Brian Hoyer, Jeff Driskel, and Ryan Finley started games at quarterback in the NFL last week. Their teams lost.
Over the past three seasons, football fans have been “treated” to the quarterback stylings of Nathan Peterman, Mark Sanchez, two McCowns, and whoever the Cleveland Browns placed under center.
In a rational world, where winning games is the most important thing, this would be the only evidence Colin Kaepernick needed to earn a spot on an NFL roster.
But there is nothing rational about the situation the 32-year-old Kaepernick has been in since last taking a snap for the San Francisco 49ers at the end of the 2016 season.
And that brings us to Saturday, when Kaepernick is scheduled to go through a workout and interview session in Atlanta that may or may not be taken seriously by NFL teams, even though the NFL itself helped set it up.
Kaepernick, who has not conducted interviews since leaving the NFL, posted this tweet confirming the workout.
Thinly disguised publicity stunt by a league that recently settled a collusion case brought by Kaepernick? Legitimate opportunity for a once-hot commodity at the game’s most precious position?
Something in between?
It’s hard to know, because as with so many other situations, the NFL handled it in such a disjointed manner.
And that makes sense, considering that the NFL is about as good at avoiding PR mishaps as the Titanic was at avoiding blocks of ice.
For one thing, teams generally invite players to their facility on a Tuesday — the players’ day off during the regular season — for workouts and interviews. A Saturday workout means that no head coaches and likely no GMs will be in attendance. In other words, the REAL decision-makers in the NFL world.
For another, it is already Week 11 and therefore incredibly unlikely that Kaepernick could do much to help a team this season.
As of Thursday afternoon, 11 teams had confirmed they are sending a representative to the workout: Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, New York Giants, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Washington Redskins.
Kaepernick’s former teammate Eric Reid, now with the Carolina Panthers, expressed skepticism when asked about the workout this week.
“I’ll believe when I see it,” Reid told reporters. “Right now, it feels like a publicity stunt.”
Reid continued: “It’s disingenuous. They want the appearance of giving Colin a chance, but they give him two hours’ notice and tell him it has to be on a Saturday when they know decision-makers are traveling. So is this real? We’ll see.”
Still, if well-intentioned, the day does give Kaepernick a chance to show what he can do and teams a chance to feel him out.
Should a team sign him, he would have the remainder of this season to settle in and then could enter the offseason with an idea of where he stands.
The way the workout was set up and announced makes the NFL look about as wobbly as one of the passes journeyman Hoyer threw during the Indianapolis Colts’ home loss to the Miami Dolphins last Sunday.
But it could be the chance Kaepernick says he wants, and right now, it may be the last one he gets.
A former NFL front office executive spoke about the situation on the condition of anonymity because of ties he still has with the league.
“It’s one of the strangest things I can remember ever seeing,” he said. “It kind of puts Kaepernick in a no-win situation. If he does not go, people will say: ‘See, he does not want to play.’ But if he does go and performs well, what is the guarantee that anyone signs him given how late in the season it is? The only thing I can think of is the league did this as a way to give teams cover. They can gauge reaction and then make a decision based on what they see without going through the circus of bringing him in individually.”
OK, but will a team actually sign Kaepernick?
The executive: “I learned something a long time ago about this league: It only takes one. I could see that happening, yes.”
There are football reasons for a team to consider adding Kaepernick. Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens are tearing up the NFL using concepts Kaepernick ran while leading the 49ers to a pair of NFC championship game appearances and the 2013 Super Bowl, where he threw for over 302 yards, threw one touchdown pass, and ran for another in a loss to the Ravens.
Baltimore offensive coordinator Greg Roman was in the same role with Kaepernick and the 49ers for that run, and seeing the style work could convince some team to give Kaepernick another shot.
Kaepernick’s résumé certainly outshines those of many quarterbacks on rosters right now.
In 67 games, Kaepernick threw for 12,271 yards, 72 touchdowns against 30 interceptions, and rushed for 13 touchdowns. He holds NFL records for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game (181) and most rushing yards by a quarterback in a single postseason (264).
He has the 23rd-highest passer rating in NFL history (88.9).
In other words, he is better than the likes of Hoyer, Driskel, and Finley and the likes of Luke Falk and Matt Barkley, who also have seen live NFL action this season.
The manner in which Kaepernick chose to protest — taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem — was controversial. Also, it was a mistake to take the practice field with pigs on a pair of socks. It is important to remember that he broke no laws.
Never struck a woman. Did not abuse a child. Did not drive drunk. And did not get into a bar fight at 2 a.m.
Had Kaepernick engaged in any of these behaviors, he probably would have been back in the NFL two years ago. That, more than any other aspect of this entire story, makes the league look ridiculous.
Maybe, just maybe, Saturday is a chance for the NFL to do right by the man.
Because sports fans like to bet on anything, sportsbooks are taking bets on where Kaepernick may sign. BetOnline.ag placing the Cincinnati Bengals as 7/2 favorites.
But there are a few teams who make better sense:
-Patriots. Bill Belichick is one of the few coaches/managers on the planet who can do just about anything he wants. Six Super Bowl rings tend to buy a ton of room to operate.
Besides, a package of “Kaep plays” would give the “Hoodie” another toy to play with. And who knows? Should the Patriots see the Ravens come playoff time, they could give Baltimore a taste of its own medicine.
-Steelers: Like Belichick, Mike Tomlin has the juice to make such a move. Especially under the leadership of the Rooney family. The Steelers have always been among the more progressive organizations in the NFL. With Ben Roethlisberger injured, there is a need at quarterback.
-Bears. They blew it passing on Deshaun Watson AND Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 draft. Mitch Trubisky is having issues. Adding Kaepernick would throw a jolt of excitement into the NFL’s most boring offense.
-Lions: Matthew Stafford has a fractured back and may not be coming back any time soon. Driskel is the current starter. Enough said.
-Redskins: Washington, D.C. hasn’t possibly had enough talk about “collusion,” so why not really spice things up?
Sound funny? Well, NOTHING should surprise any of us when this all goes down over the weekend. “Uncharted waters” does not begin to describe the Colin Kaepernick story.
The bottom line is if Kaepernick can perform well during Saturday’s workout. If so, there is no reason for him not to be on an NFL roster by next week.
Do the right thing, NFL.