Written by: Mike Engelhard
First off this is not a post to be political, but simply a post explaining the reasons why Kaepernick is not signed to an NFL team based on statistics. Despite a big push from fans and several athletes from various sports, including the NFL, Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned to any NFL season after the second week of Preseason play. Though many of these fans believe that the sole reason for this is due to his controversial kneeling during the National Anthem last season. However, let’s look at some of the statistics to see if Kaepernick really deserves a spot on an NFL roster in 2017.
There is no denying the rapid decline of Kaepernick’s on-field performance. In 2012 he stepped in for Alex Smith who suffered a concussion in the second quarter of the team’s 9th game that season. Kaepernick didn’t miss a step as that game ended in a tie and remained the starting quarterback for the remainder of the 2012 season which ended in a Super Bowl loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Was he the hero to save a faltering team and lead them to victory? Not exactly. While Kaepernick certainly deserves praise for his second half performance that year, the 49ers were likely heading in that direction regardless if it was Kaepernick or Smith at QB. Before his concussion, Smith led the team to a 6-2 start to the regular season and had led the 2011 team to a 13-3 record culminating in an NFC Championship loss to the soon-to-be Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. Kaepernick completed the back half of the 2012 season with a similar 5-2 record. Smith also had a league leading 70% completion percentage and was third in QB Rating at 104.1. He also had a respectable 13-5 TD to Interception ratio. Again, Kaepernick had comparatively good numbers, posting a 62.4 completion percentage, 98.2 QB Rating, and a 10-3 TD to Interception ratio.
2013 however is a different story. Coming off the heels of an upsetting defeat in the Super Bowl, Kaepernick was tasked with high expectations to bring the team back in his first full season as a starter. He did not falter one bit as he led the 49ers to a 12-4 season and for the third straight year the 49ers were competing in the NFC Championship game. However, 2 late interceptions by Kaepernick were too much for the team to overcome as they fell to the soon-to-be Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks.
Those late game interceptions were a sign of more trouble ahead for Kaepernick. 2014 was the beginning of the steady decline of the 49ers under Colin Kaepernick. For the first time under Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers did not make the playoffs as they posted an 8-8 record. That season Kaepernick posted a career low QB Rating, during a full season, of 86.4 dropping him to 20th in the league. He also posted career highs with 10 interceptions and 52 sacks. Following the season, Jim Harbaugh was let go by the 49ers and their struggles continued. 2015 was a nightmare for Kaepernick and the 49ers. Injuring his shoulder in Week 4, Kaepernick played four more games before getting surgery and missing the remainder of the season. Kaepernick left the 49ers with a paltry 2-6 record. Blaine Gabbert replaced Kaepernick and finished the season with a 3-5 record.
2016 began and Blaine Gabbert was chosen by Chip Kelly to be the starting QB for the beginning of the season. For the first 5 games of the season, Kaepernick’s talents on the field took a backseat as the media frenzy over his National Anthem protest ensued. His actions influenced several other NFL athletes as well as other athletes, fans, marching bands, etc. around the the country to do the same. He was all over the headlines despite not taking a single snap during the first five games of the regular season. Finally, after Gabbert started the season at 1-4, Chip Kelly made the move to start Kaepernick in Game 6. However, the switch did not help as Kaepernick posted a paltry 1-10 record to close out the season. After the season ended Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers to test the waters of Free Agency.
And that is how we got to the scenario we are in today.
Following up on his controversial off-field actions, Kaepernick underwhelmed in his performances on the field. He then opted out of his contract in hopes of finding a home with a new team. Unfortunately, as we now know, that was a big mistake. While fans threaten to boycott and players and analyst cry foul, here is the real issue with Kaepernick.
- His performance has slipped in past years.
Football athletes, just like other sports, are in high supply throughout the country yet the demand is relatively miniscule. In the NFL today there are between 3 and 4 Quarterbacks per team adding up to a total of just over 100 players across the league. As of the upcoming 2017 season, there are 129 Division I football programs in the United States. That means that every year there are 129 starting QBs in Division I college football who are fighting for their shot at making the NFL. With this quantity of athletes to choose from it is no surprise that players whose performances slip tend to leave the game.
There doesn’t seem to be any outrage about Reggie Bush or RG3 not being signed. Though some may argue that unlike Bush and RG3, Kaepernick only had one off season while the other two have had several injury reduced seasons leading up to their non-signings. What about DeAngelo Williams and Darrelle Revis then?
In 2015, DeAngelo Williams led the league with 11 rushing touchdowns and was top 10 in total rushing yards while only fumbling 4 times while playing the role of back up to Le’Veon Bell. With Bell healthy in the 2016 season, Williams did not get as much playing time, under 100 rushing attempts, but still managed to score 4 rushing touchdowns and 2 receiving touchdowns. He is still unsigned.
