The Case For The Rams To Sign Colin Kaepernick
Well, Bob Dylan, it is as true today as it was in 1964. The times, they are a-changin’. From Minneapolis vowing to dismantle its police force to southern cities removing statues that honor Confederate soldiers, the world is a-changin’. Even the world of athletic competition is not exempt from this wave of change. Roger Goodell was called on in a video produced by a handful of the league’s biggest stars to “..condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people.” and to “…Admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting.”
Goodell responded to the call by stating just those things and voiced the league’s support and commitment to black football players and their right to speak out and peacefully protest. Compared to the changes that the country needs to go through to begin to heal the wounds that the murder of George Floyd Jr. exposed, these statements, admissions, and commitments are insignificant. But it is a step in the right direction, no matter how small that step is. That said, an argument could be made that sports can, and often do, serve as symbols for things that are larger than their actual contribution.
Colin Kaepernick is an example of that. In his kneeling to protest police brutality and black oppression, he became a symbol for a larger movement. While Black Lives Matter and other organizations had been working hard to advance their movements’ messages, Kaepernick was able to use his platform to give a voice to those movements and instantly launch their message into a national conversation. While his influence on the game of football has become, next to, non-existent, due to the league’s blackballing of him, his name and likeness can often be seen being used by protestors worldwide.
It almost goes without saying, that in light of all that has happened this summer, Kaepernick’s example will live on in the NFL. It is likely that even more players, coaches, and team owners will be kneeling during the anthem in 2020. Some have speculated that even Goodell himself will participate in the protest.
The NFL’s response to the call to action issued by Patrick Mahomes, Odell Beckham, Ezekiel Elliott, and company, is a far cry from their response to Kaepernick’s protest. The contrast shows that the winds of change are shifting and that Kaepernick was not an outlier, but simply the initial gust of what was to come. An NFL team signing him would serve as another symbol. Another small step toward healing. It is now more important than ever that Kaepernick is welcomed back into the NFL.
With all that said, two things are indisputable when discussing Colin Kaepernick:
1. One cannot ignore his activism and his relevance in these broader events.
Hence, the above.
2. Segueing away from his activism to talk about football is impossible.
Hence, the lack of a segue.
The case for the Rams to sign Colin Kaepernick.
Colin Kaepernick is ready to play football. Despite not taking a snap for over three years, he is adamant that he has remained in top condition and is ready to “..workout at any point in time.” A variety of teams have been bandied about as a landing spot for Kaepernick:
The Vikings, because they play in Minneapolis.
And the case has been made by any number of bloggers to join just about every team that may or may not need a starting quarterback. Malcolm Jenkins even suggested that the league simply assign him to a team. Unfortunately, the one small group that could actually affect the situation, team owners and general managers, are suspiciously silent. It is suspicious because there has been a tremendous groundswell of support for signing Kaepernick, in the light of the NFL’s new “pro-protest” stance.
The fact that neither the league nor its teams have directly invoked Kaepernick’s name has led some to find the statement to be hollow lip service. Spike Lee went further, calling it a “BS apology” for excluding Kaepernick from the statement.
Despite this overwhelming support, there are risks in signing Kaepernick. One perceived risk for teams lies outside the lines. In response to Nike’s support of Kaepernick, people boycotted the company and even burned their own Nike gear in protest. If a team signs him, it is likely that there will be a group of the fan base that will respond similarly.
But that team will also garner fandom from his growing group of supporters, some of which have never rooted for an NFL team before. Signing Kaepernick would create a stark contrast between that team and from the old un-woke NFL. That team would automatically become the choice of socially conscious sports fans. While it will most certainly bring new fans to the team, signing Kaepernick would elicit attention from the entire football world and far beyond.
The Los Angeles Rams have spent a lot of time, money, and effort to brand themselves as fresh and forward-thinking. A young innovative coach, a sexy state of the art stadium, and a brand new look. Signing Kaepernick would make them that team without having to pay more consultants to manufacture it.
Given its 22 year absence, from Southern California, the Rams fan base is still finding its roots. Signing Kaepernick would give the team an instant identity for fans to connect with. Spike Lee may even become a Rams fan. Also, considering the progressive identity and racial diversity of LA, Rams fans could be some of the most welcoming toward Kaepernick.
From a football perspective, there is little risk for the Rams to sign the 32-year-old QB. As of now, the Rams don’t have quality depth behind Jared Goff. Goff has gone uninjured in his 47 starts under Sean McVay, so the immediate need for a backup has not been felt. But the risk of injury doesn’t go down just because he has been incredibly healthy thus far. Furthermore, if Goff is able to continue his streak of good luck, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Kaepernick. Three years away is three years away and the game certainly hasn’t gotten any slower since 2016.
Regardless of how good of shape he has kept himself in, there will be a significant amount of rust built up. A backup role will allow Kaepernick to get up-to-speed with the ever-evolving game. Sean McVay would be the perfect coach for Kaepernick in that transition. McVay was able to form Goff into a more accurate and patient passer. He would undoubtedly be able to do the same with Kaepernick.
Even if Goff remains healthy, there will be opportunities for Kaepernick to get playing time. For all of Sean McVay’s time in LA, he has had Jared Goff as QB. While capable in many ways, Goff isn’t by any stretch a running quarterback. Kaepernick could be used in some innovative ways and McVay is just the kind of offensive mind to utilize such a weapon.
Kaepernick could be used in select situations or simply to add further threat in a wildcat or a reverse. Some may only remember Kaepernick as inconsistent and for putting up mediocre stats, but at times he looked unstoppable. He led his team to nine, fourth-quarter comebacks. Including a comeback win over the Falcons that sent the 49ers to their sixth Super Bowl. Those performances left fans feeling like their team was always able to win because Kaepernick could break a big play, often just in the nick of time.
It is hard to quantify the effect that Kaepernick had on defenses that year, but adding unpredictability to the offense is exactly what the Rams need. In 2019, the Rams threw the ball 62% of the time and defenses ratcheted up pressure on Goff, knowing that Goff makes bad decisions with less time in the pocket. These two factors made the offense very predictable. Several teams in the league have been rumored to be experimenting with multiple QB’s, either rotating or in the same backfield.
Signing Kaepernick not only makes sense for the Rams for on the field reasons, but it is also the right thing to do and LA is the right place to do it.
The Rams currently have roughly $6 million in cap space after Gurley’s designation fell off the books, so theoretically, they could financially get a deal done.