Colin Kaepernick started his NFL career as a backup but quickly rose to stardom. In only his second season with the San Francisco 49ers, Kaepernick took the starting job away from Alex Smith and led the 49ers to the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance since 1995.
Kaepernick continued to dismantle NFL defenses with his dynamic dual-threat abilities for two more seasons, but after the departure of 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, Kaepernick’s play declined to the point where he got benched halfway through the 2015 season.
The 2016 season began with Kaepernick’s controversial decision to kneel while the national anthem was played before 49ers games.
Some saw Kaepernick as a hero using his platform to speak up for the oppressed and cause social change. Others saw his actions as disrespectful to the men and women who have died in service to our country.
Kaepernick won his starting job back the sixth week of the season, but most of the headlines were still about what he was doing before the opening kickoff.
Now we are three weeks into NFL free agency, and 12 quarterbacks have signed new contracts. Not one of them has anything close to the resume that Kaepernick has.
There are plenty of opinions on why Kaepernick remains on the open market: He’s washed up, he’s a system quarterback or he wants more money than he’s worth.
Cleveland Browns’ all-pro tackle Joe Thomas took to Twitter to express his views on the subject. “Teams don’t currently view him as a starting QB, and NFL teams accept ZERO distractions from their backup QBs,” Thomas tweeted.
This is the most reasonable take on the situation I have seen. There’s not really a question whether or not Kaepernick is one of the best 64 quarterbacks in the league and worthy of a backup spot, but if he is not good enough to be the starter, he might not be worth the trouble.
As a backup quarterback your job is to sit down on the bench and know that the rest of the team is praying you never see the field. Backup quarterbacks need to be quiet, be invisible, and if the starter gets hurt, just play well enough to not ruin the season.
The last thing teams want is a backup who’s constantly a source of national headlines. Tim Tebow is a perfect example of this.
Tim Tebow became a national phenomenon in 2011 when he led the Denver Broncos to the playoffs. He became known for his late-game comebacks, and the press started calling the fourth quarter “Tebow Time.”
After Tebow’s exciting 2011 season, the Broncos signed one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Peyton Manning, and traded Tebow to the New York Jets.
Tebow and Mark Sanchez spent the offseason competing for the Jets starting job and Sanchez won.
After being cut by the Jets after the 2012 season Tebow was invited to training camp with the New England Patriots in 2013 and Philadelphia Eagles in 2015, but neither team put him on their 53-man roster.
Once teams figured out that Tebow wasn’t going to make a difference for their team, the media circus that followed him wherever he went became too distracting for teams to want him around.
The NFL has put up with plenty of quarterbacks more controversial than Kaepernick such as Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Vick, but until he can prove to a team that he is worth the headache, he will remain unemployed.