But he still wouldn't be able to play, and that's the problem. You rarely fix bad play.

(Don't be fooled by Kaepernick's fairly high quarterback rating; that's a product of his low interception rate, which is the best attribute that Kaepernick has. But can Kaepernick step in for a starter and keep the wins coming? It's doubtful).

In a strange way, Kaepernick's refusal to stand for the anthem has helped him build his counter-argument. It's one thing to stand against bad quarterbacks, but the league eventually tires of those guys. I imagine that if Robert Griffin III had protested, more people would notice he's out of work, too, and more people would care.

Frankly, the NFL has a lot of bigger problems going on than a quarterback who kneels during the anthem. Drugs. Domestic violence. Franchise free agency.

Hey, I grew up in the 60s when a thing called Vietnam was going on. I've been around a protest or two, so Kaepernick's decision to kneel didn't particularly bother me. I'd rather see an athlete who cares about social issues than one who does not.

As long as he can play.

Sadly, you can't count on Kaepernick for that. It isn't that he sat down; it's that he doesn't measure up.

{ 0 comments… read it below or Subscriptions }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: