The former 49er is still without a job after his protest – but many teams already have good quarterbacks. Then there are those whose stance makes no sense at all
The Buffalo Bills signed someone called Keith Wenning on Monday. If you know that name, you are either Keith Wennings parents and you should be very proud of your son or you are Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane, and you should be ashamed of what youve done.
Wenning, a journeyman quarterback who has now joined his fourth team in the four seasons since he was drafted by Baltimore in the sixth round in 2014, has never actually journeyed far enough to make it on to the field in a real NFL game. He has yet to throw a regular-season pass for the Ravens, Bengals (2015) or Giants (2016) and, if things go Buffalos way, Wenning will never throw one in a Bills uniform either. (Note: since things never go Buffalos way, dont be surprised if Wenning gets a lot of playing time there.)
Beane made the signing because starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor and his backup, TJ Yates, both suffered concussions in the teams pre-season game on Saturday, leaving the Bills lacking at the sports most important position for approximately the 20th year in a row. And so the Bills surveyed the QB free agent landscape and signed former Ball State starter Keith Wenning.
As is now the custom when any quarterback job opens up, or it seems even when a quarterback throws an incompletion, half the internet sat up and exclaimed WHAT ABOUT COLIN KAEPERNICK. By signing Wenning a quarterback objectively much worse at playing quarterback than the still jobless Kaepernick, the Bills are now grouped as in on the alleged league-wide collusion to keep Kaepernick unemployed.
But all quarterback situations are not equal. Five and a half years ago, when Peyton Manning was available as a free-agent quarterback, even he did not generate serious interest outside of a handful of teams. Overtures were reportedly made by Miami, Arizona, Washington, Seattle, Tennessee and the New York Jets before he signed with Denver. But approximately two-thirds of the NFL had zero interest in the future Hall of Famer. No one protested, even though many teams with far worse players at the position names such as Christian Ponder, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Schaub, Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel never courted the QB.
So if Manning wasnt desired by every NFL team, then it cant be said that absolutely every job Kaepernick hasnt landed is due solely to reasons of racism, politics and collusion. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is an unabashed supporter of Donald Trump the president who openly threatened owners with negative attention if they signed Kaepernick but he also legitimately has zero football use for the guy, considering his roster already has a quarterback-of-the-now in Tom Brady and of-the-future in Jimmy Garoppolo. So as difficult as it is to give Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft the benefit of the doubt on anything, theyre in the clear on Kaepernick, at least.
Then there are other jobs that came open in which Kaepernick seemed a suitable option, but teams went elsewhere due to system fits. When Ryan Tannehill re-injured his knee earlier this month, head coach Adam Gase reached out to Jay Cutler a debatably better quarterback than Kaepernick but one who knew the coach from their time together in Chicago. Kaepernick has a higher upside than Cutler, but Gase picking the familiarity of Cutler is understandable, if perhaps not advisable.
But even if you argue Cutler is better than Kaepernick as a quarterback or at least his equal, there are still 11 current starting QBs in the league who are objectively worse than Kaepernick: Josh McCown of the Jets; Ryan Mallett of the Ravens (filling in for an injured Joe Flacco); DeShone Kizer of the Browns; Tom Savage of the Texans; Blake Bortles of the Jaguars; Trevor Siemian of the Broncos; Mike Glennon of the Bears; Jared Goff of the Rams; Brian Hoyer of the 49ers; Scott Tolzien of the Colts (filling in for the injured Andrew Luck); and Nathan Peterman of the Bills (filling in for Taylor and Yates and currently higher on the depth chart than Wenning).
