What Are They Smokin’?: The Kaepernick Conundrum

Welcome to “What Are They Smokin’?” a semi-weekly column questioning sports stars and those within the sports world over their latest, ahem, antics.

It happens every off-season.

With free agency screeching to a sudden halt, and the draft mere weeks away, the NFL needs storylines to talk about in the interim.

At first, it seemed inevitable that the off-season headlines would revolve around Tony Romo and his presumed divorce with the Cowboys. But after Romo shocked the football world by choosing a cozy TV job over the rigors of the NFL, the media needs someone else to discuss.

…except for the guy they’ve been talking about since he took a knee during the National Anthem of a meaningless preseason game. That man, of course, is Colin Kaepernick, and his job status—or lack thereof.

For weeks now, many have said that Kap—the same QB who led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance in 2013—is being blackballed by the NFL for his protest.

But that’s just not the case. There are multiple reasons why Kap is unemployed, and even more reasons why he SHOULD have a job. We’ve ranked them here on this week’s What Are They Smokin’?

Why Kap Is Unemployed

Kap’s Vegan Diet is a Red Flag

According to NBC Sports Bay Area, people around the league are concerned about Kaepernick’s vegan diet. Of all the excuses why Kap isn’t on a team, this is by far the most absurd.

Before injuries and Father Time caught up with him, Arian Foster was a premier running back in the league while maintaining a vegan diet. And Tom Brady, who hasn’t eaten anything that tastes good since he was in college, performs pretty well on his strict eating regimen.

What’s more, the Sacramento Bee reported that Kap is back to his playing weight, despite that “pesky” vegan diet of his.

His protest

Whether you support his stance or not, Kaepernick started a much-needed conversation that transcended the barriers of football. But now that his message has been heard, the former 49ers QB said he will no longer be kneeling during the National Anthem—assuming he’s on a team next season.

His price tag is too high

Life comes at you fast in the NFL. In 2014, Kap signed a massive six-year deal worth up to $126 million. Now the QB is looking for any deal he can get his hands on in the free-agent market.

According to ESPN, Kap’s asking price is reportedly between $9 and $10 million, which would make him one of the highest-paid backups in the NFL. While people are complaining that Josh McCown and Matt Barkley are being signed, look at their deals compared to what Kaepernick is asking for.

Why Kap Should Have a Job

He’s a better teammate

One of the major knocks on Kap as a teammate is that he isolates himself, and he’s not a leader. That all changed when he made his protest. By all accounts, Kap’s actions have opened him up as a teammate, and allowed him to connect with people he previously would have ignored.

Not only did his 49ers teammates rally behind him in the locker room, they were also vocally supportive of the QB all year.

He’s improving, slightly

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Kap is a top 10 QB. Has Kap improved? Yeah. Is he a signal caller who will make players better and can lead a team to a Super Bowl? Meh, probably not.

But there are only a handful of passers in the league who do possess that talent.

Kaepernick has proven that with a solid team around him, he can make plays in the clutch. He’s also improved in the pocket. Kap took less sacks last year and showed improvement in his touch passing, pocket awareness and progressions reads.

Kap was always a development project. And now he’s entered the phase of his career where he’s a high-end backup.

Have you seen the QBs who do have jobs in the NFL?

Being a backup QB is a pretty sweet job. You get paid handsomely and, depending who the starter is, you barely play.

Look around the league. There is a plethora of QBs who are absolutely terrible—we’re looking at you, Ryan Nassib and Scott Tolzien—who shouldn’t be employed.

Are you telling me that Kap isn’t better than at least 75 percent of the backup QBs in the NFL?
There’s no doubt that Kaepernick’s legacy will be bigger than football. He just needs to decide if his heart remains in the NFL.

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