In 2012, Colin Kaepernick burst onto the NFL scene as a dual threat quarterback. Kaepernick’s use of the read option decimated defenses across the NFL, as he led the San Francisco 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII. The 2013 season was just as successful. San Francisco reached the NFC Conference Championship, before losing to the Seattle Seahawks. Colin Kaepernick was a key factor in the 49ers success. Their staunch defense was among the best in the league, but the dynamic play of Kaepernick set them apart.
After the 2013 season, the 49ers organization began to crumble. An 8-8 record in 2014 would end Jim Harbaugh’s tenure as head coach, after months of rumors regarding tensions between the coach and the front office. Harbaugh was gone, and Patrick Willis, the leader of their defense, would retire at the age of 30. A slew of other key players, including Michael Crabtree and Frank Gore would also leave the team.
The organization was left in shambles, but Kaepernick was still there. After a rough start to the 2015 season, Kaepernick lost the starting job to Blaine Gabbert. Kaepernick earned another chance to start in 2016, but without any talent around him, success was elusive. In March, Kaepernick became a free agent. Three months later, he’s still without a team.
Kaepernick started twelve games in 2016, and received a great deal of attention from the media. Unfortunately, this attention was unrelated to his play on the field. Kaepernick decided to silently protest before regular season games, and received national attention for his actions. Whether you agree with his actions or not, he has the right to protest as he sees fit, and he is still worthy of a roster spot.
Quarterbacks are at a premium in the NFL. The Cleveland Browns started four different quarterbacks in just sixteen games last season. Still, Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned. Skeptics of the quarterback point to his most recent seasons in San Francisco, citing his lack of wins as an indication of his lack of ability. That doesn’t make sense. Correlation does not always equal causation. The 49ers were a bad football team, but they were not bad because of Colin Kaepernick. In fact, Kaepernick posted stats around or above the league average last season.
In 2016, he threw 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. A four to one touchdown to interception ratio is solid for any quarterback in the NFL. Meanwhile, Josh McCown, the projected opening day starter for the New York Jets, threw six touchdowns and six interceptions last season. The Jets decided to sign the 36-year-old McCown over the 29-year-old Kaepernick.
The Cleveland Browns, being a model of success, are likely to use Brock Osweiler as a starter next season. Osweiler is being paid an exorbitant amount of money, 16 million dollars next season, and posted mediocre numbers as a starter. In 14 games as a starter last season, Osweiler threw 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Still, the Browns are considering Osweiler as a possible starter, and not Colin Kaepernick.
Josh McCown and Brock Osweiler will be competing for starting jobs this fall, and Kaepernick isn’t. This isn’t a matter of ability, either. On a sub-par 49ers team, Kaepernick managed to record respectable numbers, and committed a minimal amount of turnovers. McCown and Osweiler committed four times as many turnovers as Kaepernick.
If not their ability, then one might think that salary considerations are what set McCown and Osweiler above Kaepernick, but that doesn’t make sense either. Osweiler is making an absurd 16 million dollars next season. The Jets signed McCown for six million dollars, even though the 36-year-old has been riddled with injuries over the last three seasons.
Furthermore, it doesn’t seem like money has ever been an issue for Kaepernick, as he donates to a variety of charities. Kaepernick’s charitable work includes a 100,000 dollar donation to meals on wheels, funding famine relief in Somalia, and donations to urban farming in Minnesota. Kaepernick is committed to philanthropy and activism, so it seems unlikely that he would be stingy about his salary.
Finally, there’s no reason to believe that NFL fans don’t want to see Kaepernick on the field. While many individuals were upset about Kaepernick’s protests and activism, many more people came out in support. Surprisingly, Kaepernick’s jersey is currently among the best-selling jerseys in the NFL. Kaepernick’s jersey ranked above Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, and Russel Wilson, who all played in the last three Super Bowls. The support is there.
It isn’t his on-field performance, and it isn’t a lack of support from the fans; so why is Colin Kaepernick unemployed?
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