Colin Kaepernick is not being blackballed by the NFL over his national anthem protests, or so three anonymous NFL executives and one unnamed coach told MMQB.
‘To me, the protests, all that, it wasn’t even a factor for us,’ said one executive. ‘It was the ability to fit within our offense.’
Kaepernick drew the ire of fans last season when he protested police violence against minorities by kneeling during ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’ A number of players throughout the league followed suit, which seemed to upset fans even further.
(From left to right) Former San Francisco 49ers teammates Eli Harold, Colin Kaepernick, and Eric Reid kneel in protest on the sideline, during the anthem prior to a game in 2016
‘All my years being in the league,’ Giants co-owner John Mara previously told MMQB, ‘I never received more emotional mail from people than I did about that issue.’
Kaepernick was actually a popular player over his first three seasons, helping the San Francisco 49ers reach three NFC championship games and one Super Bowl. However, the former University of Nevada star posted an 11-24 record as starter over the last three seasons and has remained unemployed since opting out of his contract back in March.
But while those interviewed agreed that Kaepernick’s political views are not why he remains unsigned, their reasoning differs significantly.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (left) told ESPN he believes that Kaepernick (left and right) has been blackballed by NFL teams for his political views
One claimed Kaepernick was a poor fit for that team’s particular offensive scheme, but conceded that the 29-year old is ‘good enough to be a backup.’
Meanwhile, another executive disagreed entirely, citing Kaepernick’s ‘innacuracy’ and inability to read defenses before pointing to free-agent quarterback Robert Griffin III, a former first-round pick who did not participate in anthem protests but remains unsigned nonetheless.
‘[W]hy isn’t there a debate about RG3?’ the executive asked.
Griffin is a good comparable for Kaepernick, a former second-round pick in his own right.
Robert Griffin III did not take a knee during the national anthem, but like Kaepernick, he too has struggled to find a new job in 2017
Like Kaepernick, Griffin had initial success as an NFL rookie, throwing 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions for Washington in 2012. And, like Kaepernick, Griffin is a mobile quarterback who needs to work in a specific scheme in order to be effective.
So while both Kaepernick and Griffin had some success as starters, they offer less in a backup role because teams are typically unwilling to customize their offenses to anyone but a starting quarterback.
“For us, it was a system thing,” one executive said of Kaepernick. “What he does well is totally outside what most teams do.”
The problem is there are other quarterbacks with similar or inferior statistics to those of Kaepernick, several of who will earn eight figures this season.
The Miami Dolphins recently gave a one-year, $10 million contract to previously retired quarterback Jay Cutler, who twice led the NFL in interceptions and has a 68-71 record as an NFL starter.
The Cleveland Browns, meanwhile, will pay $16 million for quarterback Brock Osweiler this season, and he was recently demoted to backup in favor of rookie DeShone Kizer.
Kaepernick, on the other hand, actually led the NFL with 8.6 yards per passing attempt in 2012, and while his career record as a starter is just 28-30, the controversial star has tossed for 72 career touchdowns and just 30 interceptions.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a two-time NFL MVP, told ESPN that he believes Kaepernick has been blackballed by NFL teams.
Jay Cutler was retired, but the veteran QB was still awarded a one-year, $10 million deal by the Miami Dolphins before the 2017 season