It’s been more than six months since Colin Kaepernick first made waves with his National Anthem protest. He first decided to take a knee in a pre-season game at the end of August, and many other NFL players have since followed suit. Kaepernick has agreed to end his protest this off-season, shortly after being released by the 49ers (so much for standing on principle). Despite that, Kaepernick remains without a job more than a month into free agency.
Several have speculated as to why this might be. Eagles players Malcolm Jenkins and Torrey Smith, questioned why Kaepernick doesn’t have a job when “his skill-set vastly exceeds others who are on the market.” Just the other day, filmmaker Spike Lee said it was “fishy” that Kaepernick didn’t have a job yet. It’s safe to say these, among others, think the reason Kaepernick is unemployed is because of his Anthem protest. They can think that all they want. It simply isn’t true.
If Kaepernick had played significantly better last season, the protest would be a mere distraction. In 2016, Kaepernick ranked 23rd out of 30 qualified quarterbacks in total QBR, 30th in yards per game, and 24th in yards per attempt. He was also one of the least accurate quarterbacks in the league, with a 59.2 completion percentage. Kaepernick, by all accounts, looks to be a far cry from the player who once led San Francisco to a Super Bowl. We’re talking about a guy who could barely beat out Blaine Gabbert for starting job, and once threw a pass so far off target it hit a trainer in the face. Some are still voicing loudly, “Why isn’t signed?” Give me a break.
It may seem strange that players such as Geno Smith and Brock Osweiler have jobs while a former Super Bowl quarterback remains unemployed. Anyone who thinks that way is judging Kaepernick by his past rather than the player we’ve seen all too much of the past few seasons. The truth is, there are several quarterbacks that are better options than Kaepernick.
It would be one thing if Kaepernick were performing at the level he was 4-5 years ago. If that were the case, the argument he isn’t signed because of the protest would have validity. But he isn’t and that’s not subjective, it’s a fact blatantly obvious to anyone who has watched the 49ers the past two seasons. Any NFL team that brings in Kaepernick now will be buying all the unwelcome and distracting drama with a very low probability of meaningful results. It simply isn’t worth it.
Across the NFL, coaches, GMs, and executives ask themselves the same question: Will this guy help us win? If the answer is no, they don’t sign him, plain and simple. Kaepernick is not unemployed because of his protest, just like Tim Tebow is not out of football because of his Christianity, and Michael Sam wasn’t cut because he was gay. If Kaepernick remains without a job this season, it won’t be because of his protest, it won’t be because of his race, and it certainly won’t be because teams are worried about getting mean tweets from Donald Trump. It will be because he simply hasn’t done enough to earn it.