Talking Points

Colin Kaepernick won't make it as a backup in the NFL

Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick is on a comeback tour. The onetime San Francisco 49ers player has been doing public tryouts across the country, pressing into service working trainers and wide receivers to show he can still play. 

Pretty much every offseason for the last five years has featured some level of buzz about Kaepernick returning from his NFL-imposed exile over his racial justice protests during the pregame playing of the national anthem. It has also become an annual tradition to cite the poor play of various mediocre backup quarterbacks filling in for injured starters as evidence of the league's racism. Otherwise, the argument goes, Kaepernick would be out there instead.

But this off-season has seen the most serious the talk of Kaepernick 2.0 so far. The defenestrated signal-caller has even said he is willing to accept a job as a backup quarterback.

It won't happen. Whatever your views of Kaepernick's national anthem kneeling — I'm on record saying it's an effective tactic in fighting for a good cause and that anything that treats patriotism and opposition to racism as being in tension with each other is ultimately bad for both — it is controversial. No team is going to court that kind of controversy for a player who will mainly ride the bench and carry a clipboard.

To return to the NFL, the 34-year-old will have to prove he is still a viable starter. Kaepernick's fans remember the high level at which he played during his Super Bowl season. That game was played in February 2013. Unless you are Tom Brady, that is a lifetime in professional sports. When Kaepernick last was a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback, so was Robert Griffin III. Griffin had a passer rating of 22.6 last season and hasn't posted one above 80 since 2014, his final year as a full-time starter.

Unlike Griffin, Kaepernick did not suffer an injury, besides being a culture war casualty. But he also went 1-10 in his final 11 games as a starter. A polarizing figure on the other side of this divide, largely because of his in-your-face beliefs, Tim Tebow has suffered a similar fate. There is constant speculation about Tebow coming back, but he's never made a roster after teams stopped viewing him as a starter, despite being better than some backups. Kaepernick will be no different.