The storyline that consumed the NFL this season was the league wide protest numerous players took part in by kneeling during the national anthem. The protest was intended to bring attention to police brutality and other wrongdoing against African Americans in the United States over recent years. The advocate that spearheaded this effort is former San Fransisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. As the initial advocate for this movement, Kaepernick has become the target of criticism for those frustrated by the protest.
It seems like Kaepernick has been excommunicated by the NFL for the act of protesting during the national anthem. This is despite the protest being a peaceful one, which is granted to all citizens through the Constitution. People forget that Kaepernick's protest is only protected from government interference through the Constitution.
The NFL however, as an employer, does have the right to reprimand any player or employee for behavior that may negatively impact their image. Nothing is more important to team owners and those who have a financial stake in the NFL than protecting the shield. The NFL is a business that has invested billions of dollars in television contracts. Team owners are dependent upon steady television ratings to remain profitable and get an adequate return on those investments. If something like an outspoken advocate such as Kaepernick gets in the way of propelling profits or television ratings, owners have a financial reason to limit someone's expression.
The NFL may be a business that values its image, but it is also a business that is based on athletic ability. If a player is able to athletically perform better than someone else at their position and/or craft, than they deserve an opportunity. Political beliefs aside, there is absolutely no reason why Kaepernick should not have a job in the NFL. If the NFL is a league that is based on athletic performance and accomplishment, Kaepernick should have been signed a long time ago. Instead, fans have been subjected to countless examples of horrible quarterback play this season. The kind of quarterback play that should make anyone question why Kaepernick is unemployed when these under qualified options are getting a chance.
The first example of bad quarterback play this season was with the Indianapolis Colts, who entered the 2017 campaign with Scott Tolzien as their starter. Many had speculated that after Colts star quarterback Andrew Luck went down with his shoulder injury, Kaepernick would be brought in by Indianapolis for at least a tryout. But the Colts elected to stick with Tolzien for the opening week against the Los Angeles Rams. Tolzien was pathetic in his only start for the Colts, throwing not one, but two interceptions for touchdowns. Tolzien could not even finish the game, being pulled in the 4th quarter for Jacoby Brissett. The Colts acquired the 23-year-old Brissett just two weeks prior to their regular season opener, through a trade with the New England Patriots. Brissett had little grasp of the playbook at that point and was still better than Tolzien.
Tolzien's performance is also bad from historical standards. Tolzien has a worse career quarterback rating at 61.6 than infamous first round bust JaMarcus Russell. Russell, who only lasted three years in the NFL despite being the 2007 1st overall pick, posted a 65.2 rating for his career according to Pro Football Reference.
So, Scott Tolzien can be worse than JaMarcus Russell and Colin Kaepernick cannot even get a tryout with a team? Kaepernick two hours before a game is better than a fully prepared Scott Tolzien and the Colts should be embarrassed to have signed him to their roster.
Then there are the Buffalo Bills and Nathan Peterman. Nathan Peterman has struggled to say the least since being drafted out of Pittsburgh in the 5th round by the Bills this past year. Peterman was thrown into the starting spot for Buffalo in Week 11 against the Los Angeles Chargers. The move was made following an ugly performance by incumbent starter Tyrod Taylor against the New Orleans Saints. Taylor completed only 50 percent of his passes and threw for only 56 yards in the game against New Orleans. The move came as a bit of a shock though, since Taylor performed adequately up until their matchup with the Saints. Bills head coach Sean McDermott made the decision to bench Taylor in favor of Peterman. "I've been impressed with the maturity from Nathan Peterman. I'm comfortable making a calculated risk to try and get us where we need to go," McDermott said.
It would be a decision he would soon regret, as Peterman would be completely dominated by the Chargers defense. Peterman posted just 66 passing yards, being picked off a dismal five times in one half against Los Angeles. Needless to say McDermott took back Tyrod Taylor's benching the following week, renaming him Buffalo's starter for the rest of the season. However, this was not the final act of horrendous play from Peterman with the Bills this season.
The Bills barely made it to the playoffs this season, needing a Baltimore loss and a win against Miami to clinch a spot. Both events ended up happening with the lowly Bengals prevailing over the Ravens with a late fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd.
The Bills also emerged victorious 22-16 over the Miami Dolphins in the final week of the 2017 regular season to end a 18 year playoff drought. Buffalo's postseason drought was the longest among the four major professional sports leagues in North America (NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL) according to the Democrat and Chronicle.
