Six years ago, then-Raiders coach Hue Jackson wanted Colin Kaepernick. One year ago, now-Browns coach Hue Jackson was willing to give up a third-round pick to get Kaepernick, and to pay him $7 million or more per year.
This year, the Browns could get Kaepernick for no trade compensation and a bargain-basement contract. But they don’t want him.
Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer argues that they should. The football reasons are undeniable; at the quarterback position, the supply doesn’t meet demand — especially given the trade demands of teams that have quarterbacks they’d be willing to move.
From a football standpoint, if the Browns wanted Kaepernick a year ago there’s no reason to not want him now. They opted to focus on Robert Griffin III, and that experiment didn’t go well. They seem to be interested in getting Jimmy Garoppolo (and maybe Kirk Cousins as the fallback), which suggests they aren’t sold on any of the incoming rookies.
So why aren’t they willing to give Hue Jackson a chance to do what Jim Harbaugh did little more than four years ago with Kaepernick, making him into a Super Bowl starter? The most likely explanation is the political firestorm Kaepernick started by refusing to stand for the National Anthem and the reasons he supplied for his decision. Apart from concerns about a percentage of the Browns fan base objecting loudly to Kaepernick’s presence (if they’re still hanging around after years of ineptitude, it’s not like signing Kaepernick would get them to check out), owner Jimmy Haslam’s personal political beliefs quite possibly resulted in Kaepernick becoming disqualified from consideration.
A Republican who gave heavily to the effort to elect Jeb Bush and whose brother is the Governor of Tennessee, it’s possible that Haslam has found a way to make his disdain for Kaepernick known in the building in the same way Haslam made known his affinity for Johnny Manziel. Haslam could truthfully say he hasn’t instructed his football employees to not sign Kaepernick, in the same way Haslam truthfully can say he never instructed his football employees to pick Manziel.
Being the boss means not having to ask for something so expressly. Haslam, through stray comments or random questions, can make his views easily known. With the Kaepernick situation emerging last August, Haslam’s private reaction (whatever it may have been) to the situation would also say plenty about his potential reaction to the football people making Kaepernick one of the football players on the team Haslam owns.
This same mindset possibly accounts for the failure of other quarterback-needy teams to give Kaepernick a call. The Jets, owned by a man who supported Donald Trump well enough to become the ambassador to the United Kingdom, likely won’t be giving a job to a player Trump has directly called out.
Other teams should at least be kicking Kaepernick’s tires as a potential starter, from the Texans to the Jaguars (if they’re not sold on Blake Bortles) to the Broncos (who would have traded for him a year ago if he’d taken a pay cut). The fact that no one has even brought him in for a visit suggests that something more than football is influencing the process.
Hopefully, he’ll get a fair chance to compete for a roster spot and for playing time. Although Ron Jaworski’s assessment that Kaepernick could become one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time may be badly off the mark, Kaepernick isn’t so bad that he shouldn’t at least be getting a chance to show what he can still do.