The Trouble with Colin Kaepernick

Five seasons ago, Colin Kaepernick was a blown personal foul penalty away from leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl title. During his playoff run, he set an NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback in any game. After the following season he signed an extension worth $54 million guaranteed. Despite struggling under two coaches who would only last a season each, he still threw for 16 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions on a team bad enough to secure the #2 pick in the draft.

And today he can’t find a job.

Of course, you already know that. And you probably know that Kaepernick is good enough to be one of between 64 ad 96 quarterbacks employed by an NFL team. And you definitely know that Kaepernick being out of a job has absolutely nothing to do with how well he plays on the football field.

But instead of launching into the stupidity of why Kaepernick can’t find a job or debating the appalling nature of how he’s being treated by the League and its member teams, I’m instead going to participate in a little experiment.

Last week, I listened to local sports talk personality Mike Valenti lament the stupidity of the Jacksonville Jaguars opening their quarterback competition between Blake Bortles and Chad Henne, instead of handing it over to either of the outright. Obviously, Valenti pointed out that it was asinine that the Jaguars would start the season with either of these 2 as their starting QB, and insisted that they were idiots for not calling Kaepernick. But, for reasons I’ll get to later, it’s not nearly that simple.

So I’m going to examine every team’s quarterback situation and determine whether or not they should bring in Kaepernick and examine just how deep his so-called blackballing goes.

AFC East
Buffalo Bills – Tyrod Taylor, TJ Yates, Nathan Peterman. None of these have ever done anything in the NFL and Taylor is so inept as a QB that the team benched him rather than risking injury and triggering his contract to become guaranteed. Kaepernick’s an upgrade over any of them.

Miami Dolphins – Matt Moore, Retired Jay Cutler, Brandon Doughty, David Fales. The Dolphins’ QB position opened up when Ryan Tannehill blew out his knee in the preseason, but one could argue that Kaepernick would be an upgrade over him as well. Logically he’d be a perfect fit here, but then we look at the political situation. Kap once did a press conference in a Fidel Castro t-shirt and compared his regime to those in the U.S. (I never argued that Kaepernick was the smartest knife in the block). And in the city with the nation’s largest concentration of Cuban exiles, that’s a non-starter. No go in Miami.

New England Patriots – Tom Brady, Jimmy Garopolo, Jacoy Brissett. Not even worth discussing, and easy no.

New York Jets – Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg. Unless the Jets are playing for the #1 pick in 2018 (which is entirely possible), Kaepernick could sign 5 minutes before kickoff and be the starter for this embarrassing franchise.

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett, Thaddeus Lewis, Josh Woodrum. It’s widely believed that when Flacco went down with an injury that would keep him out for a week during the preseason, Ravens owner Steve Biscotti nixed any chances of signing Kaepernick over ticket sales concerns. But while Mallett sucks, he’s definitely more in line with Flacco’s style of play and if Flacco goes down the Ravens are probably screwed anyway. No point in rocking the boat when Flacco will be back for the regular season.

Cincinnati Bengals – Andy Dalton, AJ McCarron, Jeff Driskel. Established starter, similarly styled backup, so no need here.

Cleveland Browns – Brock Osweiler, DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan. Kizer is likely the Browns’ designated QB of the Future for 2017, but Kaepernick plays with a similar style and could be a good mentor (as much as a guy everyone thinks is a cancer can be a mentor). He’d definitely make sense in Cleveland.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs, Bart Houston. They’ve got a future HOF’er as their starter and Kaepernick isn’t the same style QB. Pittsburgh’s set.

AFC South
Houston Texans – Tom Savage, Deshaun Watson, Brandon Weeden. In this putrid division Houston has gone to the playoffs with Savage, Brock Osweiler and TJ Yates. Kaepernick could come in and do the same and provide a stop-gap before Watson takes over for the next decade.

Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck, Scott Tolzien, Stephen Morris, Philip Walker. Assuming Luck is healthy (the new version of “Assuming Matthew Stafford is healthy”), they’re set for years, and they’re probably doomed if he’s not. No point here.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Blake Bortles, Chad Henne, Brandon Allen.  Considering a conversation about this team’s QB situation inspired this post, this seems like a no-brainer. However, I once read an anecdote that Jacksonville is so racist that when David Garrard was the QB the team was practically forced to sign two black quarterbacks to back him up for fear of fan backlash that the white guy wasn’t starting. In a world where Tim Tebow is a free agent and also the walking messiah in northern Florida, Kaepernick wouldn’t stand a chance here.

