Colin Kaepernick Succeeded

colin-kaepernick
Kaepernick was the starting quarterback for San Francisco in the Super Bowl back in 2013 against Baltimore. (Wikimedia Commons)

Like it or not, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick succeeded when he started taking a knee during the national anthem. He also shed some light on the NFL’s clear lack of a moral compass.

It has been almost two years since the start of the controversial protest. In that time, the meaning, message and significance of Kaepernick’s actions have become part of national news and debate. That alone means he has accomplished a lot.

Kaepernick has explicitly stated his protest is about police brutality and racial inequality, two major issues that face our country today. Regardless of which side of the conversation you stand on, you cannot deny that the conversation is happening.

Without trying to get too political here, I want to focus more on the overall impact of Kaepernick’s protest. It has raised awareness across the country about important issues. It is because of him that these conversations are being had. Washington Post writer Kent Babb quoted an NFL owner in September of 2017 as saying, “The thing that he’s done probably more effectively than any team community relations staff or owner or coach could do for other players is [point out] that they do have the ability to affect the national dialogue.”

National dialogue has certainly been impacted. A small group of players across the NFL joined in with the protest. Fans boycotted the league because it could not curb the behavior. The president tweeted about it regularly, attacking commissioner Roger Goodell for not stopping the behavior.

Several other NFL players formed the Players Coalition, working for social change. They credited Kaepernick for starting a movement. Back in May, that group partnered with the NFL to dedicate about $90 million to battling social inequality.

For Kaepernick, it is more than just a protest. In 2017, he donated $1 million to various charities across the country. Greg Bishop and Ben Baskin do an excellent job profiling the choices he made in making these contributions and break down where the money went.

Then of course there is the Nike ad. The fact that Nike was willing to take this risk says a lot about the state of the NFL right now. The league had no idea this campaign was coming and it is meant to inspire. It has sparked protest from those who view any association with Kaepernick as disrespectful to the military, but the message from the ad is actually quite inspiring, encouraging kids to chase their dreams.

Colin_Kaepernick
Kaepernick has thrown for 72 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in 69 career games. (Wikimedia Commons).

There are still drawbacks. The message is often times misconstrued and the debate can quickly turn into personal attacks of someone’s character. Many feel that Kaepernick is ignorant in his action, especially with the Nike ad slogan, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Perhaps that mantra is a little too on the nose when one of the main critiques of his protest is that it disrespects the military, people who genuinely sacrifice their lives for our freedom. In my opinion, Nike probably went a bit too far. Kaepernick sacrificed his NFL career for his protest, but the idea of “sacrificing everything” is better-suited to describe members of the armed forces.

At the same time, Kaepernick has sacrificed a lot of his own personal gains in order to continue this protest. Without the controversy that surrounds him, he would certainly be on an NFL roster, making several millions of dollars. And yes, he would be on an NFL roster if he had never knelled during the national anthem. Robert Griffin III is currently a member of the Baltimore Ravens. The last time the two of them played in the regular season, Kaepernick put up far better numbers, throwing 16 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions in 12 games. Griffin managed a meager two touchdowns and three interceptions in five appearances. Kaepernick also had more passing yards and rushing yards per game and the two had identical completion percentages. Simply stated, Kaep was the better player. Yet, it is RG3 who finds himself on an NFL roster.

Robert Griffin III
Griffin is currently the third quarterback on the Ravens’ roster.

I’m not saying Kaepernick should be starting anywhere, but he is good enough to be a backup quarterback. He has plenty of experience and was on a team that reached the Super Bowl in 2013. I mean Nathan Peterman has a job! That guy has thrown two touchdown and seven interceptions, and owns a career completion percentage of 43! The point is, Kaepernick would most certainly be on an NFL roster if not for the anthem protest.

You can dispute how much of a sacrifice this really is, but when you look at the number of NFL players that hold out or complain about not being paid enough money, Kaepernick is holding himself to a higher standard.

The fact he isn’t on a roster, but Mychal Kendricks has a roster spot is possibly the most disappointing part of this whole issue. Kendricks was indicted and charged with insider trading at the beginning of this month. He now faces 25 years in prison for his crimes. After the news broke regarding the charges, the Cleveland Browns released him. Just a few weeks later, he is now starting for the Seattle Seahawks.

Kendricks’ presence juxtaposed to Kaepernick’s absence illustrates the hypocrisy of the NFL. The fact that a convicted criminal is on a roster ahead of a man standing up for social change is disgusting. You might not like what Kaepernick kneels for or the message he is promoting, but he is not a criminal. He is acting upon a constitutional right to peacefully protest. The willingness of NFL owners to sign players who are criminals just reminds everyone the league is a business and willing to look the other way as long as the negative publicity does not effect the bottom line. It also underlines the reality that off-the-field issues can be over looked, though it continues to prevent Kaepernick from being in an NFL jersey.

