After all, the Seattle Seahawks appeared to offer Kaepernick his best hope for ending his job search. An open-minded organization in an open-minded part of the country with an offense engineered around a mobile quarterback, Seattle kicked the tires on Kaepernick late last month and said they liked what they saw. “He’s a starter in this league,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
Well, at this point it means something big is going to have to change in order for Kaepernick to find a job. An injury or some other unforeseen calamity will have to upset some team’s quarterback situation enough to change its mind on giving him a chance — even to be a backup.
It’s June now. Teams are finishing OTAs and heading into mandatory minicamps, which represent the final activity before training camps begin in July. That means offseason rosters are basically set, and the only team that’s even had Kaepernick in its building gave a roster spot to Austin Davis instead.
New York Giants owner John Mara last week gave voice to the presumed (but previously unspoken) reason many teams have shied away, when he told The MMQB he’d never received more or angrier messages from fans than he did at the height of the Kaepernick national anthem controversy last season. While not saying that’s why he didn’t sign Kaepernick, Mara made the point that teams are aware of the emotions that come attached to Kaepernick. It was easy to infer from his remarks that — fairly or unfairly — any team signing Kaepernick would risk angering a segment of its fan base. And teams don’t like to do that.
Which is why at least 31 quarterbacks whose 55.2 Total QBR in 2016 was lower than that of Kaepernick — who ranked an uninspiring 23rd in that category — are on NFL rosters right now and he’s not. That number doesn’t count Austin Davis, who in five NFL seasons has 13 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions but who didn’t take a snap in 2016. It does count the likes of Mark Sanchez, Nick Foles, Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick. It does not count Blaine Gabbert, who ranked a couple of spots ahead of Kaepernick on that list but also lost his job with the 49ers to Kaepernick midseason.
Carroll’s assertion that Kaepernick is a starter in the NFL might not hold up under an honest assessment of the once-brilliant quarterback’s performance over the past couple of seasons, but it’s undeniable that Kaepernick has more to offer than many of the quarterbacks who will report to NFL training camps next month. And while his protest of the anthem was peaceful and harmless and even respectful once he amended it upon consultation with members of the military, it was something the league hadn’t seen before, and it stirred fan anger to a unique extent that alarms NFL team owners.
Which means, for Kaepernick to find a job at this point, some team’s desperation is going to have to overcome its trepidation. It means that not every organization would consider him even if things did get desperate. It means there’s no way to predict when or where this saga ends, and that Kaepernick continues to sit on the sideline instead of getting to a minicamp and getting the coaching his career needs to help it get back on track.
In a league that grants high-profile second chances to drunk drivers, domestic abusers and performance-enhancing drug users, Kaepernick can’t get one. And it’s clear that his anthem protest — alarming in unprecedented ways to team owners — is a major reason. At this point, something big and out of his control is going to have to happen for that to change.