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The quarterback, the President and the Divided States of America

There are very few footballing reasons Colin Kaepernick should be unemployed and yet, five years after a Super Bowl appearance, he is.

Source: PA/The42

The quarterback

GIVEN THEIR FUTURE Hall of Fame status, it should come as no surprise that Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady have two of the three lowest interception percentages in NFL history.

Packers quarterback Rodgers throws an interception on just 1.5% of his passes, while Brady (who has played four more seasons) gives the ball away on 1.8% of his throws.

What may surprise you is that Colin Kaepernick also has an interception rate of just 1.8%, making him one of the safest quarterbacks in NFL history.

If you don’t understand how important not throwing the ball to the other team is in football, a 10-year study by Harvard University found that teams who lost the turnover battle in a game by just one, lost 69.6% of the time.

Those who lost by two came out on the losing side 83.9% of the time and so on.

It’s quite simple, protecting the football is almost as important for quarterbacks as finding the end zone.

Rams 49ers Football Colin Kaepernick during his protest last season. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Which begs the question, why is Kaepernick — just five years removed from leading the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance — currently unable to find a job in the NFL when the following deals have already been signed this off-season:

  • New York Jets – Josh McCown – aged 37 – $6 million guaranteed – one-year deal
  • Chicago Bears – Mike Glennon – has played just eight games in three seasons – $45 million – three-year deal
  • San Francisco 49ers – Brian Hoyer – has recorded 30 turnovers in 49 career games – $10 million guaranteed – two-year deal

I mean, even Geno Smith got a job this spring.

Source: NFL Gamepass

In total, Kaepernick has thrown 72 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions in his career; and rushed for 2,300 yards in 58 starts.

That includes a career-best 6.8 yards per run this past season, while on the second worst team in the NFL.

Indeed, his performances last season even prompted this headline on SB Nation:

While that may have been overly optimistic, there are still plenty who believe Kaepernick has a lot to offer.

“I think he’s an outstanding player and I think he’s a great competitor who has proven it in games and has the ability to be not only an NFL starter but a great NFL player,” former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh told PFT Live this week.

One argument as to why Kaepernick is still looking for a job is that he’s a run-first quarterback in a league where only a limited number of teams run that offence.

Therefore, the theory goes, if a team was to bring him in as a back-up, they’d have to completely change the way they play if he took to the field.

That makes some sense until you realise that the Dallas Cowboys resigned the much-less talented Kellen Moore this off-season, making him the lone left-handed quarterback in the NFL.

Having a left-handed quarterback means a complete change in protection schemes from the offensive line, the way receivers run routes, etc, and is just as disruptive — if not more so — as having a quarterback whose first instinct is to run the football.

Instead, the truth behind the 29-year-old’s current unemployment is probably to be found off the field.

The President

Trump Governors Donald Trump is claiming credit for Kaepernick's job search. Source: Evan Vucci/PA Images

As much as some teams and fans will try and convince you that Kaepernick’s fruitless job search is related exclusively to ‘football matters’ — the sporting equivalent to ‘all lives matter’ — the simple fact is that no other job-seeking quarterback this off-season has had the president of the United States comment on his unemployment.

Not just comment on it, revel in it.

Last Monday, as he continued his seemingly never-ending campaign for a job he already has, Trump went as far as taking credit for keeping Kaepernick out of a job.

“Our inner cities will find a rebirth of hope, safety and opportunity,” Trump said before, inexplicably, bringing up Kaepernick’s free agency.

“Your San Francisco quarterback, I’m sure nobody ever heard of him.”

It was reported that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump.”

“Do you believe that? I just saw that. I just saw that.”

Trump’s enjoyment of the situation was clear and was based on an article by Mike Freeman on Bleacher Report which quoted an NFL general manager as saying that one of the reasons why the quarterback’s free agency has been difficult so far is that some teams feared political backlash or Trump’s tweets.

But as much as Trump would like to take all the credit, the unnamed GM said it was Kaepernick’s police brutality protest last season — when he took a knee during the playing of the US national anthems at games — that meant some owners felt he was “toxic”.

He said:

“The rest genuinely hate him and can’t stand what he did (kneeling for the national anthem). They want nothing to do with him. They won’t move on. They think showing no interest is a form of punishment. I think some teams also want to use Kaepernick as a cautionary tale to stop other players in the future from doing what he did.”

It’s worth remembering that this is the same league where a team’s idea of punishing a player who choked his pregnant girlfriend before punching her in the stomach is to draft him a little bit later than normal rather than letting him go without a job.

The Divided States of America

OH: March4Trump Rally in Colombus America is a nation divided. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Never mind that Colin Kaepernick donated $50,000 out of his own pocket to Meals on Wheels when Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts would see the service — which feeds 2.5 million senior citizens in the US — terminated.

He engaged in a peaceful protest so he must be punished.

Never mind that Colin Kaepernick donated a further $50,000 to help ship hunger relief supplies to Somalia when the US government’s foreign aid to the famine and drought-struck African nation amounts to just $123,143 for the year to date.

He engaged in a peaceful protest about the extra-judicial deaths of unarmed black Americans so he must be punished.

Never mind that Kaepernick has said he won’t continue his anthem protest as it has done its job by sparking a nationwide — worldwide even — conversation about social inequality.

He engaged in a peaceful protest so it’s okay for people like legendary coach Mike Ditka to say Kaepernick should “get the hell out of America.”

At this juncture, it’s worth pointing out — if it wasn’t obvious — that most NFL teams are owned by rich white men. Rich white men love Donald Trump (see Tom Brady, et al) and he won in states where 19 of the 32 NFL teams are based.

Now imagine you’re a billionaire owner of an NFL team. After buying yourself a nice yacht, house and car, you have a chat with your general manager and he tells you that your quarterback is getting on in years and you need to sign a back-up as cover so he suggests Kaepernick.

Even in your ivory tower, you realise that the United States of America is at its most divided politically in a long time. Do you really want to split your fan base for the sake of an average quarterback when you can sign a below-average one with no public political views instead?

The obvious answer here is that you should leave Kaepernick on the dole. But, like most NFL owners, you’d be wrong.

Seattle at San Francisco Will we see Kaepernick back on the field this season? Source: TNS/ABACA

When people say Kaepernick is “not a great quarterback”, that has to be put into perspective; there are less than 40 people in the world who can do his job better than him.

If you had a brain tumour and I told you that you could be operated on by the 35th best brain surgeon in the world or the 58th, would you choose the latter if you found out the former engaged in a peaceful protest about something close to his heart even if it’s not close to yours?

And, sure, we’d all like someone in the top 10 or 20 but you’re not getting an appointment with those guys and even the surgeons in the 20-30 range are booked up or out of your price range.

Unless the tumour has affected your ability to think properly, going with the 35th best makes obvious sense.

Legacy

While their interception rate might be the same, we all know that Colin Kapernick is no Tom Brady; but should he have to be to have a social conscience?

The answer, of course, is that he shouldn’t, but the reality is that it would probably help.

When Muhammed Ali refused to go to war in Vietnam — a move that white middle America also saw as treasonous — he lost the ability to fight for almost four years and nearly ended up in jail.

History has judged Ali’s detractors in the late 1960s harshly, while the boxer was widely lauded for his social conscience both before and after his death.

How, one wonders, will our grandchildren feel about the quarterback who couldn’t get a job because he took a knee to protest the unlawful deaths of unarmed citizens?

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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