Editor’s note: Since I first published this, there were signs that this controversy is no longer going to bar players from being in the league. Former 49ers safety Eric Reid signed with the Carolina Panthers on Thursday. Reid was the first player to join Kaepernick in taking a knee during the national anthem back in 2016. This does not solve everything, but it is progress. Reid, much like Kaepernick, deserves to be on an NFL roster.

People on both sides of the issue have been offended or hurt by the words spoken and actions taken. Unfortunately, that is often how change comes about. It requires patience and perseverance.

And Kaepernick has proven that he will be patient in his pursuit of change. Two years later, he still does not have an NFL contract. He rarely makes public appearances. He continues to embark on philanthropic missions.

Love him or hate him, Kaepernick has started a movement, he has sparked a conversation and he has forever changed how athletes will view their platform. On those grounds, his protest has definitely been a success.

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Good For Colin Kaepernick

Well, I’ve been away for a while (sorry Will), but I am back to talk about probably the most controversial issue in sports.

At some point, I knew I was going to have to weigh in on this one. He has quickly become the most polarizing person in America not named Donald Trump (cause no one is touching him in that category). He is making a difference and in many ways showing that there is still a lot of racism and social injustice in this country.

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Kaepernick has not played in a regular season game this season. (Wikimedia Commons)

His method hasn’t been perfect, but Colin Kaepernick is turning heads and igniting a conversation about social injustice in the United States. Not to mention that his jersey sales are through the roof. And rather than just pocket the gains, Kaepernick is pledging the proceeds to local communities.

In theory, Kaepernick shouldn’t be anything people pay attention to, but he has become the most polarizing player in the NFL since maybe Tim Tebow. Cops and military personnel around the country have been split on support or disdain for Kaepernick. San Francisco police unions even threatened to stop working 49er games.

Fan reaction overall has been very split. According to a survey of 1,100 NFL fans, Kaep was named the most disliked player in the league. However, his jersey sales led the league in the month of September. Kaep took the proceeds he received and donated it to local Bay Area communities.

Kaepernick definitely crossed the line a little bit with his choice of socks, but outside of that, I really feel that he has done nothing wrong. NFL players are not required, only encouraged, to stand during the national anthem.

All of us are familiar with the first amendment. Many of us cite it all the time as one of the greatest things about our country. It ensures that people like me can continue to pursue a career in journalism. Freedom of speech is an important thing in this country. People seem infuriated by Kaepernick doing one of the most American things possible. He is evoking his first amendment rights to spark a conversation about American society.

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A handful of Kaepernick’s teammates have joined him in the quiet protest. (Wikimedia Commons)

And Kaep has accomplished a lot of what he set out to do. He has started that conversation and it is being held by all of us across the country. Other sports leagues are taking notice. Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles was under the spotlight when he said that MLB players weren’t doing enough. Several NBA teams are joining arms in a sign of unity during the national anthem, similar to how the Seattle Seahawks did when they played the rival 49ers. Even soccer got in on the action as Megan Rapinoe started taking a knee during the nation anthem while playing for the U.S. Women’s National team.

Several times in history, sports have been an area where social and political protests start. This is no different than any other protest in history. I applaud Kaepernick for what he has done so far in starting this conversation. I think it is one that needs to be had.

I get that a lot of people are not happy with his actions. I know that September 11 is a day that hits home for all of us and that NFL players protesting on that day is bordering on insensitive, but isn’t it more insensitive if we don’t listen? This is no secret that our country has issues with the way that police and minorities interact. It might be nobody’s fault, but that does not mean that the problem should be ignored. Kaepernick found a way to start the conversation. Now it is our job to continue it.

Bradford wants out of Philly

The Eagles are shocked that after trading up for the second overall pick to take a quarterback, signing Chase Daniel to a reasonably large contract for his stature and failing to pay him, Sam Bradford would like to leave Philadelphia.

Sam Bradford
Bradford threw 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 2015.

Chip Kelly brought Bradford to the City of Brotherly love and now that Kelly is in San Francisco, the Eagles want to head in a different direction. Bradford is injury prone and did not have a great season last year. Yet for some reason they resigned him. Now he is demanding a trade.

For Bradford, this makes sense. He has no desire to be a back up or have a time clock set on how much longer he could stay with the team. He clearly doesn’t like the idea of having his replacement waiting in the wings. It doesn’t reflect very well on his personality, but you have to understand him wanting to skip town.

Let’s break down the teams that could try to negotiate a trade for Bradford.

