Can we separate the politics and morality from this? Can we not make it about police shootings and the national anthem? Can we try? For just a minute? Can we make it simply about football even though “simple” and this man have lately been at odds?
If your answer is a stubborn and resolute “no,” which I’ll imagine you saying with incredulity or even anger, you might not like my suggestion today for the Miami Dolphins:
The time is right. So is the quarterback.
Ryan Tannehill crumpled during practice on Thursday morning. Wasn’t tackled or hit. His left knee just buckled, the same knee that wore a big black brace after his injury late last season. The calamity invites concerns that leg might never be quite right but more immediate concerns about what to do at the most important position if Tannehill is sidelined quite a while, the initial fear.
Depending on results of further testing (after Thursday’s initial exam was inconclusive), Miami may need to bring someone else in, either as an experienced backup to Matt Moore or ideally as someone given the next month to try and take the job from him in the spirit of competition and best-man-wins. I am not betting it would be Kaepernick, but it would be a shame if it wasn’t, and if it wasn’t for all the wrong reasons. There are other options. A viable one would be to pry Jay Cutler out of retirement and the cushy Fox Sports broadcast booth, given Dolphins coach Adam Gase’s relationship with Cutler from their Chicago days. Except that Cutler was injured for most of last season, wasn’t very good when he played, is turnover-prone, takes a ton of sacks and is 34. Bears fans were hardly begging him to stay.
By contrast, Kaepernick is 29, healthy and in his prime. He has started in a Super Bowl. Made the Pro Bowl. He threw 16 touchdown passes and only four interceptions last season for a passer rating that topped 90. He is a two-way threat who was second among all QBs in rushing yards and averaged 6.8 yards per run. Oh, almost forgot: And he kneeled during the anthem last season to protest police shootings of unarmed black men, creating a firestorm but also creating a national dialogue.
Can you live with that? With your quarterback having opinions about stuff that matters and feeling free to use his voice?
Not all can, which is why this quarterback has remained out of work while nomads and bums like Josh McCown, Mike Glennon, Mark Sanchez, Nick Foles, Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley have found jobs.
The NFL has been afraid to give Kaepernick work because his social activism and conscience are as much a part of who he is as his throwing arm. Just last week, the Baltimore Ravens were about to sign Kaepernick as a hedge against Joe Flacco’s back ailments, only to have scared owner Steve Bisciotti quash the deal after fearing a fan backlash. Also last week, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reportedly made it known players who declined to stand for the national anthem would not play for his team.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, more progressive, supported the four or five of his players who knelt last season in support of Kaepernick. Recently, Ross said he did not think Kaepernick was the victim of NFL collusion or being blackballed, saying of teams: “They’ll do whatever it takes to win. If they think he can help them win, I’m sure they would sign him.”
Now let’s see if that belief applies to his own team, whose need arose suddenly Thursday — as suddenly as Tannehill buckled and fell.
The Dolphins should be pragmatic and think first of football in doing due diligence on whether to sign Kaepernick.
Yes, Kaepernick caused a minor stir in Miami last season when he was seen wearing a T-shirt depicting the likenesses of Malcolm X and Fidel Castro, the latter el diablo to much of Cuban Miami. Kaepernick made it clear he is an admirer of Malcolm X but dodged his feelings about Castro, naively pointing out Cuba’s literacy rate and investment in education. Miami is bigger than just anti-Castro obsession, though. Most Dolphins fans will care little about a T-shirt he wore last year if he proves to be the season-rescuing answer to Tannehill’s injury.
Sure, he’d bring the circus to town with him, for a minute. His first day here, the attention would be a swarm, the questions about standing and kneeling, maybe even another one about Castro.
But the controversy is apocryphal at this point, a tumult because we keep discussing it as such, an issue because he has remained unemployed. Kaepernick already is on record that he’ll resume standing during the anthem; his point has been made.
He’ll continue to have opinions, but it doesn’t make sense to imagine his priority upon joining a new team would be anything but winning over his new teammates and getting his once-bright career back on the rails.
You want a motivated quarterback? How about one who wants to show everybody how absurd it was that he was jobless for so long?