Labeling Colin Kaepernick as divisive could be the most understated opening to any commentary in the history of Earth. His name explosively surfaced Sunday night in connection to Cincinnati. According to a report by Pro Football Talk, Andy Dalton is on a short leash and there’s some interest in former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick within the lockerroom.
The team insists that quarterback Andy Dalton is safe. But the feeling within the locker room, we’re told, is that the leash isn’t quite so long, and that if the struggles continue under new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, the next one to go could be Dalton.
This means that A.J. McCarron would take over, if Dalton is indeed benched. But there’s a feeling among some of the players that the Bengals should go off the board and consider bringing in Colin Kaepernick.
Immediately, beat writers, insiders, and reporters disputed the PFT report.
Jeremy Rauch, sports anchor for Fox 19 in Cincinnati, cited a team source that “Andy Dalton’s short leash and potential interest in (Colin Kaepernick) report is ‘made up‘”. ESPN Insider Chris Mortensen told Mike and Mike on Monday that “I was assured that Andy Dalton’s job is not on the line right now.” Cincinnati Enquirer beat writer Jim Owczarski tweets that he hasn’t heard anything similar and declared a refusal to even entertain the question moving forward.
Mike Freeman with Bleacher Report connected a more apocalyptic note, adding that “team executives and coaches with whom B/R spoke this week that the Dalton-Lewis pairing was nearing an end” and that Dalton has “regressed dramatically.” Freeman also included a note on Kaepernick:
It was a few months ago, during training camp, as the Colin Kaepernick story grew, that a player for the Bengals wondered in texts to me: What if we brought Kaepernick to Cincinnati? The messages came from a defensive player. He meant no disrespect to the Bengals’ current quarterback, Andy Dalton. He was merely wondering aloud and didn’t go much further than that.
Unfortunately, these efforts failed to prevent the incendiary discussions among Bengals fans, and even saturated casual conversations around the proverbial water cooler (just look at comments on message boards, twitter, and Facebook). Andy Dalton. Colin Kaepernick. FML. We have 15 more weeks remaining.
Dutiful teammate AJ McCarron sprinted to Dalton’s defense earlier this week: “I wish people in this city would back him and go with it. Listen, I think I’m a great quarterback and I think he’s an unbelievable quarterback. I love him to death. But he’s our quarterback,” McCarron said via Bengals.com. “Stop making it into something else. It’s not into something else. Ride with him. Trust the team. Trust the process. And trust what we are trying to do. And be a fan of who is playing. We are all part of a team. It’s not we are divided.”
It always intriguing to me how fans are brought into these conversations. It’s almost like questions use “fans” as a means to deflect attention to the question. For example: “Are you worried about losing your job because you haven’t played well” could be replaced with “How do you feel about fans wanting to replace you with your backup quarterback?” I’m conjecturing, obviously. We’ll take the heat. We’re the one’s that have been here, and will remain here.
Regardless, fans are booing because the Bengals have been horrific. How horrific? Cincinnati became the first team since 1939 that failed to score a touchdown when opening the season with two games at home. 1939! Booing has been directed at Dalton, yes (he’s misfired several throws to wide-open receivers). But people are also booing Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Fisher, Russell Bodine, Clint Boling, and, more enthusiastically, the team’s coaching staff. In fact, the idea that fans want Dalton replaced wasn’t any more paramount than calls to fire Ken Zampese or head coach Marvin Lewis (many fans demanding Dalton’s replacement are coming from the same fans that have disliked him from the beginning with a handful of frustrated converts). Then Sunday’s report surfaced, a question was asked in the lockerroom, and now fans have been included in this conversation. Anyway.
Dalton (87 yards shy of surpassing Carson Palmer with the third-most yards thrown in franchise history) has earned the opportunity to recover and re-establish himself; especially with a new coach calling plays.