Forgetting all the teams on which he would be a massive upgrade as a backup quarterback Pittsburgh, which has Super Bowl aspirations, yet will give the ball to Landry Jones if/when Ben Roethlisberger suffers his annual injury; or Dallas, where Jerry Jones employs Ezekiel Elliott and employed Greg Hardy, but has Kellen Moore as Dak Prescotts backup Kaepernick is currently better than a third of the starting QBs in the league. One-third! And even when Flacco, Luck and Taylor return, Kaepernick will still be better than a quarter of the starters. Still, he cant get a job in a league that supposedly only cares about winning and, to prove it, regularly hands jobs to men with dubious histories such as Hardy, Adrian Peterson and Richie Incognito.
Yet at risk of painting with too broad of a brush, even some of those 11 teams have legitimate excuses for not improving at the quarterback position by signing Kaepernick. The Jets, for example. They are openly tanking the 2017 season, so why bring in a QB who could help them win some games, thereby missing out on a top draft pick next spring? The Browns have turned their team over to a rookie quarterback in Kizer, and the Bears have one waiting in the wings in No1 overall pick Mitch Trubisky. And while the Texans could likely win more now with Kaepernick than Tom Savage, DeShaun Watson is waiting to move up to starter in the next few seasons.
That whittles the list down to seven teams with flimsy reasons for starting QBs worse than Kaepernick: Baltimore, Buffalo, Denver, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, the LA Rams and San Francisco. But in an effort to be as magnanimous as possible, San Francisco gets a pass because Kaepernick chose to opt out of his contract there although he did so because the 49ers were going to release him. The Rams get a very generous pass, too, because even though Kaepernick is better than Goff, Sean Mannion and Dan Orlovsky combined, Goff is only a year removed from being the No 1 overall pick and LA wants to give him the opportunity to sink or swim.
Lets give the Bills a pass, too, because Tyrod Taylor should be back from concussion soon and Wenning again, with apologies to his undoubtedly proud parents is likely just roster filler until then. And while Kaepernick showed he could quarterback a team with a stout defense to a Super Bowl in 2012, a service he could provide to the Denver Broncos, Denver undoubtedly hoped Paxton Lynch would have made the leap by this year and didnt have free agent QBs on their radar.
So now we are down to three teams: the Jaguars, Colts and Ravens. And their excuse for not signing Kaepernick is well, absolutely no good excuse at all.
Andrew Luck has not thrown a pass since January with the regular season almost upon us. And so Indianapolis will likely open the season with the quarterbacking zero that is Tolzien at the controls, while team owner Jim Irsay has tried to ignore the Kaepernick question. One has to wonder if Irsay would sign Kaepernick if the QB had ever been arrested and charged with four felonies, like someone the Colts owner knows quite well.
Then there are the Jaguars, forever in need of a quarterback and Kaepernick would be their best since at least David Garrard a decade ago. A week ago Blake Bortles was reportedly in line to get cut, and team owner Shad Kahn, who donated $1m to Trumps inaugural committee, even told a local radio station that he would absolutely be OK with Kaepernick coming aboard if that was the recommendation of Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone. But then nothing came of it and, after a mediocre performance by Bortles in Jacksonvilles most recent pres-eason game or a good performance by his standard Marrone named Bortles the starter for week one. Somewhere between last week and now, the Jaguars front office decided they would rather lose than sign Colin Kaepernick.
Finally, the Ravens a team that fancies itself a contender, even though Joe Flacco has yet to throw a pass in training camp and the season starts in a week and a half. Head coach John Harbaugh and GM Ozzie Newsome reportedly want Kaepernick, but team owner Steve Bisciotti who in the past publicly supported Ray Rice and built a statue of Ray Lewis refused. And so the Ravens will open the season with Mallett at quarterback, who will play horribly and lose, but play horribly and lose after standing for the national anthem. Congrats, Ravens!
Not every NFL team is actively blackballing Colin Kaepernick. But even in bending over backwards to give teams the benefit of the doubt an Olympian task considering the NFLs track record there is also no case to be made that some teams arent. There are three cities in which Kaepernick can, and should, be starting in right now. Those teams are punishing Kaepernick for his decision to protest. Soon the standings will punish those teams for their decision not to sign him.