I have discovered why NFL teams have not signed Colin Kaepernick.
They don’t have to.
For months, advocates have been demanding that someone hire the former 49ers quarterback — whether they want to or not.
So far, the answer has been not. These NFL guys are remarkably resistant to being told which players they should put on their roster.
(Personally, I think Joe Montana has it right when he says teams doubt Kaepernick’s ability to play the position. More on that in a minute.)
But first, a few points. Just to repeat: If the NFL is blackballing Kaepernick for his politics, it has set a new low for hypocrisy. The league continues to employ players who have been involved in awful stuff. You know the list: domestic abuse, assault and drug use.
Kneeling for the national anthem isn’t in the same universe. Wearing socks portraying cops as pigs is definitely going to hack some people off (and I’d say does more to harm his message than help) but taking a stand against racial violence should not disturb the NFL.
And it hasn’t. Kaepernick didn’t tear the 49ers asunder. When kneel-gate broke, team ownership and management — in an unexpected flash of common sense — said that was Kaepernick’s free speech right. Other players joined the protest, knelt for the anthem and there were no recriminations. Head coach Chip Kelly said he was not a distraction.
And, at the end of the year the players voted him the Len Eshmont Award for the player who best “exemplifies … inspirational and courageous play.”
What hasn’t happened is a team stepping up and hiring Kaepernick for his football skills. Instead there’s been a slow slide in expectations. Clearly he’s no longer seen as a starter. Otherwise he’d have been signed long ago.
Kaepernick supporters tout stats like touchdown/interception ratio to show that he should be playing. But nobody crunches numbers like the NFL and the data is not inspiring.
Stat-driven football analytics sites — from Fox Sports to ESPN to Pro Football Focus — don’t have Kaepernick ranked among the top 20 quarterbacks. Pro Football Focus, for example, says his passer rating from a “clean pocket” ranked 29th.
Of course we could talk stats until our calculators burst into flame. Everybody has different numbers.
But in the NFL, they want a quarterback who can move the needle. After the 49ers started 1-4 last year, Kaepernick took over the starting job.
He went 1-10 the rest of the way.
On a bad team, you say. And that’s true.
But who do you think he’s going to end up with if he signs? The Patriots? Best guess is he goes to a team that’s struggling and hoping for a spark. Winning one out of 11 isn’t very sparky.
New 49ers head coach and quarterback whisperer Kyle Shanahan passed on Kaepernick. In interviews he’s said that he doesn’t want to tailor an offense to specific needs. Kaepernick’s greatest success came with the Jim Harbaugh team — powerful defense, consistent running game.
That’s not Shanahan’s style. That sounds like what Montana meant in an interview last week when he said he thought the lack of interest “comes down to his play as much as anything.”