Tennessee Titans – Marcus Mariota, Matt Cassel, Alex Tanney, Tyler Ferguson. Mariota isn’t going anywhere, and there’s a solid argument to be made that Kaepernick is a better QB than Cassel. With a similar playing style and Mariota’s tendency to get hurt, Kaepernick could be a good backup option here.

AFC West
Denver Broncos – Trevor Simian, Paxton Lynch, Kyle Sloter, Chad Kelly. With the exception of Kelly, who’s only known because he’s Jim Kelly’s nephew and a total asshole off the field, all of these guys are anonymous nobodies (redundant?) who have done nothing. Kaepernick could fit here.

Kansas City Chiefs – Alex Smith, Patrick Mahomes, Tyler Bray, Joel Stave. Kaepernick has already beaten Smith in a QB situation and has a similar playing style to Mahomes, who the Chiefs took in the first round this year. If Mahomes isn’t going to play this year, I’d take Kaepernick over Smith, and if he is, Kaepernick would be a capable backup and mentor.

Los Angeles Chargers – Philip Rivers, Kellen Clemens, Cardale Jones, Mike Bercovici. I could see Jones as the eventual heir apparent to Rivers, and the playing styles aren’t particularly similar. No fit here.

Oakland Raiders – Derek Carr, EJ Manuel, Connor Cook. As a Michigan State grad, I’m supposed to stand up for Connor Cook, but the guy sucks and was a well-known asshole who could very easily wear out his welcome wherever he goes. Derek Carr might’ve been MVP last season if he hadn’t gotten hurt, so he’s not going anywhere. Kaepernick might be a good fit in a couple of years when the Raiders move to Vegas where he’s from, but no dice this year.

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys – Dak Prescott, Kellen Moore, Cooper Rush, Luke McCown. Prescott isn’t going anywhere, but Moore isn’t much of a runner and Kaepernick would allow an easy transition if Prescott were to get hurt. Plus, Jerrah loves him some controversy and would sign Hitler if he could run for 1500 yards. Not only is Kaepernick a decent fit for Dallas, I’m borderline floored that he hasn’t signed there yet.

New York Giants – Eli Manning, Josh Johnson, Geno Smith, Davis Webb. Just as a little aside, it’s amazing where Eli Manning ranks on the all-time passing lists (8th in passing yards, 7th in touchdowns, completions, and attempts, etc.). He’s been a joke for his entire career and he’s a definite first-ballot Hall of Famer. As for the Giants, I’m amazed that Johnson and Smith are still in the League, and they’re in the same mold as Kaepernick. Of course, their owner is the guy who signed a kicker whose wife had called the police on him over 20 times and complained that he’d gotten more calls about not signing Kaepernick than any player ever. He would make sense here as a player, but because their owner’s a douche, he won’t.

Philadelphia Eagles – Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Matt McGloin, Dane Evans. Wentz was the #2 pick in the NFL draft and barring a Teddy Bridgewater type injury he’s not going anywhere for a while. All of his backups are in a similar mold as Wentz, so Kaepernick doesn’t make sense here.

Washington Redskins – Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy, Nate Sudfeld. I’ll be damned, Colt McCoy is still in the League! I’m absolutely stunned. Anyhow, you’d have to think that someone who’s as dedicated to social justice as Kaepernick is wouldn’t sign with the team with the most racist name in sports, so this one’s a pretty simple no.

NFC North
Chicago Bears – Mike Glennon, Mark Sanchez, Mitch Trubisky, Connor Shaw. The Bears made arguably the biggest free agent signing of the offseason, then made the dumbest draft day trade in history to take another QB. And then, just for good measure, they signed the immortal Butt Fumble! So, no, I’d say Kaepernick doesn’t fit here.

Detroit Lions – Matthew Stafford, Jake Rudock, Bye Felicia Kaaya. Stafford’s not likely to go anywhere and half of Detroit wants Rudock to take over yesterday. Kaepernick would not go over well in this town.

Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers, Brett Hundley, Joe Callahan, Taysom Hill. Who has ever heard of any of Rodgers’s backups? And I mean this year, Matt Flynn doesn’t count ever since the Lions turned him into an immortal. So no, I’d say Kaepernick doesn’t fit here.

Minnesota Vikings – Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, Taylor Henickie, Mitch Leidner. Obviously Teddy Bridgewater was the QB of the future until he had to have his leg reconnected. Kaepernick has done more than any of these QB’s in their career, so I’d bring him in. It would make the ridiculous draft bounty they gave up for Bradford look pretty stupid, though.

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Matt Simms, Alex Torgersen. Seriously? The Falcons have 3 QB’s named “Matt” on the roster. Was that intentional? Not that it really matters, but Ryan won the MVP last year and the backups are similarly styled, so no Kaepernick here.