This is Andy Dalton’s 7th season. Comparing his first seven seasons to CP, Boomer, Kenny so far: pic.twitter.com/ZDHCl8imhC
— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) September 19, 2017
As for Kaepernick, if the Bengals signed the former 49ers quarterback, you’d be right to assume that M. Night Shyamalan was directing this shitshow. Why? Cincinnati has Dalton and McCarron on the roster; there’s no need to sign another quarterback, regardless of his name.
During last year’s preseason (2016), Kaepernick sat during the National Anthem. When asked why, he said he was protesting the treatment against African Americans in the United States. Around this time several African Americans were shot by police with questionable circumstances and not convicted, causing violent protests. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
After speaking with former Seattle Seahawks long snapper and Army veteran Nate Boyer, Kaepernick compromised by taking a knee. His protests reverberated with many athletes, in sports, especially a number of well-known NFL players. It’s also drawn the ire of many, calling it an insult to the men and women of our armed forces. Clearly it wasn’t his intent to insult our military and it’s ridiculous to make that assumption; he felt this protest would generate attention, and he succeeded. Regardless, the line was drawn and people took their sides.
What was unexpected at the time would be Kaepernick’s unemployment status.
Prior to the 2014 season, Kaepernick signed a six-year extension worth $126 million. His struggles in 2014 and 2015, along with the departure of head coach (and cartoon character) Jim Harbaugh, culminated with a trade demand. Eventually San Francisco reworked Kaepernick’s deal, reducing his contract to a two-year deal with a player option on the second year. On March 3, 2017, Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers.
He’s remained unsigned since.
Why he’s unsigned is a bit of a mystery.
Some believe ownership is collectively colluding against Kaepernick, many of whom would dread the amount of attention his arrival would bring. It’s obvious ownership would be required to speak; coaches would have many more questions throughout the course of the year. “How is Kaepernick progressing? Will he play this week? Is he going to start?” Now you have a barrage of questions about Kaepernick, who would bring a significant amount of attention, with a coaching culture that hates the media.
Collusion makes sense, but the argument isn’t strong.
These owners will do anything in their power to win (because winning makes more money). If an owner believes Kaepernick would help them earn a division title, conference championship, or even a Super Bowl, all of which increases ticket sales, concessions, merchandise (money is good!), then any effort to collude would fall apart. If extra attention is the cost for a postseason win, so be it. Do you think Jerry Jones cares about other owners? Daniel Snyder? Mike Brown? While collusion makes sense, it’s not a very strong argument. You can rely on NFL owners to make a decision that fiscally benefits themselves.
Others argue Kaepernick isn’t really that good to begin with. He’s only thrown for 20 touchdowns in one season (2013), has a career 59.8 completion percentage, reached the 300-yard passing milestone in six of his 69 games played, thrown 30 interceptions, and fumbled the football 40 times. On the other hand, there’s a lot of garbage quarterbacks in the NFL right now. You mean to tell me that the Miami Dolphins have a greater chance of winning with the recently un-retired Jay Cutler than Kaepernick? Let’s face facts: When Kaepernick broke free, this could effortlessly glide through a defense. This is an impact performance.
There’s also a lockerroom element (but not really). There were reports early that Kaepernick’s actions created a divisive element within the 49ers lockeroom. Those reports were unsubstantiated and eventually dismissed. San Francisco players showed unity for Kaepernick, giving him the Len Eshmont Award, “given to the 49er who best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Len Eshmont, an original member of the 1946 49ers team.” Other NFL teams are unconcerned about any division. Giants players said he’d be welcome, as have the Ravens, and other teams.
Claims emerged that Kaepernick was demanding a contract that averaged $10 million per year. For comparison, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton averages $16 million per season. However, if teams viewed Kaepernick’s $10 million benchmark, it might turn them off if they view him as a backup or as someone competing for a starting job. It’s a bit much for a player in those circumstances. Kaepernick has much to prove and a $10 million price tag doesn’t help. However, it should be note that Kaepernick has denied such a demand.
Regardless, Kaepernick is without a home and he’s not going to sign with Cincinnati as long as Andy Dalton and AJ McCarron are here.