Colin Kaepernick — the former mediocre NFL quarterback who coincidentally discovered a passion for “social justice” once his star had faded after an abysmal 2015 campaign when he lost 6 of the 8 games he played and posted only 6 touchdowns against 5 interceptions — was scheduled to workout for 25 teams this past Saturday. The circumstances of this workout were unusual.
Kaepernick has been out of the league since 2016, the same year that he began his infamous Anthem protest. But perhaps more salient to his three years of unemployment is the fact that he went 1-10 that season, posting only 2,241 yards passing and 16 touchdowns after initially failing to beat out Blaine Gabbert, which is the NFL equivalent of not being able to outperform Sean Spicer in your dance troupe. Kaepernick has done well for himself during his period of joblessness, signing a multi-million dollar Nike deal and being hailed across the media as a civil rights martyr. But the point is that he’d fallen out of his short-lived prime well before his “Star-Spangled Banner” antics, and then he spent three years shooting Nike ads instead of playing football.
I am not aware of any other case of the NFL holding a private, midseason workout (on a Saturday, the day before a game day, no less), attended by 25 scouts, for a backup-level talent who’s been out of the league for 35 months. Yet that is what Kaepernick was given. There is no conceivable football reason for the NFL to go to these lengths for Kaepernick. He’s not a star player and never was a star player — and even if he was a star player, it still would be highly unusual and probably unprecedented for the league to stage an event of this sort just for him.
But it wasn’t good enough for Kaepernick. The Nike salesman pulled out at the last minute, apparently deciding sometime on Saturday morning that he needed the event to be open to the media. The NFL didn’t want media, never agreed to have media, and for perfectly understandable reasons. They weren’t looking to host a Kaepernickapalooza media spectacle in week 11 of the regular season. They weren’t going to play host to a televised PR stunt for an out-of-work, 32-year-old, former bench-rider. Why would they? How could any sane or reasonable person expect them to?
Alas, Kaepernick is plenty sane but not reasonable, or else his reasons are entirely separate from the reasons of a real athlete who really wants to make his way onto an NFL roster. So, the man who once wore pig socks mocking the police during a practice, canceled the league-hosted event and staged his own at the last minute, complete with news cameras and journalists who think a guy is a Hall of Famer if he can throw the ball 50 yards to an uncovered receiver.
Kaepernick made another conspicuous wardrobe decision, sporting a “Kunta Kinte” shirt, implicitly comparing himself with a slave. I admit that I am no history professor, but I’m not sure that the plight of a multi-millionaire who had to settle for hocking shoes because he couldn’t get a job as a professional football player really bears any resemblance to historical slavery.
As if the “look at me” nature of the thing wasn’t clear enough, Kaepernick closed out the festivities by ranting to reporters about how the “the 32 teams” and “Roger Goodell” are “running from the truth” and “running from the people.” Now, I’ve been on my share of job interviews in my life but I never considered canceling on my prospective employer at the last minute, demanding that he come to me rather than me to him, and then accusing him of “running from the truth” when he fails to immediately hire me. That seems very much like the strategy of a man who doesn’t actually want the job he is pretending to seek.
Consider how the whole thing might have gone if Kaepernick sincerely wanted to play football. He would have attempted to schedule his workout during the off season, when a number of teams are still making basic roster decisions. Then he would have showed up to the venue in a spirit of gratitude and eagerness. He would not have worn a t-shirt advertising his martyr-complex. He would not have scolded the NFL in front of news cameras. He would not have insisted on news cameras in the first place, because he’s applying to be an NFL quarterback not a cable news talking head. His post-workout comments would have focused on — imagine this — football, and he would have expressed a deep desire to make a roster and help a team win games. Kaepernick said none of that, because he’s not interested in playing football. He is a self-promoting fraud and this is his (very profitable, I must admit) con.
On a pragmatic level, it’s hard to argue with Kaepernick’s logic. With his diminished skillset and advanced age (by football standards), he could at best hope to be a journeyman second-stringer, hopping from one roster to the other, waiting for a starter to go down so he can fill in for a few games. Robert Griffin III’s case is probably analogous. He’s three years younger than Kap, and was once more promising, but now he earns a couple million dollars a year as Lamar Jackson’s mentor and backup. It’s a nice way to make a living, to be sure, but not as rich or glamorous as the life of a Nike-sponsored professional martyr. Kaepernick has carved out the latter niche for himself, and a comparatively humble existence as a comparatively low-paid benchwarmer just does not have the same appeal. That’s why Kap and his team of PR reps have made sure to stay in the zone between trying for a job in the NFL and actually getting a job in the NFL. That zone, as they’ve discovered, is filled with money and clout.
With all of this in mind, it would be incredibly stupid and counterproductive for any team to offer Kaepernick a contract. Of course, you can’t put it past organizations like the Jets and the Bengals to do incredibly stupid and counterproductive things, so I’ll never say never. Nonetheless, he is a washed-up, second-string quarterback who, in the very best case scenario, if he is able to reach the same meager heights he fell from in 2016, might get you 2,000 yards and a dozen or so touchdowns. Most backups in the league can do that, or better, and none of them bring a media circus along with them, nor do they threaten to turn your fanbase against you, nor do they have the same potential to rip your locker room apart, nor are they likely to call you a racist when you cut them.
Kaepernick’s production, even in the best case, could not possibly come close to compensating for the massive downside. I’m not sure that Tom Brady in his prime could have compensated for a downside so steep. And Kap is no Tom Brady, to say the least.
Maybe, though, a contract offer from the Bengals would be the most poetic result of all this. After all of his maneuvering to avoid an offer, it would be quite delicious to see him backed into a corner where has to actually reject one, thereby revealing the whole charade for what it is and always was. Or else, he’ll have to admit defeat and accept a fate worse than death: becoming a Bengals quarterback. As far as I see it, either of those options would be a fitting and deserved end to the Colin Kaepernick saga.