Carolina Panthers – Cam Newton, Derek Anderson, Joe Webb, Garrett Gilbert. Kaepernick is essentially Cam Newton Lite, and Newton’s bound to have his brain scrambled by one of the 47 hits to the head that the refs don’t penalize this season. Carolina probably makes more sense than any other team for Kaepernick.

New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees, Chase Daniel, Garrett Grayson, Ryan Nassib. The Saints seem to like undersized QB’s who took their schools to unexpected bowl games. Kaepernick doesn’t seem to fit that particular mold, or the Saints’ system for that matter, so no.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin, Sefo Liufau. The Bucs clearly like rapists (sorry, “accused” rapists) as opposed to guys who stand up for injustice, so I’d say he doesn’t make a ton of sense here. Then again he and Winston have a similar style, so let’s go with yes.

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals – Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert, Trevor Knight. I’m actually floored any of these guys are still in the League, although obviously Palmer is in a different category than the other 3. Palmer probably has a year or two left, but Stanton has a playing style similar to Kaepernick and isn’t nearly as good. By those standards I might bring him in, but probably better to leave well enough alone.

Los Angeles Rams – Jared Goff, Sean Mannion, Dan Orlovsky. Goff may well suck, but he was the #1 pick in the draft last season so he’ll be around for a while. All 3 QB’s are similar styles, and Kaepernick isn’t the best fit, so no go here.

San Francisco 49ers – Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley, CJ Beathard, Nick Mullens. As someone who’s watched Michigan State for over 20 years, I have no idea how Brian Hoyer ever took a snap in the NFL, let alone lasted 8 seasons. Kaepernick is better than any of these guys with his eyes closed. I have no clue why he opted out of his contract, but he shouldn’t have.

Seattle Seahawks – Russell Wilson, Trevone Boykin, Austin Davis. Seattle’s the only team that even brought in Kaepernick for a tryout. Then they signed Austin Davis, and if you said you know where he went to college, you’re a liar (Southern Miss, by the way). After the defense supposedly shit all over Russell Wilson I can actually understand why the Seahawks didn’t sign Kaepernick – the last thing Pete Carroll needs after a Wilson interception is Richard Sherman screaming in his ear to put in Kaepernick. So I’ll say it makes sense that Seattle passed.

So by my count, I see 12 teams where Kaepernick could fit, 15 where he doesn’t, and 5 (Miami, Jacksonville, Washington, NY Giants, and Seattle) where political issues interfere. Twelve teams, several of whom have signed domestic abusers and players who can’t pass a drug test, won’t make their team better because he chooses to protest the injustices in this country.

There’s much to be said about Colin Kaepernick’s protest. Personally, I’ve got no problem with it, although I think Kaepernick’s hurt his cause by wearing socks showing police dressed as pigs and a Fidel Castro t-shirt and proclaiming that he wouldn’t vote because it didn’t matter who won, which is absurd. And obviously the people who disagree with Kaepernick’s protest have as much right to their opinion as I do.

But you’ve got to admit that when you look at the ease with which guys like Ray Lewis, Michael Vick, Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, Josh Brown, Pacman Jones, and Leonard Little found jobs after far more appalling behavior, it’s hard to argue that the NFL has its priorities in order.

Fixing the NFL

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It’s Thanksgiving weekend and that means food, family and football (and perhaps shopping for the truly psychotic). Of course, I didn’t start this blog to discuss food or family, and I damn sure didn’t start it to talk about shopping. So today we’re going to look the disaster that is the NFL and figure out how we can improve it.

(You will notice I’m posting this the weekend between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl.  I’d like to pretend that’s because I’m timing this perfectly when we need some football in our lives, but really I’m just that lazy.)

Now, before we begin, let’s discuss the 2 elephants in the room: the concussion disaster and the relatively recent hazing mess in Miami that’s become all the rage. Now, almost anyone who knows me I fall somewhere close to the bleeding heart point on the political spectrum, so they’d probably expect me to say the NFL should start playing flag football and anyone found to haze a player should be banned permanently. Not so.

See, I understand that the NFL is an entirely different beast from pretty much any other profession on earth. If these things were happening at a Wall Street brokerage…ok, bad example. If this were happening at a public accounting firm or a newspaper, the employees would be fired on site. But the NFL thrives on violence and manliness, and to pretend that you can just turn that off once you hit the locker room is lunacy. At the risk of sounding like a, “Durrr…foobaw” cretin jackass, football comes with a certain amount of collateral damage. Countless dead players, Michael Vick’s dogs, Jovan Belcher’s girlfriend, Aaron Hernandez’s victim(s)…sadly, this is the price we pay for being entertained on Sunday afternoons.

