In the early days of Colin Kaepernick’s conspicuous unemployment, Commissioner Roger Goodell repeatedly shrugged at the development, reasoning that teams want to win and thus teams sign plays that will help them win and thus if a team hasn’t signed Kaepernick it’s because no team thinks Kaepernick will help them win. Nearly two years later — and after dozens of quarterbacks clearly inferior to Kaepernick have secured employment — Goodell has re-embraced that position.
Goodell, at his annual pre-Super Bowl press conference, defended Kaepernick’s lack of a team by saying that the teams decide who will be on their rosters and that “they all want to win, and they’re going to do whatever they can to win.”
It’s a subtle but clear shift away from the revised position that Goodell embraced after the Ravens flirted publicly in July 2017 with the prospect of signing Kaepernick.
At that time, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti admitted that the team considered non-football factors when deciding whether to pursue Kaepernick. Goodell, who was present for Bisciotti’s comments, had painted a difference picture as recently as June of 2017.
“[A]ll [teams] want to get better,” Goodell said in June 2017. “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.”
In early August 2017 at a fan forum in Denver, after witnessing Bisciotti’s comments, Goodell shifted his explanation from the win-driven philosophy.
“Teams make decisions [based] on what’s in the best interest of their team . . . and they make those decisions individually,” Goodell said.
So why is Goodell retreating to his position that teams will do whatever they have to do to win? Chances are that, during his deposition in Kaepernick’s collusion grievance, Goodell was forced to pick a lane, that he went with the “teams want to win” excuse, and that Goodell can’t change his position now that he’s been locked in under oath, especially with his eventual hearing testimony in Kaepernick’s full-blown collusion hearing still looming.
Meanwhile, more and more quarterbacks with skill sets inferior to Kaepernick continued after Goodell locked in to the “win” position to get opportunities to work out and play for teams, necessarily undercutting the notion that teams are making decisions based on a raw desire to win, making it arguably easier for Kaepernick’s lawyers to show that something else has motivated his unemployment.
Because of course it has. The only question is whether the unemployment based on reasons other than football was in any way coordinated by a league office that coincidentally may have been painting Kaepernick as being “bad for business” throughout 2017.