The Cleveland Browns need a quarterback, but Colin Kaepernick’s play on the field, not his actions off of it, means he is not the answer.
For a team like the Cleveland Browns, who have been looking for a quarterback since 1993, it is prudent to leave no stone unturned in their quest.
That could lead the Browns to squander draft picks and salary cap space on quarterbacks like Kirk Cousins of the Washington Redskins or Jimmy Garoppolo of the New England Patriots.
Or the Browns could look to the 2017 NFL Draft and select a quarterback in the first round for the fifth time since 1999.
The bargain bin of free agency is always an option, but that generally has led to a waste of time and effort. (See Robert Griffin III, 2016).
Which brings us to Colin Kaepernick, who is a free agent after opting out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers.
This past week, San Francisco general manager John Lynch made an interesting comment during an interview, according to USA Today, claiming that a team was ready to sign Kaepernick before things turned sour:
“I don’t know what happened to that market. . . He was, in everyone’s mind in this league, very close to signing a deal with a team at a really good number. And it fell through, apparently.”
While it is a bit odd that Lynch would openly talk about a player that the 49ers clearly do not want, it does raise the question of who was the mystery team that allegedly was close to signing Kaepernick.
Could it have been the Browns?
Kaepernick definitely seems like the type of quarterback that would appeal to head coach Hue Jackson, although after watching the Griffin experiment fail last season, the Browns front office may not be quite so keen to let the “quarterback whisperer” recommend another free agent quarterback.
There is also an additional layer when it comes to Kaepernick, which Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman highlighted this week.
Apparently there are team’s that “hate” Kaepernick for having the audacity to speak his mind. According to Freeman, who quoted an unnamed AFC general manager about the lack of interest in Kaepernick:
“First, some teams genuinely believe that he can’t play. They think he’s shot. I’d put that number around 20 percent.
“Second, some teams fear the backlash from fans after getting him. They think there might be protests or [President Donald] Trump will tweet about the team. I’d say that number is around 10 percent. Then there’s another 10 percent that has a mix of those feelings.
“Third, the rest genuinely hate him and can’t stand what he did [kneeling for the national anthem]. They want nothing to do with him. They won’t move on. They think showing no interest is a form of punishment. I think some teams also want to use Kaepernick as a cautionary tale to stop other players in the future from doing what he did.”
First off, if a team won’t sign Kaepernick simply because of his actions last season in regards to the national anthem, then shame on them. Teams employ players who have done far worse all the time, so not signing Kaepernick for that reason is absurd.
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It seems unlikely that the Browns would fall into that category as they are the same franchise that welcomed former Baylor head coach Art Briles to training camp last summer. If they have no problem with Briles, having an issue with Kaepernick’s views would be the height of hypocrisy.
Hopefully the Browns fall into the category of teams that realize that Kaepernick’s time in the NFL has passed – which actually might be the one good thing that came out of having Griffin on the team last year.
Kaepernick and Griffin were going to revolutionize the NFL after their rookie years in 2012. But once the NFL (and injuries) caught up to them, reality set in, as Andy Benoit points out at MMQB:
In 2012, both players presented threats with their legs in ways the NFL had never seen. Griffin ran the read-option. So did Kaepernick, though he was more dangerous as a scrambler. Over time, however, NFL defenses learned how to adjust to these mobile quarterbacks.
This is why playing in the pocket is so crucial. A quarterback can’t rely primarily on his legs. He must be able to drop back and make throws from behind his O-line.
This is where Kaepernick and Griffin get into trouble. Both have a tendency to anticipate pressure that hasn’t arrived yet. They’ll take their eyes off the field and look at pass-rushers. They’ll break down when no one is around, converting themselves from would-be throwers into randomized scramblers. Often, no running lanes exist here, so this scrambling quickly leads to sacks or contested throwaways.
Take away all the noise surrounding Kaepernick and you’re left with the reality that he is simply a below-average quarterback, one that the Browns should have little interest in signing.
Even with a quarterback room that currently has Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan and a quarterback to be named later, Kaepernick would represent just another lost year. He would possibly be able to win the starter’s job by default, but the likelihood of him resurrecting his career is as much of a fantasy as it was with Griffin in 2016.
No one should question that the Browns still need to fix the quarterback position. But no one should also believe that Kaepernick is the answer.