Johnny Manziel draws a crowd while Colin Kaepernick remains shut out
One has been a disaster, the other has taken a team to the Super Bowl. Guess who’s getting a look from NFL teams?
The widespread anger expressed Thursday in response to the NFL’s interest in failed quarterback Johnny Manziel wasn’t the least bit surprising, especially viewed in juxtaposition to Colin Kaepernick’s situation.
On Twitter, a whole lot of folks went in on the league because 13 teams attended the University of San Diego’s pro day to watch Manziel, whose brief, disastrous NFL stint was partly derailed by alcohol and substance abuse. Meanwhile, Kaepernick, an accomplished passer by any measurement who also has a Super Bowl appearance on his résumé, remains shut out of the game. Many observers questioned whether Kaepernick would attract similar attention if he worked out in public. Or, for that matter, any attention at all.
Talk about rhetorical questions.
Long before Kaepernick filed a grievance under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement alleging that owners have conspired to keep him out of the league, doors were shut in his face. Many civil rights activists and players believe Kaepernick has been blackballed because he was the first player to kneel during the national anthem in order to shine a light on social injustice.
Since opting out of his contract after the 2016 season, Kaepernick has trained privately. His trainer has posted videos of him working out and throwing the ball. Kaepernick has remained in top shape, a person close to him told me recently, while he waits for an offer to resume his career. During the entire 2017 season, none came.
In his career, Kaepernick has an impressive 64.9 Total QBR. Last season, that number would have ranked fifth in the league. Kaepernick has experience: He has made 58 career starts, including six in the postseason (his playoff record is 4-2). Kaepernick has the fifth-best touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio of all time. In fact, in that statistic, Kaepernick is better than Steve Young, Peyton Manning and Tony Romo, to name just a few other quarterbacks. Kaepernick has rushed for 2,300 yards (he has a 6.1-yard average) and 13 touchdowns. And Kaepernick is only 30. Despite his strong body of work and the savvy that comes from longevity, Kaepernick hasn’t come close to getting another NFL gig.
Of course, Manziel may not be any closer to finding work either.
Manziel was invited to throw at the school’s pro day by two University of San Diego wide receivers with whom he has been training. The big turnout by teams, however, was clearly driven by the presence of Manziel.
The former Texas A&M star was the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy. There’s still curiosity within the league about Manziel.
If Manziel can get his life in order, the thinking goes, he may still be able to help a team. A few months ago, a high-ranking NFL player-personnel executive told me he wouldn’t be interested in pursuing Manziel, “but as always,” the executive said, “it only takes one [team]. There are people out there who think he can play.” I also asked the executive about Kaepernick. He wouldn’t go there.
That’s the thing: Even off the record, NFL people are reluctant to say anything about the former San Francisco 49ers passer. Kaepernick’s ongoing legal action against the league partly explains why executives, coaches and scouts get jittery when Kaepernick’s name is mentioned. Clearly, though, there’s more to the story.
The door may still be ajar, albeit slightly, for Manziel to make a comeback. The presence of all those teams watching him in action Thursday proved that. And all the evidence strongly suggests that Kaepernick, who has done so much to help others, won’t be given the same opportunity. Obviously, that’s not fair. But life’s not fair. And we know the NFL definitely isn’t.