The most simplistic aspect of the Colin Kaepernick debate rages on



Imagine if every failed job interviewee received a notice specifically detailing the reasons for the rejection. Instead of generically stating, “The selected candidate was more qualified,” a company might say: Your salary requirements were too high. We don’t think your communication skills were strong. Your posture didn’t convey leadership. We really wanted a white male. Or all of the above. What the truth serum method might lack in comfort would make up for with clarity.

The chances of Pete Carroll and the Seahawks disclosing their feelings about Colin Kaepernick — whom they reportedly are not signing after meeting with him last week — are as slim as Russell Wilson turning into an atheist. Like the rest of corporate America, Seattle has no obligation to share this information. Yet in this instance, it would sure help wade through the web of Kaepernick narratives that are as varied as they are intense. Kaepernick can play. No he can’t. His mere presence will cause a fan revolt. His presence will inspire teammates. If your Mad Lib reads, “Kaepernick is a [noun],” someone somewhere has already uttered your filled in choice.

A few days ago, after my latest tweet lobbying for Kaepernick to find a landing spot, an NFC assistant coach responded with some dissenting analysis.

“People should go watch the 49ers and Bears last year and see how 7 [Kaepernick] couldn’t complete a pass in the weather,” the coach texted “He can’t play QB at a high level, go watch any game. He is not an NFL QB and everyone who watches the film knows that.“

I then asked if it’s really possible to reconcile interception machine Ryan Fitzpatrick landing on an NFL roster while Kaepernick is jobless. The coach’s response, “Fitzpatrick can run any offense and at least function in the pocket…7 can’t even drop back and throw a 10 yard out.”

This coach’s sentiment echo those of some national NFL media members who believe Kaepernick’s skills have long diminished. The MMQB’s Albert Breer recently tweeted that Kaepernick is not a “starting caliber quarterback.”

But on the same day I received the coach’s text, ex-49ers defensive coordinator Eric Mangini, appearing on PFT Live, vouched for Kaepernick’s ability and specifically identified the Browns and Hue Jackson’s offense as a good match. Jim Harbaugh, the coach who drafted Kaepernick and made him a star, has consistently offered his strong endorsement. Once a bitter rival, Seahawks corner Richard Sherman recently said he thought Kaepernick was as good as 20 starting quarterbacks in the league.

A more detailed analysis came from Bleacher Report’s tape expert Doug Farrar, who parsed through Kaepernick’s entire 2016 film and concluded that Kaepernick deserves another shot, at least as a backup. Farrar’s analysis: Kaepernick had some mechanical issues but made better decisions in the pocket and showed more accurate deep passes later in the season. In another words, there was tangible growth, despite the perception that the six-year veteran has plateaued.

The disagreement about Kaepernick’s on-field prowess, of course, pales in comparison to the other layers. You know, the kneeling. Many, myself included, believe he’s been unfairly blackballed. It’s pretty hard to shake a report that at least one team is worried about backlash in the form of vulgar tweets from the President, or that no team has met with him since the end of the 2016 season except the Seahawks. Then there’s Giants owner John Mara, of harboring know abuser Josh Brown fame, declaring that he’s never received more emotional mail than about Kap, an inference that signing him would be bad for business.

Mara is correct that a mass of people view Kaepernick as “Unamerican” for what they deem as disrespecting the military. But others, just as passionately, view Kaepernick as a generational hero for demonstrating his rights, leading a movement and becoming a tireless activist and benefactor to social causes. The argument that Kap would be toxic in the locker room seems to hold little water, given that Kaepernick was named “Most Inspirational” by his teammates teammates last season. The concern about Kap creating a media circus in whichever town he comes is equally absurd. Those in New England (Deflategate), Philly (Vick), and Dallas (everything) seem to handle these things just fine. The league literally holds an annual event — Super Bowl week’s Media Night — just to ingratiate the circus

Would a Kaepernick signing cause fans to boycott? Would they relish buying his jersey? The fact that the answer to both is probably an emphatic YES on confirms what we already know: Kaepernick is the most polarizing figure in NFL history. But the fact that we can’t even agree on whether or not the dude can still play football illustrates how detached from logic The Kaepernick Saga has become.

So can he play? Here’s another take: 

I have eyes and watched every 49ers game last season. The NFC coach is right in that Kaepernick had one of the worst games of his career in Chicago — he was literally incapable of completing a pass that day. But through the malaise of losses the old Kaepernick peeked through at times, like when he rushed for 113 yards against the Dolphins or led the 49ers to a come from behind win against the Rams. That San Francisco’s 2016 roster was by far the worst in football makes Kaepernick’s respectable stats all the more impressive.

Colin Kaepernick leads the 49ers to a come from behind win over the Rams.

The mere fact that this is even an argument is the point. No one argues whether or not Ryan Fitzpatrick can still play. He can’t. They don’t debate whether Blaine Gabbert is starting material. He’s not. Mark Sanchez? C’mon.

System quarterbacks are like manna for NFL GMs, and, sure you can’t just pluck Kaepernick into any old system. But when you consider backup quarterbacks (and yes, at this point given the market, we need to talk about him in those terms), shouldn’t you want the player who gives you the best chance to win? A player who’s thrived in high pressure situations? A player who’s not just a less talented version of your starting quarterback, most of whom aren’t exactly getting their Canton busts ready. Kyle Shanahan had one of those “system quarterbacks” in Houston and Washington. His name is Rex Grossman and when he entered a game the fans knew they had to brace for a loss.

To me this feels like a no brainer, that it’s insane no team would take a flier on Kaepernick. I don’t get it.

If the Seahawks really don’t think Kaepernick is a good fit to backup Russell Wilson or the other 31 teams who lost his number think he’s too much of a distraction, it would be really helpful to unequivocally share that information.

The truth may be infuriating but perhaps not as much as the status quo.


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Melissa Jacobs

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