And sure, when a game starts to rack up a body count, people in today’s world tend to think that the game won’t be the same in 20 years. Here’s the problem: no one has stopped watching. Super Bowl ratings break records every year. Every week the NFL’s games are the highest rated in the country by millions. A Monday Night Football game between two of the worst teams in the league barely lost the ratings battle to a World Series game. And the first blackout of the year didn’t take place until Week 13.

So we have to accept the premise that until someone dies on the field – and I’m not talking about Junior Seau killing himself because of repeated head trauma but rather something along the lines of Ray Chapman – the game isn’t going anywhere. With that in mind, here are my thoughts on how to make the game more enjoyable/less stupid.

The Kicking Game

Field goals are boring. Punts are boring. That said, to some extent they’re necessary at certain points. But we’re going to de-emphasize them.

Field Goals: There’s nothing that drives me crazier than a team getting first and goal on the 5 only to see the drive stall and them taking the guaranteed 3 points. And they will take the points, because football coaches are pussies who won’t get fired because they kicked a field goal instead of going for it on fourth and 2. The problem is that field goal kickers (well, other than David Akers) have become ridiculously accurate with legs that can kick a ball 70 yards on the fly, so a field goal isn’t as much of a risk as it was in the ’70s and ’80s.

So we’re de-emphasizing the field goal at a certain point. Or rather changing their value. It doesn’t make sense that a field goal from 50 yards out is worth the same as a field goal from 20 yards out. Here’s how it works:

  • Any kick inside the 20 (basically, you’re giving up inside the 3-yard line): 1 point
  • Kicks between the 20-30: 2 points
  • Kicks from the 30-45: 3 points
  • Kicks from beyond the 45-yard-line: 4 points

Also, any missed field goals from beyond the 45-yard-line will see the ball spotted at the original line of scrimmage, not the spot of the missed kick.

Fun, huh?

Extra Points: Since 2011, kickers have missed 18 extra points.  Out of 3,709.  That’s a 99.5% success rate.  That, my friends, is pointless to watch. So we’re getting rid of them. Touchdowns are worth 7 points. If you want to go for the 2-point conversion, you take the point off the board and you go for 2. It’s a little clumsy, but I’m tired of watching something so automatic. There’s no challenge in it.

(Note: I started writing this post over the Thanksgiving weekend in 2013.  In January 2014 Roger came out and suggested a plan practically identical to the one suggested above.  You’ll have to take my word for that one.  The lesson: if I wasn’t so damn lazy, I’d have grounds to sue the NFL.)

Punting: No problems with punting, but it’s the easy play. Also, fans don’t pay to watch punters. One small alteration to be made: no punting if the offense has passed into the defense’s territory. If a coach wants to waste two downs to get behind the 50-yard-line so he can punt the ball away, that’s his right. But I’d rather see him try for one of those cool 4-point field goals.

Goalposts: Raise them at least 10 feet. I’m tired of hearing Adam Carolla whine every time a kicker kicks the ball over the top of one of the goalposts. It happens several times a year.

By the way, it should come as no surprise that I hate defense.

Penalties

Automatic First Down: Third down, 17 to go, cornerback holds the wide receiver 7 yards past the line of scrimmage, pass falls incomplete, ref calls the hold, 5 yard penalty, automatic first down. Stupid. Let the penalty yardage determine first down. The only exception is personal fouls, which are called because they could cause bodily harm, in which case you get the fifteen yards and the first down.

Offsetting Penalties: Imagine a play where the defense gets called for a 5-yard defensive hold, but the left guard holds a guy 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage. By rule those are offsetting penalties and the down is replayed. This is asinine. Somehow the NFL has decided that a 5-yard penalty and a 10-yard penalty are worth the same if they happen on the same play. On the play in question, apply the 10-yard penalty (which is actually a 13-yard penalty because of where the hold took place) and then walk off the 5-yard defensive hold. One team doesn’t get bailed out because the other team committed a lesser penalty.

Celebration/Taunting: I don’t watch football for sportsmanship, I watch it to watch outstanding physical specimens compete at the highest level.  I don’t give a damn if a guy gives a Riverdance performance after scoring a touchdown or gives a throat slash gesture after sealing the game winning interception.  It’s an amped up game played by physical monsters sweating adrenaline and testosterone.  Let them celebrate without repercussions.

