As someone who doesn’t build NFL rosters for a living, I was not going to be so arrogant as to proclaim I knew conclusively why Colin Kaepernick wasn’t getting signed by an NFL team this offseason. Perhaps his unique skillset made him tough as a backup because you had to build an offense around him, which is an idea I heard floating around. Maybe his game really had dropped off so much he wasn’t worth a flyer, as some experts seemed eager to point out. Maybe his salary demands made it impossible to bring him in, which is something else I read.
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Even when Josh McCown and Mark Sanchez (!) got new deals, I was willing to at least entertain the notion that Kaepernick was being passed over for a legitimate football reason. I didn’t believe it, but I wasn’t willing to say conclusively that the only reason Kaepernick was being passed over was for his peaceful anthem protest last season.
But with an NFL.com report that the New Orleans Saints are interested in Johnny Manziel, I’m willing to now say it conclusively: The only reason Kaepernick is being passed over is for his peaceful anthem protest last season.
Before we get to Kaepernick, let’s briefly address this Manziel report, which first came from NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. This is such a catastrophically bad idea that it almost seems silly writing about it. Manziel, the former Browns quarterback, has admitted to numerous problems with substance abuse issues and spent the last year of his life in a partying whirlwind broken up irregularly with vague promises to do better. He’s still facing action from the league for violating its behavior policies.
And you want to put him in New Orleans? I lived in New Orleans for most of my early twenties, and love the city dearly to this day, but can say with complete confidence: New Orleans is not the place that a 24-year-old Johnny Manziel is going to buckle down, find a new focus and thrive. It’s just not the place for that. To live in New Orleans, you need a strong willpower, a good work ethic and an ability to know how to have fun without overdoing it.
None of those things sounds at all like our dear friend Mr. Manziel.
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It’s setting him up for failure by putting him there. I’m hoping cooler heads will prevail, and this is just a report, but jeesh.
More important to the topic at hand: Come on. NFL teams cannot expect me to take them seriously when they say that Johnny Manziel could be considered for a job as a professional quarterback in New Orleans but Kaepernick, who is just 29 and has had, you know, success in the NFL, could not be worth a backup role. Especially in a league that has backup QB spots for such luminaries as Zac Dysert, Brett Hundley, Scott Tolzien (in his seventh NFL season!) and 33-year-old Brandon Weeden.
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The lie is too obvious here. These teams and reporters can make all the excuses they want. They can say it’s about football. They can say it’s about system or scheme or whatever. But it’s so clear at this point that it’s not that it’s becoming laughable. Teams should just be honest: We don’t want this guy because he offended some people with a protest and we all just don't want to deal with it.
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And yes, Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the anthem. Again, this was peaceful. He didn’t impinge on anyone else’s right to live. If offended people wanted to shut their eyes, they could (and did). He attacked no one, caused no disruption of peace, and did so to raise awareness about the deaths of members of his community.
On top of that, Kaepernick says he’s not even going to do it anymore. But his protest, which had a real impact – we’re still talking about it – has apparently offended so many sensibilities in this league they’d rather entertain the thought of plopping Johnny Manziel in New Orleans than give Kaepernick a spot as a backup. So be honest, NFL: This isn’t about finding the best player for the best situation. It never was.