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RGIII over Kaepernick? The NFL is just trolling us now

The league might as well hang a sign at its New York offices that reads, ‘Kaepernick is never getting back in’

At this point, the NFL is trolling us all. That’s the only way to explain the fact that Robert Griffin III has returned to the league while Colin Kaepernick is still banging on the door. The NFL might as well hang a sign at its New York offices that reads, “Kaepernick is never getting back in.”

The Baltimore Ravens announced on Wednesday that they’ve signed Griffin, the one-time superstar quarterback whose rapid career downturn was a stunner. After waiting all last season for an offer that never came, Griffin got a one-year deal to be starter Joe Flacco’s backup.

The Ravens hope they’ll succeed where both the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns failed. And if they rebuild Griffin’s game, if the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner and NFL’s 2012 Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year makes it all the way back, the Ravens could have a potential long-term replacement already on the roster for Flacco. For his part, Griffin is thankful to be wanted again.

“The Ravens have blessed me with an opportunity, it’s an opportunity to get back in the game, so I’m excited about that,” Griffin told The Undefeated by phone Wednesday. “It’s an opportunity to be a part of a great organization, grow with the team and learn from Joe.”

Since Flacco, who’ll be entering his 11th season, led Baltimore to the 2013 Super Bowl championship, the team has qualified for the postseason only once. The past three seasons, the Ravens have missed the playoffs. Last season, Flacco, 33, posted a 43.0 Total QBR — his lowest mark since his rookie season. It ranked 23rd out of 30 rated passers.

With the Ravens’ quarterback situation, you get why they would take a cost-effective gamble on a formerly successful veteran passer. But what doesn’t make sense, at least from a football standpoint, is that the Ravens again passed on the best available candidate remaining in the free-agent quarterback market: Kaepernick.

That’s in no way meant to be a shot at Griffin. Clearly, the Ravens are getting a highly motivated player. It’s just that even in the most generous comparison of their careers, Griffin doesn’t match up with Kaepernick.

Griffin worked hard and remained ready for a call after being released by Washington in March 2016 and by the Browns a year later. Griffin has a lot to prove, and maybe he’ll prove he can still play the game he loves.

“When you’re out of football for a year, one of two things happens,” Griffin said. “You either give up or fold and say, ‘Man, I don’t wanna play.’ Or you continue to work out that whole year and know in your heart that this is” what you still want.

Across the board, Kaepernick has amassed better statistics than Griffin. In the regular season, Kaepernick has more victories. Kaepernick has delivered in the playoffs; Griffin has made only one postseason appearance. Kaepernick also has proved to be more durable.

Griffin, 28, is younger than Kaepernick, 30. Their age difference, however, is not so significant that any team would eliminate Kaepernick from consideration if both players were being evaluated for one roster spot, especially considering Griffin’s injury history. The thing is, we know the NFL isn’t truly considering Kaepernick for anything.

While with the San Francisco 49ers during the 2016 season, Kaepernick ignited a movement by first sitting and then kneeling to shine a light on racial injustice in the United States. After the season, Kaepernick opted out of his contract. He hasn’t worked since.

The Ravens and the Seattle Seahawks publicly expressed interest in Kaepernick, only to eventually back away from the table. With straight faces, many NFL people initially argued that Kaepernick failed to draw interest because of major flaws in his game; his unemployment had nothing to do with his politics, they claimed.

Remember the one about Kaepernick being a bad fit as a backup because of his skill set? Teams that run traditional offenses, the thinking went, would be reluctant to modify things for a second-string dual-threat quarterback. Well, who’s more of a dual-threat guy than Griffin? Don’t expect Flacco, a classic pocket passer, to suddenly start running zone-read plays regularly.

After a procession of less accomplished passers signed, players who had already proven that the only way they should have been a part of the NFL is by purchasing game tickets, the indefensible position about Kaepernick’s situation became even harder to defend. In October 2017, Kaepernick filed a grievance under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement alleging that owners have conspired to keep him out of the league. And, well, that’s a wrap.

Now, league officials get jittery if Kaepernick’s name is even raised in private conversations. Although no further evidence is needed that the NFL is completely done with Kaepernick, who legal experts say will have a tough time prevailing in his grievance against the league, the Griffin signing hammers another nail home.

Once team media availability resumes, Griffin figures to face questions about Kaepernick’s inability to land a gig. The NFL’s treatment of Kaepernick isn’t Griffin’s burden to shoulder. However, such is life.

“That situation is probably the most sticky situation in the entire league. But it’s not my job really to comment on it,” Griffin said. “If you look at the stats, if every decision was stats-based, there’d be a lot of quarterbacks who are on the street right now playing football over some of the guys who have been signed in the past. The bottom line is, for me, this is a blessing, and that’s all I can really focus on. I can’t try to focus on what’s going on with anybody else.”

He’s absolutely right. Griffin must focus on this chance. He may not get another. Kaepernick could tell him all about that.

Jason Reid is the senior NFL writer at The Undefeated. He enjoys watching sports, especially any games involving his son and daughter.