Colin Kaepernick is unsigned because NFL coaches still play not to lose | Les Carpenter

The 29 -year-old can still be good, perhaps even great but every day he goes unsigned is an embarrassment for the coaches and GMs desperate to play it safe

Its hard to believe that Colin Kaepernick can no longer be used as a in the NFL. The league is filled with too many mediocre passers who possess little skill beyond an ability to parrot the lingo of a preferred system offense to deny a man who actually took a team to the brink of a victory.

All you have to do is look at the lackluster play of the NFLs low-end starters, ball-cap wearers and clipboard holders to know Kaepernick still has a lot to offer. He is 29, an age that is hardly ancient, with a reasonably healthy body, a powerful arm, and an innate ability to run over or through many tacklers. He is a quarterback who utterly should have a task in the NFL. Every day that passes without him getting a hint of an offer is an embarrassment for the league.

What isnt easy to measure with Kaepernick is what happened to him after Jim Harbaugh, the coach-and-four who championed him in San Francisco, left for the University of Michigan following the 2014 season. Did the league catch up to his running-passing style and was he unable to adjust? Was he ruined by the constant dysfunction of the Niners organization? Was he stuck on a team even worse there was no hope of ever playing well?

So much of the perception of him has been clouded by the reaction to his refusal to stand for “the member states national” anthem last season that its hard to know what the league truly thinks of Kaepernick as a quarterback. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, a longtime division rival of Kaepernicks, lately said he thought the quarterback was being blackballed by the NFL. Browns tackle Joe Thomas tweeted that Kaepernick is a backup and accept zero distractions from their backup quarterbacks. Both remarks speak to a long and troubling truth about the NFL: coaches and general managers hate players, especially non-starters, who in any way compromise their carefully scripted locker-room order.

But Kaepernick, whose protest last year was not so much a statement about America but an attempt to kindle a conversation abut racial inequality, has also said he will stand for the anthem next season .~ ATAGEND Given that hes never been is accessible to much one-on-one introspection in the past, his distraction likely would be limited to a handful of training camp press conference and then likely forget. He will not ruin a locker room, and he has a good chance to be an eventual solution to somebodys quarterback problem.

The fact no one seems ready to sign him speaks to another great problem in the NFL.

Coaches and general managers are afraid to be good.

For all their proclamations about courage and toughness, most pro football coaches are an insecure bunch, living in dread of Twitter revolts and the whims of fickle owners. They induce safe calls in games, feeling it better to lose without defying convention than taking an out-of-the-box gamble that might open them to criticism.

Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera talked about this a few years ago .~ ATAGEND Before the 2013 season, the Panthers had lost a number of games when Rivera chose to punt or kick a field goal on fourth-and-short situations rather than aggressively go for a bigger rating. He promised to go for more first downs that year and then didnt afraid of doing the bold thing. It took a near vehicle collision driving home a couple days after a close defeat to inspire change. Three year later, the Panthers were in the Super Bowl. Maybe thats what it took, Rivera said then .~ ATAGEND Maybe thats the revelation I needed.

Too many coaches dont get their near-accidents.

Perhaps the keenest analysis about Kaepernick and the NFL comes from Harbaugh, who said in an interview with that teams arent patient with quarterbacks, and suggested that Kaepernick will flourish if a coach-and-four takes the time to work with him.

I think hes an outstanding player, and I think hes a great challenger who has proven it in games and has the ability to not only be an NFL starter but a great NFL player, Harbaugh told the site.

But Harbaugh, who got to that Super Bowl in 2013 by taking a risk few used to select in keeping Kaepernick as his starter when the dependable Alex Smith returned from a mid-season trauma, has a mindset shared by few other coaches. As a longtime pro quarterback himself, he knows that the trajectory of most NFL passers is not linear. They often rise and fall, and the worst thing a team can do is make a judgment about a quarterback based on a small sample of games.

The general belief about Kaepernick the quarterback is that he is broken, unable to lead a team. Still, in 11 starts last year he completed virtually 60% of his pass and threw 16 touchdowns against only 4 interceptions. He also operated for 468 yards and two more scores. More importantly, late in the year he indicated the ability to move in the pocket and pick out receivers that critics suggested he lacked. If anything, he has displayed the signs of becoming a more complete quarterback at an age that is still young for a NFL starter. It wasnt his faulting the Niners were a dreadful shell of the team that virtually went to three straight Super Bowls under Harbaugh.

Last year, a football scout told me privately he was shocked that people had already proclaimed Kaepernick to be done. Though he did not know Kaepernick personally, he appreciated the quarterbacks stand, and said he still possessed the raw ability to be as good as “hes in” 2012 and 2013.

Given that most teams already have a starter in place or, like Cleveland, are looking to build with a sure thing, its unlikely a starting task or a big payday exists for him regardless of his anthem stand. But if a coach-and-four is smart and patient, and doesnt overreact to a few bad pass or interceptions, Harbaugh is right. Kaepernick might be exactly what a lot of teams need.

If only they will allow themselves to see it.

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