Buffalo entered the 2017 playoffs as one of the two wildcard teams in the AFC. The Bills stayed competitive against the Jacksonville Jaguars, who clinched the AFC South and had the luxury of playing at home for the first round. Trailing 10-3 with under two minutes to go, Tyrod Taylor had a chance to extend the game into overtime. Just two plays into the final drive though, Taylor was slammed to the ground by Jacksonville's defense. Taylor eventually made his way slowly to Buffalo's sideline, but would miss the remainder of the game due to the league's concussion protocol. The Bills, with no other alternative, went with Peterman to finish out the contest.
Peterman some how managed to escape the Jacksonville's surging blitz on 4th down and stumbled forward to pick up a critical three yards to extend the game. Peterman then gave Bills fans a glimmer of hope on the next play delivering an outside strike to Deonte Thompson, making it back to back first downs for Buffalo. The momentum did not last long though, as Peterman proceeded to get called for intentional grounding. Peterman, facing a swarming Jacksonville defense, had no other choice than to try and throw it away with no timeouts and little time left on the clock. Following a mandated ten second run off and loss of down, Peterman still had a chance to salvage the drive with 34 seconds left in the game.
Peterman disappointed again however, throwing a wayward pass that was tipped and then intercepted by Jaguar's cornerback Jalen Ramsey, cementing the victory for Jacksonville. In the end, counting both the regular season and postseason, Peterman threw six interceptions on just 52 passes in 2017. It took Tyrod Taylor 457 passes to throw five interceptions according to NBC Sports. Needless to say, Nathan Peterman is another example of unwatchable quarterback play this season.
But Peterman is better than Colin Kaepernick. A player who threw five interceptions in one half during his only NFL start is better than a quarterback who led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance in 2012. At least that's what the Buffalo Bills appear to be saying by letting Peterman stay on their active roster. Peterman may also emerge as the Bills starter, yes starting quarterback, again next season. Buffalo is expected to cut Tyrod Taylor this off-season to avoid having to pay him the $18 million he is owed on his deal for next year according to NBC Sports. This move is a confusing, yet strong vote of confidence for Peterman who has not proven in the least bit he can perform in this league.
There has so far been a comparison of Colin Kaepernick to especially bad quarterbacks this season. Let's take a moment and compare Kaepernick to emerging stars at the quarterback position.
Jimmy Garoppolo is a player on the rise at the quarterback position with the San Fransisco 49ers, Kaepernick's former team. Garoppolo was originally drafted by Bill Belichick to back up Tom Brady. Garoppolo would then presumably become the heir to Brady's team and continue New England's unparalleled success. In a surprising move, Belichick dumped Garoppolo for a measly 2nd round pick to the 49ers in favor of a 40-year-old Tom Brady.
This move along with the Jacoby Brissett trade to Indianapolis is causing many to speculate whether the Belichick-Brady era is ending in New England. Without Garoppolo or Brissett to take over for an aging Brady and maintain New England's winning ways, Belichick may be quietly indicating he wants to cut ties with the Pats. Regardless, this move to get Garoppolo, has placed the 49ers in a much better position for the foreseeable future with a more than capable starting quarterback.
Colin Kaepernick disrupted the established order by kneeling for the national anthem in protest. This brave act done by a black man in a league owned and watched predominately by white men has done what seems to be irreversible damage to a steady career. But Kaepernick's masterful statistical performance with the same 49ers team Jimmy Garoppolo is now leading should demonstrate his value as a quarterback and why he should have a job in the NFL.
Kaepernick in his last 6 games played in the NFL was able to post over 1,300 passing yards have an impressive 9-2 touchdown to interception ratio, while compiling a quarterback rating of 96.2, which is adequate enough to be a starter in the NFL. Garoppolo in his last 6 games played was able to produce over 1,500 passing yards, a 7-5 touchdown to interception ratio and put together an identical quarterback rating of 96.2 to Kaepernick.
Garoppolo is far more talented than Kaepernick and will be paid like it in the near future with the 49ers. But it is outrageous that Kaepernick was able to put up virtually the same numbers as Garoppolo, with the same team no less in San Francisco and yet cannot even get a tryout in the NFL.
With all of the bad quarterback play fans have been subjected to this season, there is no reason why a gifted player like Colin Kaepernick should have been unemployed this season. It is wrong that Kaepernick has been shunned by a league that prides itself on winning as well as having the most finely tuned athletes in the world. Hopefully at some point, a team will look past Kaepernick's peaceful protest to enact positive change and give him the opportunity he rightfully deserves in the NFL.
Jimmy Kennedy, who thinks Colin Kaepernick deserves a roster spot in the NFL,
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