Darelle Revis, the 6 time Pro Bowl selection is yet to be signed to an NFL team for the 2017 season as well. Just a few years ago Revis was widely considered one of the top lockdown corners in the NFL. In 2014, while on the Patriots, he was selected as First Team All Pro by the Associated Press, Pro Football Writers, Pro Football Focus and Sporting News. In 2015 he intercepted 5 passes and recovered a career high 4 fumbles as a member of the Jets. In 2016, Revis didn’t put up any big numbers but still had a respectable season for the Jets. Yet his is also still unsigned going into 2017.
The point here is that players who were once great will go lose their position to a younger player. Some players walk away from the game on their own, while others are pushed out. The latter is the case for Colin Kaepernick.
2) Who can he help to be a better team?
At the end of the day, NFL is all about wins. Unlike other sports in which statistics play an important role, in the NFL if you don’t win then you are not wanted. It is most prevalent when you look at coaches like Jim Harbaugh or Brian Billick. To further prove the point Kaepernick was loved in 2012 and 2013 because he was a winner. But since the last quarter of the 2013 NFC Championship game, Kaepernick has become a loser in the eyes of football posting an awful 11-24 record. So, who can he help to win now?
The argument has been made that Kaepernick is better than some starting QBs. According to the depth charts on ourlads.com I have looked into the starting QBs for each team. What I have found is that there are 4 starting QBs that Kaepernick is arguably better than. Those four QBs are: Jared Goff, Josh McCown, Tom Savage, and Blake Bortles. I am sure there are others you could conceivably argue also, but let’s talk about these 4 right now.
Jared Goff of the Rams had a rough first season in the NFL with a 63.6 QB Rating and 5-7 TD to Interception ratio. However, the Rams are not willing to give up on the first overall pick in the 2016 draft just yet. At the age of 22, Goff had a tough task ahead of him from the start coming into a Rams organization that has not had a winning season since Kurt Warner was on the team in 2003. Right now the Rams are hoping that Goff can shake off those rookie jitters and turn things around this season.
Josh McCown of the Jets is coming off of two mediocre seasons as a backup QB for the Cleveland Browns. In his limited role in Cleveland these past two seasons he threw 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while completing 60% of his passes. The Veteran McCown was primarily brought into the Jets organization this year to provide guidance to their second round draft pick, Christian Hackenberg, as he matures into an NFL quarterback. With the controversy surrounding Kaepernick and with him being just 29 himself, this is not a role in which he is able to fill.
Tom Savage of the Texans has only played in 5 games in his first two years in the NFL. However, now that Brian Hoyer and Brock Osweiler both left the team, the starting role is left to Savage. Though his numbers aren’t too bad for someone with as little experience as Savage, it is expected that his starting role will be temporary as the Texans look to phase in their first round draft pick, Deshaun Watson.
Then we come to Blake Bortles who has been struggling mightily this preseason and had a tough season in 2016. Though the number of sacks he takes is troubling to any coach, it is a little easier to ignore when he is putting up close to 4000 passing yards per year. The 25 year old is not worth giving up on yet with the monster numbers he has posted in his first 3 seasons. Need more convincing? Take a look at Drew Brees’ first 2 seasons in the NFL and that was with LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield. Who has Bortles had to hand off to when his receivers are in double coverage every play? TJ Yeldon?
So, there really isn’t a starting role out there for someone of Kaepernick’s abilities. So let’s talk about back ups and what it all comes down to.
3) Money, Money, Money
Is Colin Kaepernick better than many of the backup quarterbacks in the NFL today? Arguably, yes. But there is one key difference between Kaepernick and the backup quarterbacks throughout the NFL and that is the salary.
According to spotrac.com Colin Kaepernick had a Salary Hit of $16.7million. To put that into perspective, that ranked him as the 16th highest among QBs. In 2017, there are a total of 22 quarterbacks being paid more than $10million for the year. For Kaepernick, this would mean a 40% pay cut. However, that is still the salary of a starting quarterback, but we already discussed that Kaepernick would be a back up. The highest paid backup quarterback, before the signing of Jay Cutler, is Drew Stanton of the Cardinals at $4.1million. For Kaepernick to accept this offer he would be taking a substantial 75% pay cut.
Does anybody think that Kaepernick is willing to take such a drastic pay cut in order to play the game of football? Think what you will, but I do not see that happening anytime soon. So, unless the NFL teams decide to pay up or Kaepernick decides to take a huge pay cut, then it is looking like Kaepernick will be watching the NFL from his couch this season.
As for Jay Cutler, that is another issue. Seems like the Dolphins panicked after Tannehill went down and are not quite ready to rely solely on the inconsistency of Matt Moore. With that being said, maybe another team will have a similar situation in which case Kaepernick could get signed without taking as big of a pay cut.