A thousand days on, Colin Kaepernick's NFL exile still makes no sense

Colin Kaepernick has not played an NFL game for 1,000 days, with his exile still making no sense three years on from his last appearance.

On January 1, 2017, Kaepernick played what remains his last NFL game as the San Francisco 49ers suffered a narrow 25-23 defeat to the Seattle Seahawks to end the 2016 campaign.   -  AFP/Getty Images

It has never been easier to play the hardest position in professional sport, but 1,000 days on from Colin Kaepernick's last start, NFL teams continue to persist with quarterbacks who make their job look exceedingly difficult.

On January 1, 2017, Kaepernick played what remains his last NFL game as the San Francisco 49ers suffered a narrow 25-23 defeat to the Seattle Seahawks to end the 2016 campaign.

Kaepernick, who took the league by storm in leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance in the 2012 season and then on a run to a third successive NFC Championship game in the subsequent year, had the fifth-highest quarterback rating of any signal-caller to play that week.

Despite performing admirably in 2016 for a 49ers team that featured little of the potential being displayed by the 2019 vintage, Kaepernick - unquestionably one of the most exciting quarterbacks of the modern era - remains unsigned despite regularly indicating his desire to play in the league again.

NFL teams are seemingly still unwilling to offer a contract to a player who stoked such widespread controversy by kneeling during the national anthem to protest against racial injustice and police brutality in that 2016 campaign.

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In this photo dated Oct 2, 2016, San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Eli Harold, quarterback Colin Kaepernick and safety Eric Reid kneel during the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys.   -  AP

 

While some may be able to empathise with the reluctance of the owners to risk negative publicity, the reasons frequently provided for Kaepernick not being in the league ring hollow in the face of the resume of a player whose skill set is perfectly suited to the NFL in 2019.

The NFL is blessed with a litany of talented play-callers who rely heavily on the use of play-action, motion, jet sweeps and quarterback rollouts to confound defenses and make things more comfortable for the man passing the football.

That Kaepernick, a quarterback whose playoff success came as a result of his mobility and aptitude for making plays with his arm and his legs, does not have a place in a league that heavily favours facets of the game he excelled in with the Niners flies in the face of the NFL's commitment to adaptability.

Coaches have frequently adapted their schemes to various quarterbacks yet Kaepernick, who seamlessly slotted into Chip Kelly's complex scheme in 2016, could again only watch from home as the New York Jets sent former sixth-round pick Luke Falk to the slaughter against the New England Patriots last week, while the New York Giants made the switch from Eli Manning to Daniel Jones, coincidentally in part because of the latter's superior mobility.

The Giants look to have Manning's heir apparent in first-round rookie Jones, who thrived in a comeback win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but Week 4 of the 2019 season will again see a host of quarterbacks who have done nothing to prove they are superior to Kaepernick suit up across the league.

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In this file photo taken on October 6 2016, Eli Harold, Colin Kaepernick, and Eric Reid of the San Francisco 49ers kneel in protest during the national anthem prior to their NFL game.   -  AFP

 

Mason Rudolph will be backed up by undrafted free agent rookie Devlin Hodges for the Pittsburgh Steelers, who parted with Joshua Dobbs as the Jacksonville Jaguars sent a fifth-round pick to acquire a player who has attempted 12 NFL passes to back up rookie Gardner Minshew.

The Tennessee Titans head into their fourth game of the year with two pillars of mediocrity on the quarterback depth chart in Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill, while the Buccaneers continued to stick by the turnover-prone Jameis Winston despite his career being marred by numerous alleged off-field indiscretions.

Whether Kaepernick would still be good enough to start in the NFL is open for debate given the length of his absence, but the fact he has not even been afforded a chance to serve as a backup over the last 32 months while teams have traded draft capital to bring in quarterbacks who can only dream of his career is a damning indictment of a league Kaepernick gave so much to in an all too brief pro career.