New York Jets
Probability: High
Bradford is probably a step backwards from having Ryan Fitzpatrick, with the latter having played in the system last year and knowing the team, but Bradford would fill a need. If the Jets are unsuccessful in signing Fitzpatrick, trading for Bradford might be the next best option. Bradford would have the chance to compete with Geno Smith for the starting role. Bradford’s short contract also allows the Jets to move on from him fairly quickly. The likelihood is Bradford is no one’s long term solution at quarterback.

Chip_Kelly
The Eagles fired Kelly back in December.

San Francisco 49ers
Probability: Medium
Well, as I mentioned before, Bradford does have some ties to new San Francisco head coach Chip Kelly. The 49ers currently have a couple of quarterbacks on their roster, but rumor has it that Colin Kaepernick wants a change in scenery and Blaine Gabbert likely isn’t the quarterback San Francisco wants to invest its future in. Bringing in Bradford would give someone for Gabbert to compete with and allow the 49ers to move on from Kaepernick. Again, it does not solve the long term quarterback issue, but it certainly makes the present a bit better.

Denver Broncos
Probability: High

John Elway already traded for one Eagles quarterback this offseason, why not another? This trade probably won’t happen if only because Denver does not have the money or doesn’t want another Philly castoff, but from the standpoint of filling a need, it makes a lot of sense. Bradford could fit well into a run-heavy scheme and he would not be required to put up huge numbers with the defense he would have in Denver. The Broncos are a team that has a championship-caliber roster, minus the quarterback. Bradford might be just good enough to keep Denver’s hopes of repeating alive.

Drew_Brees
Brees’ cap hit for 2016 is $30 million, which is the largest of any player.

New Orleans Saints
Probability: Low
This one might sound a little bizarre, but hear me out. The Saints have Drew Brees under contract through this season and then he becomes a free agent. His cap figure is currently the highest in the NFL, so New Orleans would probably like to find a cheaper option. Enter Bradford in 2017. He spends a year on the bench, learning the system and the personnel before taking over as the starter. The Saints do have last year’s third round pick Garrett Grayson on the roster still, but if New Orleans isn’t sold on him, Bradford would be a good option. He would need to take a pay cut this year to make it work, but long term, this might be a good solution for Bradford.

Buffalo Bills
Probability: Low
These two teams already have a good relationship after working out a major deal last year to swap Kiko Alonso and LeSean McCoy. Maybe they will pull off another deal. No one is sure if Tyrod Taylor is the long term answer at quarterback. He and E.J Manuel are set to be free agents after next season. That could open the door again for a situation similar to what could happen in New Orleans. Bradford would be able to learn the system and compete with Taylor for the starting job. If he doesn’t get it, then he could take over the following season.

Who’s fault was it anyway?

Michael CrabtreeOverall, this was not a great offseason for the San Francisco 49ers. They are returning half of their starters on opening day a year ago. One of the starters that left was wide receiver Michael Crabtree. He left the Bay Area…wait no he actually stayed in the Bay Area and moved to the other side to join the Oakland Raiders.

The divorce wasn’t too ceremonious. Crabtree let it be known that he had no interest in returning to San Francisco. Now, he is taking shots at his former quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Crabtree was quoted saying, “I needed a quarterback that can deliver the ball, and that was hungry like I was.”

Colin_KaepernickThat is flat out harsh. Telling reporters that he didn’t get the ball enough and that Kap wasn’t motivated is some serious criticism. First, it makes Crabtree sound selfish. Second, how much more did he want the ball thrown his way? Kaepernick targeted Crabtree 108 times last season. That ranked him tied 34th in the league among receivers, which doesn’t seem like very much. Consider as well that Kaepernick also targeted Anquan Boldin 130 times as well, which has to make Crabtree feel like he is an afterthought.

However, you have to wonder maybe Kaepernick started to lose some confidence in Crabtree as the season wore on. Crabtree only managed to pick up 10.3 yards per reception last season, including 6.55 yards per catch over the last five games.

Anquan_BoldinMeanwhile, Boldin racked up 12.8 yards per catch over the course of the season. Also, throwing in Boldin’s direction was a much better decision for the 49ers as a team. On 108 targets last year, Crabtree picked up on 698 yards, for an average of 6.46 yards per target. Throwing Boldin’s way was much more productive. Boldin tallied 1062 yards on 130 targets, for an average of 8.17 yards per target. That might not seem like much but even if you were to target both receivers 10 times in one game, the difference would be 17 yards per game. Over the course of a 16-game season, the difference becomes 272 yards per season.

It’s no wonder Kaepernick stopped looking his way as the season continued. There were other reasons too. Both Boldin and Crabtree dropped seven balls over the course of 2014. However, their comparative drop rate was 5.3 percent for Boldin and 6.5 percent for Crabtree. Clearly, Boldin showed better hands and was less likely to drop the ball when it was thrown his way.

