Would you like share a cube with Colin Kaepernick? I think that is the question that we should be asking, but of course that does not make for an as interesting story as Colin Kaepernick being blackballed and all the owners having something against him.
Honestly I was going to let this whole topic pass, because I believe there were other contributing factors as to why Colin Kaepernick was not landing new Quarterback gigs… but months later, we are STILL talking about it! So here are my two cents.
Colin Kaepernick is one of the most talented athletes that we have seen at the quarterback position that I have seen in recent years. He is the type of guy who is deceptively fast because he can take three steps and is already 10 yards down the field. He has a big frame to go with his speed so when he meets with a Linebacker or safety, he is not going to fold in half. And great arm strength. But even with these attributes, there are a lot of other reasons which I believe contribute to Kaepernick not being signed and makes this discussion not as simple as owners having a vendetta against him. Below are the reasons that I believe no one is talking about and are relevant to his job qualification.
Jim Harbaugh is No Longer Here: Jim Harbaugh was responsible for making the 49ers front office look SLIGHTLY (only slightly) better for drafting Alex Smith over Aaron Rodgers, because of the way he was able to completely resurrect his career with the 49ers. And that is a testament to how good of a coach Harbaugh is. Regardless of who he has, he has proven that he can win at both the college level and the NFL level. This coaching ability brought a greatness out of Kaepernick right out of the gate and ultimately won his starting job over Alex Smith.
But after that first year, even with Harbaugh, Kaepernick’s numbers digressed, he was unable to read the defense and later drove many wide receivers away from the team in frustration (Boldin, Davis, Crabtree). After leaving the 49ers, Harbaugh even said in an interview with NBC that Kaepernick can be great if teams are patient in developing him. There is definitely a different culture in the NFL that drafts players who are closer to their finish product as opposed to college where so much of that growth takes place. That was what made Harbaugh so good, because he was a college coach at heart, seeing potential bringing it out of players.
Now, what teams have to ask themselves is if one of the best coaches today, Harbaugh, was unable to get all the potential out of Kaepernick to make him a consistent starter, what chance does their coaching staff have at getting more out of him?
Inability to control his message: I was very against Colin Kaepernick’s antics from the beginning and it seemed very unclear to me as well as many critics what exactly he was protesting. To start, there were many veterans that were offended by what Kaepernick was doing and there was a lot of backlash for not honoring the troops. But it came out later that this was in protest to police brutality and bringing awareness to that issue in America, and not hating on America itself and the troops who defend it.
And if you think that this was him backpedaling from his stance, there are actually some touching stories of him meeting with war veterans like Green Beret Army veteran, Nate Boyer. Colin Kaepernick sat down with him and talked about how he could better convey his message so that he would not be disrespecting fallen soldiers, and it was Nate Boyer who suggested taking a knee rather than sitting on the bench as a sign of respect while not standing for a country’s internal struggles of police brutality against the African American community.
This was definitely a rocky start to bringing awareness to a cause he was passionate about and got even rockier when he decided that pig socks would aid in conveying his message. This was a reality of him not being able to control his message. When you look at the days of Bill Russell, he was a perfect man for the times he was living in, in White Boston, he was a soft spoken man who conveyed his message clearly and loudly across America. He stood behind Muhammad Ali’s decision to not fight a war that was against his religious beliefs and being present in cities that recently showed police brutality marching and even starting pickup games of basketball in a neighbor for kids of all races to promote unity.
One thing that I always have to hold myself accountable to is how I reflect on the past and the present. Today we look back fondly on Bill Russell and remember him as an incredible athlete as well as a civil rights icon. But was he viewed that way in his time? No, there was a lot of opposition for what he was doing, but the godsend that was his coach Red Auerbach, backed him up in the city of Boston and continued to do so for his entire career on and off the court which aided him in conveying his message in the time Bill russell was living in. Will history look back on Colin Kaepernick fondly, pig socks and all? Time will tell, but right now it is this message and this image that teams will need to be able to support and stand behind in their own “company culture.”
Is There a Red Auerbach That Can Take Kaepernick?: What Colin Kaepernick would need is a coach like Celtics Legend, Red, to take him under his wing and stand behind him as he fights for the causes that he believes in while using his platform as a Quarterback. The NFL is pretty boring when it comes to management styles and the truth is, there is one team that would allow Colin Kaepernick to be himself and allow him to flourish and that is Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks. Pete Carroll is a master of embracing all the big personalities and passions off the field, and harnessing those players’ talent to win on the field. There is only one team in the NFL like this and the Seahawks passed on Kaepernick… why?
