The Houston Texans have signed three quarterbacks since rookie sensation Deshaun Watson suffered his season-ending knee injury last week. None of them is named Colin Kaepernick. And none of them seems capable of keeping the Texans’ season from coming completely undone.
The Green Bay Packers likewise are in a downward spiral since their superstar quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, was hurt, potentially ending his season. The Packers, too, opted against signing Kaepernick. Their coach, Mike McCarthy, bristled at merely being asked whether adding Kaepernick was an option.
The calendar has turned to November. The number of weeks remaining in the NFL’s regular season is dwindling. That countdown until season’s end is well on its way to providing official confirmation of what the events of the past few months have suggested with ever-increasing clarity: that it does not appear that Kaepernick will play in the NFL this season. More and more, it seems that teams have spoken on that matter.
Former general manager Bill Polian, the Hall of Fame executive for the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts, was asked earlier this season how long the window for a contending team to sign Kaepernick as a prospective season-saving measure would remain open.
“It’s probably open until Week 8 or a little beyond that,” Polian said. “It would take you two to three weeks to get ready.”
Week 10 begins Thursday night.
Polian, in a phone interview in September, spoke about the football-related considerations to signing Kaepernick. He mentioned the view held by some that Kaepernick is not a good fit with many teams as a backup quarterback because of his skill set, with his improvisational abilities regarded as being better than his pocket-passing reliability. A team with a pocket-passing starter, that theory holds, would face the prospect of having to overhaul its offensive system if Kaepernick were forced to play. And that is not necessarily practical.
But that didn’t hold, Polian said then, if a team with realistic postseason aspirations were to lose its starter and didn’t have a viable alternative on the roster. In that case, he said, Kaepernick could be brought in as a starter, and tailoring the offense to the starting quarterback’s skills is mere football common sense.
“Now, if you are in a situation where you lose both your quarterbacks to injury and you have a good team … if you have a playoff-quality team and catastrophe strikes with your quarterback situation, these points are moot because now he’s your starter,” Polian said in September. “None of that applies. You can build your offense around him and it removes those issues. It’s a very small window in terms of the number of teams, and it’s a small calendar window.”
Signing Kaepernick would be, of course, far more than a football decision for any franchise. Kaepernick, while with the San Francisco 49ers last season, began the movement of players protesting social injustice and police abuse by refusing to stand for the national anthem. The controversy over those protests was amplified this season when President Trump called on owners to fire any player who refuses to stand for the anthem, casting the protest movement as unpatriotic and anti-military. Passions were intensified even further after Texans owner Robert McNair reportedly told fellow owners at their fall meeting last month that the NFL “can’t have the inmates running the prison.”
The issue has overshadowed everything that has happened on the field this season. Kaepernick, who has not commented publicly for months, has remained unsigned and has filed a grievance accusing teams of colluding to keep him out of the league.
Kaepernick’s lawyers in the collusion grievance, led by prominent Los Angeles-based attorney Mark J. Geragos, are seeking to conduct depositions with a number of owners. They are seeking records of electronic communications from several teams. They could depose NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Geragos declined to address details of the case Friday when news of the deposition requests became public. But he said in a brief phone interview: “Every day that goes by and he doesn’t get signed is another nail in the NFL’s defense.”
The fact that Kaepernick, a former Super Bowl starter who had 16 touchdown passes and four interceptions last season for the 49ers, is not in the league does not by itself represent proof of collusion, under the terms of the sport’s collective bargaining agreement. Neither does comparing Kaepernick’s quarterbacking credentials to those of players who are on NFL rosters.
To prevail in the grievance, Kaepernick and Geragos must provide evidence that teams conspired with one another or with the league to keep him from being offered a contract. Perhaps such evidence exits; perhaps it doesn’t. Maybe Kaepernick and Geragos will be successful; maybe they won’t.
Either way, the clock is ticking on Kaepernick playing this season.
Texans Coach Bill O’Brien said Monday that Kaepernick’s name came up in the team’s internal deliberations. But since Watson got hurt, the Texans have signed Matt McGloin, T.J. Yates and Josh Johnson. McGloin already has been released.
The Texans went back to Tom Savage as their starter. He started the season opener but lasted only a half before O’Brien went to Watson. Things weren’t any better this time around, as Savage completed only 19 of 44 passes last Sunday and the Texans lost to the Indianapolis Colts. Their record dropped to 3-5, and they fell two games behind the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC South. Savage is to start again Sunday in Los Angeles against the Rams.
The Packers have played two full games since Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone. McCarthy, in reacting testily to a reporter’s question about Kaepernick following Rogers’s injury, spoke of the three years that he had invested in coaching Rodgers’s backup, Brett Hundley.
But Hundley has totaled only 332 passing yards in two games as the fill-in starter for Rodgers. The Packers have lost both games and, with their record at 4-4, are two games in back of the first-place Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North.
The Packers haven’t ruled out the possibility of Rodgers playing again this season. But there would be no reason to put Rodgers back on the field in the final weeks of the regular season if they are out of playoff contention. The next chance for Hundley and the Packers comes Sunday in Chicago. Their season may not be on the line quite yet, but it’s getting close. Rodgers is not around to rescue them the way he did last season, when the Packers won their final six games of the regular season following a 4-6 start and then reached the NFC title game.
Kaepernick, meanwhile, continues to sit and wait for another NFL chance.
There’s no indication that his wait is about to end particularly soon.
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