The offseason programs have ended, and the NFL has entered the dead zone before the opening of training camp. Meanwhile, Colin Kaepernick’s career remains lifeless.
Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has previously said on multiple occasions that he believes Kaepernick’s unemployment arises from football considerations only, reiterated that position during a Rams event in L.A. on Thursday.
Via Aiden Gonzalez of ESPN.com, Goodell said, “[A]ll [teams] want to get better. And if they see an opportunity to get better as a football team, they’re going to do it. They’re going to do whatever it takes to make their football team better. So those are football decisions. They’re made all the time. I believe that if a football team feels that Colin Kaepernick, or any other player, is going to improve that team, they’re going to do it.”
Setting aside the reality that teams like the Jets apparently aren’t trying to get better now in the hopes of getting better via better draft positioning later, the notion that Kaepernick doesn’t have a job for football reasons has been widely rejected. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has called Kaepernick a “starter,” which apparently makes him overqualified to be a backup in Seattle but underqualified to be a starter in a league where players like Mike Glennon, Josh McCown, Tom Savage, Cody Kessler, and Brian Hoyer currently sit atop depth charts.
Whether the truth is that: (1) teams fear alienation of fans; (2) teams don’t want to provide a platform for players whose politics differ from those of ownership; (3) owners want to discourage future players from leading a movement like the one Kaepernick sparked last year; (4) coaches believe the baggage outweighs the abilities; or (5) some combination of those four reasons, it’s clearly not a football issue. Not with former 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh repeatedly gushing about Kaepernick, and not with former coaches like Eric Mangini, who worked with Kaepernick for several years in San Francisco, receiving not a single inquiry about him.
Goodell tried to dismiss the notion that teams have shunned Kaepernick to avoid upsetting fans, in direct response to questions about the comments from Giants co-owner John Mara regarding letters he received on the issue of national anthem protests from fans.
“I don’t think that’s going to affect people from saying, ‘I’m going to do what’s in the best interest of my football team and give my team the best chance to win,’ because that’s what every team wants to do,” Goodell said.
Again, giving a team the best chance to win isn’t what every team wants to do. While they periodically pontificate about pursuing Super Bowls, teams primarily want to maximize profits.
There’s a very good chance Goodell isn’t simply wrong but willfully wrong. After all, he’s paid in large part to take the heat for owners who remain behind the curtain, pushing buttons and pulling levers. If cashing those enormous checks means periodically saying with a straight face something he doesn’t fully and firmly believe, it’s a small price to pay — especially in an age where plenty of people are saying with straight faces plenty of things they don’t fully and firmly believe for far less than $40 million per year.