Colin Kaepernick’s Quarterback Rating: So last year, Colin Kaepernick had a QBR of 55.2 (Below Brock Osweiler). With the small sample size that was last year, when Kaep did play, he beat out these players and here are the cases as to why Kaepernick wouldn;t be a replacement:
Ryan Tannehill (54.6) – now this team needs a shake up, but with all the drama that has happened in recent years with their coaching staff, Incognito, Grimes Girlfriend Tweets, I think upper management is hoping for a little more normal this season and will take the 0.6 lower rating if it means a better chance of having it.
Cam Newton (53.1) and Eli Manning (51.8) – so I don’t think I need to say anything here to defend that these two teams are not in the market for a Quarterback and last year was a fluky year for both these Pro Bowlers. But they are on the list all the same.
Blake Bortles (49.2) and Carson Wentz (52.8) – In the same way that Alex Smith had a job for so long in San Fran, the Jags are not going to give up on their #1 pick and are going to keep investing in him hoping that their draft decision will pay off. And Carson Wentz had a great rookie year, and they got rid of Sam Bradford to put all their eggs in Carson’s basket and they are not taking a step back from their position and bringing in a guy who their old coach Chip Kelly couldn’t do anything with.
Case Keenum (43.4) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (45.4) – So for the Jets, like so many other teams, Kaepernick does not fit in with their offensive scheme, and like the Rams they have too many cooks already fighting for a starting position.
Ok, so with looking at the guys he beat out last year, at the very least you would think he could be a backup somewhere right? Yes, he is certainly talented enough to do that, with today’s culture of the league, there is no team that could support his personality besides the Seahawks and the Seahawks passed on him for his inability to read defenses and transition his college game to the NFL.
Who Do You Want to Share a Cube With?
There are several guys who lack the talent of an all star but will have long careers regardless because they are great to have in the locker room and “in the office.” To drift sports momentarily, a perfect example of this in Baseball is David Ross. Great team player, comes prepared, shows up early, leaves late, and is a great mentor to have for younger guys joining the team. David Ross knew his role, knew what the Cubs paid him for, and he did it to perfection and he was the definition of a great guy to have around the office. Funny, stable, example setter, great work ethic, he had it all. Now without knowing the guy personally, how many of those qualities have we seen in Colin Kaepernick on the field and in interviews? Certainly not all of them. For what we are able to see, a guy that is a similar David Ross kind of character is Drew Stanton……
How fun is this guy?! This is a guy you want to share a cube with. He knows his role and is pumping his team up and is a great distraction on the sidelines. Now this is one of a kind, but can you see Colin Kaepernick doing anything remotely like this? …. I guess I have not seen it.
Here is the thing with Colin Kaepernick type of players, they are big personalities and sad to say big personalities get a lot more leeway if they are good. Terrell Owens destroyed several great teams but teams kept signing him because they made them better and if they could handle his personality, they could go to the Super Bowl. Now, am I saying that Colin Kaepernick is as much of a threat to locker rooms as TO? No. But he is also not even close to as productive or as much of a force on the football field as TO. So proportionally, TO wins the risk/reward debate here.
Now lets relate this back to business, since that’s what football is and business is what is driving the decision of nobody taking Kaepernick. Let’s say that Steve Jobs is Terrell Owens, big personality, hard to work with, has outbursts, causes talented teammates to leave the “company,” BUT amazing at what he does when it comes to his job! Now lets say that Steve Jobs, had all those same negative qualities but was not that great at his job, he was a C-list marketer who wasn’t great at marketing products and didn’t have positive input in the meetings. GONE. Zero question. A team is a business and you have to get along with the people that you work with.
Colin Kaepernick is not close to as toxic as Steve Jobs or TO, but he is no cheerleader. It is sad because being good provides you with a lot of leeway to use your platform to better your causes or do what you’re passionate about off the field (like Gronk and drinking). Imagine if Gronk did not have great hands but was still getting drunk every weekend? He would most likely be gone too.
Colin Kaepernick is right in the middle of being a fringe starter but also taking on a platform that was a little bigger than himself (which is sad but true). The NFL culture at this point in history is very generic and in a world where there were more teams like the Seahawks, I think Colin Kaepernick would have found a job at one of them. But in combination with teams understanding that they can’t do a better job than Jim Harbaugh in getting the most out of him, not having a culture that would foster his personality, inheriting a message that he failed to control, not being a cheerleader/David Ross type, and being next to the bottom in Quarterback Ratings, are all reasons why teams have opted not to fill their empty cube spot with Colin Kaepernick.