It has never been clearer that there’s a seismic difference between saying you stand for something (or someone, in this case) and actively doing something about it.
The league-wide discussions regarding Colin Kaepernick have gotten exhausting, and we’ve gotten to the point where all the words of support ring hollow. There’s an endless supply of admiration for the quarterback taking a stand and appreciation for his bravery to protest against police brutality and racial injustice.
There finally seems to be a common acknowledgement that Kaepernick has been unfairly unemployed since 2016, but all 32 teams continue to hide behind the boilerplate of: “We think Kap deserves a job, it just doesn’t make football sense for us.”
Enough of this empty merry-go-round. It’s time to recognize just how disingenuous the conversation has become.
Pete Carroll has spoken at length about Kaepernick in the last few weeks. On his Flying Coach podcast, he notably said that we all owe Kap “a tremendous amount.”
What do we owe him? Respect? Sure, that’s an easy-but-mostly-empty concession. What Kap is really owed is a job from a league that has recently admitted guilt for not listening to its players when protests began back in 2016. Kaepernick has been blacklisted from the NFL since as each team continues this unspoken stand-off, hoping that someone else will be the one to take action.
The Seahawks assume just as much blame as any of them.
Carroll was asked relentlessly about Kaepernick again on Thursday during a Zoom call with local reporters. There was a lot to unpack in his statements, but the coach’s story is wishy-washy at best and a fabrication at worst.
To remind you: the Seahawks brought Kaepernick in for an official visit and workout during the 2017 offseason. The two sides spoke again in the 2018 offseason. No offer ever materialized in either instance.
Still, Carroll gushed about Kaepernick on Thursday.
“We all held him in great regard,” Carroll said. “We coached against him in championship games and watched him go to the Super Bowl and he beat us and we beat him. I think we knew Kap as well as anybody could have known a player.”
And the visit in 2017 seemingly couldn’t have gone better.
“We spent half a day together,” Carroll said. “He spent time with our people throughout the building – almost a full day. He was awesome. He just backed up even more of the play that we’d seen and the character and his smarts and his togetherness and his competitiveness to the point where it was so obvious that he’s a starter in the NFL. … He was a dominant figure in the NFL and that’s how we saw him.”
And yet, no offer…
“Man, as a backup, I didn’t feel like it was right at that time,” Carroll said. “I had to make that football decision.
“The reason it wasn’t the right fit was because we held him in such high regard. I didn’t see him as a backup quarterback. I didn’t want to put him in that situation with Russ. It just didn’t feel like it would fit right.”
Now, let’s pause for a moment. The foundation of Carroll’s program is competition. Every spot, barring a few, obviously, is always up for grabs. There’s an emphasis on having the best players possible for all 53 spots on the roster.
But Carroll wants us to believe that the Seahawks didn’t sign Kaepernick because… he was too good? There’s no logic in that, especially when considering the pillars of Carroll’s program.
So you think Kaepernick was still a starting-caliber QB. Fine. But there’s no way Carroll was so naïve to have believed that teams would be lining up to sign Kaepernick as a potential starter given the uproar his protests caused in 2016.
Why wouldn’t you jump at the chance to sign a quarterback you clearly covet in order to give yourself an incredible insurance policy on Russell Wilson? Even a player as durable as Wilson has a non-zero chance of suffering a significant injury.
It’s not like there would have been a quarterback competition in Seattle, either. Kaepernick, while in an awful situation with the 49ers in 2016, was average at best that season. Wilson had emerged as the superior quarterback by a significant margin.
So instead of signing Kaepernick to be their backup, the Seahawks turned to Austin Davis. There’s no making sense of that if you’re of the belief that the NFL is a pure meritocracy (we know this isn’t true, of course, but many NFL coaches and execs would argue it is).
It really comes down to four possible reasons why the Seahawks didn’t sign Kaepernick in 2017 or 2018.
Option 1 is that Kaepernick had no interest in being Seattle’s backup or taking a backup role of any kind. And if that’s the case, then Carroll has gone to admirable lengths in order to protect that fact, even though it would absolve the Seahawks from all responsibility as it pertains to the NFL blacklisting Kap for the last three years.
But that doesn’t really stand to reason. Kaepernick obviously knew Wilson was Seattle’s starter when he took the workout with the Seahawks in 2017. That’s why it’s hard to imagine that being a backup was a non-starter for him.
Option 2 is that Kap wanted more money than Seattle was willing to invest in a backup. And while that would be valid and make total sense, nothing Carroll has said indicates money was the issue here.
Option 3 is that Carroll was protecting Wilson and any potential leadership struggle that would have ensued upon signing Kaepernick. However, that would mean admitting that the Seahawks locker room was in fact teetering and fractured to a certain degree at the time.
Option 4 makes the most sense: Seattle, just like every other team in the league, didn’t want to risk the backlash of signing Kaepernick, especially in a backup role. The potential outrage and distraction outweighed the value he’d bring to the team as the No. 2 QB.
But Carroll was adamant that Seattle didn’t care about Kaepernick’s protests or whether or not the quarterback would have continued to take a knee during the national anthem as a member of the Seahawks.
“That never even came up in our conversations,” Carroll said. “That was never even an issue for us.”
Which brings us back to the bizarre justification that Kaepernick was somehow overqualified to be Seattle’s backup.
To Carroll’s credit, he did admit that he regrets not pulling the trigger in 2017 or 2018 and signing Kap.
“He could have played for us,” the coach said. “He could have been a fantastic player in our program. Unfortunately it just didn’t work out. When you look back on it, I feel like we missed the opportunity. I wish we could have figured it out and known what we know now and given him a chance because I would have loved to watch him play football all those years.”
The great news for Carroll and the Seahawks is that they have a second chance to make this right. Kaepernick is still a free agent and, by all accounts, still wants to play football.
However Carroll made it clear that Seattle isn’t considering Kap this time around, either. The Seahawks are committed to rolling with Geno Smith as their No. 2 for a second-straight season.
“I like our setup right now,” he said. “I love the way Geno fits together in our role, so it’s not really available at this time for us. I’ve said this ongoing for years, if Russ ever got tangled up and couldn’t play or something, Kap would have been an extraordinary candidate to take over given the dynamics of his play. … But as a backup, I really hope he gets that chance because he deserves to be playing.”
This isn’t meant to be a slight at Smith. But can you guarantee that Smith would beat out Kaepernick in a position battle during training camp? Of course you can’t. It’s bizarre that Carroll doesn’t even seem to be considering the idea given his affinity for competition and notable fondness for Kaepernick as a player.
The Seahawks pride themselves in being a brave, forward-thinking club that makes decisions independent of public perception and outside pressure. But when it comes to Kaepernick, Seattle continues to show it is just as feeble as the other 31 teams that are equally scared to give the QB an opportunity.