Let’s start with the obvious. Colin Kaepernick is a marginal starting quarterback and will never rediscover the form he showed when en route to the Super Bowl in early 2013. His increased interest in social activism has dovetailed with his decreased production, causing his market value to dip. He’s a divisive figure, engendering strong opinions. One of those is that he’s being blackballed — that he’s not being given a chance he deserves because of his beliefs.
What was once a fringe belief is moving closer to the mainstream as mediocre quarterback after mediocre quarterback finds employment while Kaepernick remains unsigned.
It’s a position I found hard to align with a few short weeks ago, before the NFL Draft finalized. But after the Arizona Cardinals signed Blaine Gabbert to a one-year deal Wednesday, it’s becoming more and more difficult to dismiss.
What is one supposed to think when Gabbert, a first-round draft pick who has never come close to looking like a first-round talent, is welcomed into the fold while Kaepernick’s phone remains silent?
Gabbert started five games for the San Francisco 49ers last year. Kaepernick started 11. The stats speak for themselves.
Gabbert: 91-for-160, 925 yards, 5 TDs, 6 INT, 60.3 QBP, 173 rushing yards
Kaepernick: 196-for-331, 2241 yards, 16 TDs, 4 INT, 55.2 QBP, 468 rushing yards
The two quarterbacks did yield similar results on the scoreboard. San Francisco went 1-4 with Gabbert and 1-10 with Kaepernick.
Again, let’s go back to the obvious. Kaepernick has more talent, a bigger upside and a more thorough body of work than Gabbert. Despite this, he can’t even get a shot at competing for the Cardinals backup job. He can’t get a shot to compete for any backup job. Granted, Gabbert signed for the league minimum and we don’t know Kaepernick’s contract demands.
What is most plausible: that every team with a quarterback need independently decided his social activism precludes him from getting an opportunity or that there’s some sort of coordination taking place?
Any explanation of Gabbert over Kaepernick involves a blindfold and fingers in ears. It requires suspending common sense and embarking on a journey of reverse-engineering.
Look, it’s possible Kaepernick’s heart isn’t into it anymore. It’s possible he’s asking for an unreasonable contract. It’s possible there’s an unreported obstacle keeping him from finding a job.
But it’s also possible that NFL brass refuse to keep their own politics out of football. It’s possible Kaepernick’s being punished for taking a stand, either vindictively or out of the desire to avoid controversy.
As time goes on, and the Blaine Gabberts add up, it’s becoming increasingly easy to believe the more devious option over the innocuous.