DSC_6852Crabtree is also delusional if he thinks that heading to Oakland will result in an immediate upgrade for him at quarterback. Kaepernick hasn’t been a Hall of Famer but he has definitely played better than Derek Carr. In 2014, Kaepernick had a better completion percentage, more passing yards, a better yards per attempt, fewer interceptions and considerably more rushing yards. Then looking deeper, Kaepernick finished the season with a Total QBR of 60.2, which was the 14th best mark in the league. On the other hand, Carr completed the year with a QBR of 38.2, better than only two other quarterbacks in the league. There is no chance that anyone is picking Derek Carr to lead a team over Colin Kaepernick this season. Maybe two years from now, sure. But right now? No chance.

I think Kaepernick has been about as effective as you could expect considering his lack of general surrounding talent. Honestly, based on last season showed us, it should be Kaepernick taking shots at Crabtree for being ineffective. Crabtree has no right complaining about the play of his quarterback until he starts playing like wide receiver he thinks he is.

Falling 49ers

San Francisco seemed to have a revelation on its hands two years ago. At this time in 2013, the 49ers were about a month removed from a Super Bowl loss to the Baltimore Ravens. However, it was the team’s first trip to the NFL Title game since Steve Young was under center back in 1994. The Niners seemed set for years to come with a young gunslinger with incredible speed running the show in Colin Kaepernick. He was supported by a dominant running game led by Frank Gore and had Pro Bowl caliber receivers in Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree. He had a top-tier offensive line in front of him as well. San Francisco’s defense ranked as the best in the business, with talent at all three levels. Fast forward these past two years to now and everything is falling apart. It is time for this Bay Area team to begin a rebuild.

The 49ers are seeing the foundation of the team crumble before their eyes. Aging running back Frank Gore is headed to Philadelphia. Michael Crabtree is searching for a new club to sign with. All-Pro guard Mike Iupati is entertaining other offers. Defensive stalwarts Justin Smith and Patrick Willis both announced their retirements. Oh and Jim Harbaugh is in Ann Arbor. This team is going through an extreme makeover right now and it will likely continue in the coming days as free agency opens. The 49ers have some major holes to fill and will not be able to in just one offseason.

Let’s start with Gore’s departure. The blow is lessened by his already declining play last year and the presence of Carlos Hyde but still this changes the dynamic of San Francisco’s running game. Neither Gore nor Hyde were transcendent in 2014 but together they formed a pretty good backfield tandem. Now Hyde is left to pick up the slack and it is unclear if he has what it takes to do that. Hyde is a downhill runner, much like Gore, who will drag a defender or two along with him but he is very limited as a pass catcher. Gore excelled in the pass game, meaning that the Niners will need to find a way to replace that element of their offense.

Crabtree’s imminent move out of San Francisco leaves the 49ers with very little talent at wideout. While he was not as productive this past seasons as he was in years past, Crabtree still provided Kaepernick with a big target. Boldin is still a good receiver, but as he will turn 35 this October, he is past his prime. The Niners have been searching for new talent at wide receiver for years now, adding players such as A.J. Jenkins, Brandon Lloyd and Quinton Patton in recent years, but none has turned into a solid contributor.

Iupati has been an integral part of San Francisco’s dominant ground attack in the past few seasons. If he leaves, the 49ers will be scrambling to find a replacement. Already, cracks have started to show in the offensive line, as they allowed the third highest number of sacks last season with 52. The two teams who allowed more are Jacksonville and Washington and the team that allowed the same amount was Tampa Bay. No, matter how you look at it, that is not good company to have.

For Smith and Willis, the impact will be felt fairly quickly but will not be as severe as many fear. This 49ers defense was outstanding last season ranking fifth overall in yards per game allowed and tenth in points conceded per game. Willis missed a lot of time last year due to injury and Smith saw his numbers slip. Their leadership will be sorely missed but San Francisco will recover well. Chris Borland is already in place to fill the void of Willis and with over $21 million in cap space, San Francisco could make a run at top defensive ends in free agency like Greg Hardy or B.J. Raji.

The 49ers have some work to do defensively but with most of the defense staying intact, offense will be the priority. The 49ers will still be competitive this year but look for the team to try to find new ways to utilize Kaepernick. They will also add a veteran running back, potentially C.J. Spiller or Ryan Matthews on short, “prove it” deals. The draft will be very important as the Niners are sure look to add a top end receiver and help along the offensive line. This team will still be competing for a playoff spot come December next season, but with how tough the NFC is, it will be a year or two before the cherry red and gold make it back to the postseason. Sure some rebuilding is needed, but much of the foundation can still stay the same.