Instant Replay

Number of Challenges: Under current rules, every coach gets two challenges per game. If he gets them both right, he gets a third. If he gets only one of the two challenges correct, he loses his potential third challenge. This essentially penalizes the team for the referees’ mistake. Change the rules so that incorrect challenges are tied to timeouts. If you have 3 timeouts left, you get 3 incorrect challenges (since the penalty for an incorrect timeout is the team losing a timeout). If that means the officiating crew has 8 calls overturned during the game, so be it. I want the calls right, and I don’t care how long it takes. Challenges are not so time-consuming that they justify allowing the wrong call to stand. Plus we just shaved a bunch of time getting rid of extra points, so we’ve got time to make up.

End Zone Challenges: All touchdown calls are automatically reviewed. You know what aren’t automatically reviewed? Questionable end zone calls that aren’t called touchdowns. This is not an insignificant distinction. A few years back, the Lions (after using their two challenges, one of which was a correct challenge, if my memory serves) had a touchdown ruled an incomplete pass. Had the call been ruled a touchdown, it would’ve been reviewed. It was ruled incomplete, the call was not reviewed, and since the Lions had no challenges remaining, the call stood. They settled for a field goal, lost by 4, and dropped from the 5th to the 6th seed in the playoffs.

(I’m not bitter.)

Anything questionable in the end zone should be automatically reviewed. Period. It should not matter if the play is called a touchdown or an incompletion.

Plays Subject to Review: A pretty substantial amount of plays in the NFL are reviewable. That’s not enough. Everything should be subject to review. Penalties are relatively objective (although not always), and can turn the tide of a game. If a coach wants to spend a challenge because he thinks a pass interference call should be overturned, he should have that right.

Playoffs/Scheduling

Divisions: This is perhaps my most controversial proposal.  We’re ditching conferences for reasons that will be explained shortly.  As such, we no longer need an AFC North and NFC North.  We’re renaming the divisions to celebrate the history of the NFL:

  • AFC East: Mara Division
  • AFC North: Halas Division
  • AFC South: Thorpe Division
  • AFC West: Rozelle Division
  • NFC East: Rooney Division
  • NFC North: Brown Division
  • NFC South: Davis Division
  • NFC West: Hunt Division

You’ll notice that these names have no correlation with any of the teams in that given division.  There’s a reason for that.  There are historical figures big enough to name a division after in every division except the NFC and AFC South.  As such, these 8 names were assigned to divisions they had no relationship with.  Owners of AFC teams were assigned to NFC divisions and vice versa, with as much effort being used to keep them in their geographical region as possible.

Scheduling: Minimal and optional changes.  As it stands, teams play 2 games against their division rivals (6 games), a game against every team in another division in their conference (4) a game against every team in a division in the other conference (4) and 2 games against the teams in their conference that finished in the same position record-wise the previous year.  This can remain the same, either recalling the traditional conferences or with the other seven divisions rotating where applicable.

Calendar: The final games of the regular season will always be played the last weekend of December, with the playoffs being played in January/February.  There will be no regular season games played in January.  This hasn’t been a major issue historically, but we’re putting it into the calendar permanently.

Playoff Expansion: It’s already been suggested that the league expand the playoffs to 14 teams.  I’m adopting that, although for somewhat different reasons.  When the NFL restructured their  divisions to go from 6 5-team divisions to 8 4-team divisions, they eliminated 2 Wild Card teams.  Adding the seventh teams in each conference remedies that issue.

Playoff Seeding: As I said earlier, we’re eliminating the Conferences and seeding the teams 1-14 based on record, and record alone.  Division winners get no preference because they played in a bad division.  If a the Packers win the Brown Division at 8-7-1 while the 49ers are a 12-4 Wild Card team, the 49ers get the higher seed and the potential home game.  The first tiebreaker will be head-to-head, the second tiebreaker will be division winners, and then the typical tiebreakers apply.  If 3 teams are 12-4, and 2 are division winners, the Wild Card gets the lowest seed.  Teams are reseeded after every round as they are now.  If this means we wind up with a Seahawks-49ers Super Bowl, so be it (and having seen their game last week, I think we’d all be better for it).

(Ideally here is the point where I’d list out the seedings as they would have been this season had these rules been in effect, but I’m too lazy to figure out the tiebreakers.)

There are other things in the NFL that can be fixed.  Their overtime rules are generally stupid.  There are ways to get the benefit of an 18-game season without actually going to an 18-game season (stretching it out to 19 weeks seems like the ideal fix, but I haven’t figured that out yet).  The players are screwed by not getting guaranteed money.  And the concussion situation needs to be fixed, but that’s beyond my comprehension.  But while some of my suggestions are ridiculous and will never be implemented, other things make a ton of sense and would make the game more fun.