NFL free agency is in overdrive and teams shopping for quarterbacks have been busy enrolling new signal callers, some as backups, some as starters. Journeymen like Josh McCown, Mark Sanchez, Mike Glennon, Brian Hoyer and Nick Foles have all found new homes.
Colin Kaepernick has not.
Unlike the others, Kaepernick once took a team to the Super Bowl. And yet, four years after that glorious time with the San Francisco 49ers, he is stuck in football purgatory, a free agent with nowhere to go.
This may be a function of diminished skills or it may be payback for making a silent statement about conditions in the country in which he lives. Kaepernick, remember, refused to stand for the Star Spangled Banner before games last season, choosing to take a knee to protest the widespread oppression of people of color across the United States.
There are two points of view about his stand.
First, this land of the free and home of the brave is proud of its free speech heritage which is part of the First Amendment to the Constitution and permits such protest.
Second, men and women, many of color, have died in battle defending the flag that Kaepernick chose to snub.
President Donald Trump offered a third reason. Employing his beloved Twitter account, the president suggested that “NFL clubs don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump.’’
Not since Richard Nixon suggested plays for the Washington Redskins has a president found it necessary to get involved in football. Politics provides a full plate, more than enough to occupy the commander in chief’s time. But President Trump knows a good patriotic opportunity when it comes along so he seized upon the Kaepernick controversy.
Truth be known, the quarterback has said he would abandon his Star Spangled Banner protest next season. The only problem is, he doesn’t know where he will be next season. His recent credentials, including a 3-16 record as a starter over the last two seasons, are a little thin.
But Kaepernick’s problems may be as much a function of the 49ers roster and the players around him as it is a comment on his competence. Consider that the overhaul of the team has stripped San Francisco of 11 Pro Bowl players and the team is on its third head coach since that Super Bowl season.
Don’t blame Kaepernick for that.
Benched for the start of last season, he stirred controversy with his social protest. When he got into the lineup almost halfway through the season, he was decent enough, posting a quarterback rating of 90.7, his best mark since his Super Bowl season. Among the marquee quarterbacks who had lower ratings were Joe Flacco, Jameis Winston, Tyrod Taylor, Carson Palmer and Cam Newton. He threw for 2,241 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. That’s not exactly terrible.
Still NFL teams chose to do their quarterback shopping elsewhere and for the moment at least, Kaepernick remains on the outside looking in, waiting for a team in need to call.
He has not, however, discarded his interest in his country. When President Trump’s controversial budget blueprint deleted funds for the Meals on Wheels program that feeds needy elderly and children, the unemployed quarterback took notice.
He sent a check for $50,000 to the program.