With many free agents having already found new teams ahead of the 2017 season, one player is conspicuous in his absence from any NFL roster: Colin Kaepernick.
The former San Fransisco 49ers quarterback remains unsigned, despite a solid – if unspectacular – 2016 season, and some will be starting to wonder if the quarterback, who led the 49ers all the way to the Super Bowl just a few years ago, will be signed ahead of the 2017 season.
Part of the problem for Kaepernick might be that, in recent years, he has made headlines more for his off the field actions than on-field play. The former 49er found himself in the midst of a veritable media storm last year after he took the decision to kneel during the American national anthem as a form of protest against police brutality and racial oppression.
While many will argue that his political views should have nothing to do with a team’s willingness to add him to their roster, at this point it seems all but undeniable that some GM’s view Kaepernick as a distraction, rather than potential asset, to their franchises.
Cleveland Browns Left Tackle Joe Thomas seemed to suggest as much in a recent Twitter post, and even the President of the United States has chimed in, appearing to share his delight that Kaepernick was struggling to find employment at a Louisville rally.
Whether fair or not, then, the quarterback has attracted a considerable amount of attention over the last year or so, and it is not hard to imagine NFL teams perceiving a player whose production has been up and down for years as too much of a risk.
That inconsistent level of production has also been touted by some as a reason for Kaepernick’s continued status of unemployment, but it’s hard to take those claims especially seriously when quarterbacks far inferior to the former 49er continue to get back-up jobs in the NFL.
So what exactly is going on?
Kyle Shanahan might be able to throw the situation into relief – the new San Fransisco 49ers head coach had some interesting and, perhaps unsurprisingly, entirely football related reasons for Colin Kaepernick’s current struggles to find a team. When asked why Kaepernick wouldn’t be a fit for his 49ers offence, Shanahan had the following to say:
“I think just the experience of doing that type of stuff, you don’t just run stuff and think you’re going to be good at it right away. You’ve got to commit to it and work at it year round, and it’s all the positions. When all your quarterbacks have different ways to be successful, which I’ve been in situations like that and you try to prepare them best, it does take a toll on your offense. What are you trying to get good at? You can’t practice everything. You can’t be great at everything. You’ve kind of got to commit to something and do it over and over and over again and once the type of running game or drop-back game, you’re going to commit to one quarterback is completely different than the other, then that does affect your team.”
Essentially, Shanahan is saying that it is desirable for teams to have a back up quarterback who can slot as seamlessly as possible into the offense, and with fewer and fewer NFL teams running the read-option in their offense (despite a brief renaissance largely thanks to Robert Griffin III, Russel Wilson and Colin Kaepernick), Kaepernick’s options as far as finding a team that matches his skill set is limited.
It is an interesting insight into the minds of NFL coaches and almost certainly has a part to play in Kaepernick’s unemployment; although whether he is truly out of work due to football reasons or his divisive role in the socio-policital landscape of the United States of America is most certainly open to debate.