It’s been seven years since Turlock’s Colin Kaepernick has taken a snap in an NFL game. Nevertheless, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, a 2006 graduate of Pitman High school, may be eyeing a return to the league.
Kaepernick, who will turn 36 in November, shared a video on Monday in which he can be seen throwing passes at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. Working out with the 6-4, 225-pound Kaepernick — at least, he weighed 225 the last time we saw him on an NFL field — were receivers CeeDee Lamb (Dallas), Jaylen Waddle (Miami), Chris Olave (New Orleans), Kendrick Bourne (New England), and running backs Derrick Henry (Tennessee) and Najee Harris (Pittsburgh).
“Man, he looks great,” Bourne says in the video after running routes for Kaepernick, a free agent. “The arm looks strong. He’s got a rocket of an arm. He’s got another good six years left.”
But does he?
If Kaepernick is indeed launching a comeback, he’s doing it at an age when most quarterbacks are considering retirement, or have already been pounded into retirement. Of all the quarterbacks enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the average age at retirement is 37.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that Tom Brady, a sure bet for Canton in five years, just retired at age 45. True, but for every Tom Brady, there’s an Andrew Luck, who’d had enough by the time he was 29.
Does Kaepernick really still have the goods? Sure, he looked fantastic in the video. But every quarterback tends to look good when they’re throwing to defender-less receivers on the practice field. It’s an altogether different thing throwing between speedy defenders with defensive linemen breathing down your neck.
Kaepernick’s body of work remains somewhat of a mystery. He took over for starter Alex Smith midway through the 2012 season and led the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII. The following year, he guided the team to a 12-4 mark and a berth in the NFC title game. But in 2014, the 49ers were a disappointing 8-8 and missed the playoffs in Jim Harbaugh’s final year as head coach. A year later, under new head coach Jim Tomsula, Kaepernick started just eight games as San Francisco stumbled to a 5-11 record. In 2016, his last year in the league, the 49ers, on their way to a 2-14 record under Chip Kelly, were 1-10 with Kaepernick as a starter.
Did Harbaugh’s system make Kaepernick? Probably a little. Did Tomsula and Kelly fail to utilize Kaepernick to the best of his abilities? Probably more than little.
But performance on the field is not the reason Kaepernick has been out of the league for the past six years.
It was his performance on the sideline — taking a knee during the national anthem as a form of social protest — that caused him to fall out of favor with NFL owners.
Oh, the owners will tell you they didn’t collude to keep Kaepernick out of the NFL, but name another quarterback who led a team to the Super Bowl and conference title game in back-to-back seasons and had as much trouble landing one of 32 starting jobs in the league? Heck, he couldn’t even land a job as a backup, which means there were 64 quarterbacks deemed better than Kaepernick.
That doesn’t compute.
If I were a betting man — and I am — I’d wager that no team is going to take a chance on a 35-year-old quarterback with considerable ring rust who’s likely to alienate a good portion of the fan base. If any team was willing to take such a chance, they’d have done it by now.
Still, I’m rooting for the hometown kid.