It’s still 24 days until the NFL pre-season officially starts, but some of us can hardly wait. The rosters have been pretty much set for a while now, though some last minute changes always happen. One person who hasn’t been attending practice with any of the teams is Colin Kaepernick. Amazingly (at least in the minds of some) he still hasn’t been offered a job as a quarterback, either starting or warming the bench. Scott Ostler at the San Francisco Chronicle recently wrote about Kaepernick’s woes, kicking off his musings with the conclusion that Colin is simply lousy at groveling.
Actually, Oslter wrote a very sympathetic column about the unemployed quarterback, but at one point he does wonder if perhaps Colin might be faring better if he could at least make it look like he was serious about landing a job.
[49ers’ new general manager John] Lynch told Kaepernick that he should sit down for a public interview, “because he makes a compelling case as to how bad he wants to be in the league when you talk to him … and I think that would help him.”
Well-intended advice, no doubt, and reasonable. If a lot of football people doubt Kaepernick’s full commitment to the game, maybe he should make an impassioned appeal to those people who hire quarterbacks. I love the game. I promise to work hard. I just want a chance. I’ll even stand up for the national anthem!
I don’t know why Kaepernick doesn’t take this advice, but I have a hunch: He doesn’t want to be the first man required to take the Good Boy Pledge in order to get an NFL job.
On the one hand I can kind of see where Oslter is coming from here. He points out that several other equally (if not more) mediocre QBs have landed jobs during this off-season without having to make any sort of public claim about how they’ll promise to take the role seriously. But there’s one other point to consider when making this claim… none of them really gave us a reason to wonder.
Kaepernick remains something of a pariah because of all of the negative attention he drew to his team over his National Anthem hijinks. That doesn’t sell well in the heartland, particularly in the NFL’s core demographic. As I’ve written here in the past, players can get away with a certain amount of negative press, but the amount the team owners are willing to tolerate is directly proportional to the star caliber power that the player brings to the table and the likelihood that they will get them to the Super Bowl. And Colin simply wasn’t delivering very far up that scale.
But there’s more to it than that. I think the fans (as well as the owners) are expecting a bit more humility out of their gridiron heroes. After all, these players are the ones who qualified for what is essentially a pipe dream job for most of the people in the country. They certainly had to have superlative talent to beat out the tens of thousands of others competing for the same positions, but once you make it onto a team you have still been given a remarkable opportunity beyond the dreams of most of us. Starting with your first day on the job, even if you are going to do nothing but warm the bench all year, you get a salary higher than that of most lawyers, doctors or even the President of the United States. (The league minimum for rookies this year is $465K.) Heck, you can be assigned to the practice squad and never see a minute of play in an actual game (or even suit up for one) and still bring in almost $7K per week.
But it’s even more than that. You’re in the NFL. And you have a chance to become a hero. A legend. A giant who will live in the nation’s collective memory beyond the span of your years.
In return for that I think most of us expect a bit of humility and proper behavior. Kaepernick just didn’t deliver on that score. And in the off season things haven’t changed much. You may have heard about his Independence Day vacation to Ghana where he had some interesting comments to make about the Fourth of July.
If Kaepernick now needs a PR campaign in order to get a football job, he took a step in the wrong direction last week when he visited Ghana, in search of his “personal independence,” and tweeted a Fourth of July message: “How can we truly celebrate independence on a day that intentionally robbed our ancestors of theirs?”
Here we go again.
Here we go again indeed. I’m not saying that there won’t be an injury in the early part of the season leaving one of the teams in dire enough straits to give Kaepernick a call. But it would probably take something of that magnitude. Otherwise, what team really wants to put up with the hassle? And is that what the fans want?