Fair or not, we know why Colin Kaepernick didn't get NFL offers immediately after workout

Dan WetzelColumnist

In every employment situation, the employee’s talents or productivity (whether proven or merely perceived by management) must outweigh their liabilities (whether proven or merely perceived by management).

If not, they aren’t employees anymore. Or never became one in the first place.

It could be salary. It could be demeanor. It could be nearly anything, employers can value different things. There is always a sliding scale.

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If you’re the best at the company and worked without incident for a decade, you can probably show up late one morning and not get fired. If you’re the worst and have attitude problems, among other things, then you might be gone. 

And so we come to Colin Kaepernick, his bizarre in all ways workout on Saturday and the apparent disinterest of the NFL in bringing him back into the fold. 

Colin Kaepernick worked out for eight teams on Saturday at an Atlanta-area high school. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Colin Kaepernick worked out for eight teams on Saturday at an Atlanta-area high school. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

At the heart of everything is the NFL’s perceived talent/liability scale of him. The wrong way to view Kaepernick’s employment hopes is to ask if he is a better on-field quarterback than the worst quarterback in the league, be it as a starter or a backup. 

That isn’t the equation. It’s whether the NFL thinks his talents (and thus production) outweighs what it considers to be his problems. 

Patrick Mahomes could begin kneeling for the national anthem and he’d remain the starter. Kaepernick can’t.

And Saturday likely didn’t change a thing.

That isn’t to say the NFL is correct in its assessment of his problems. It’s worth noting that kneeling for the anthem violated no NFL rules (it would have in the NBA or MLB). Yet it’s the league’s assessment. 

Kaepernick had two chances to tip the scales in his favor Saturday, when the NFL invited him to a strange tryout of sorts for teams after over two and a half seasons out of the league. 

One was to improve the perception of his talent. The other was to decrease the perception of his liabilities. 

It doesn’t appear it went well. Twenty-five teams showed up at the Atlanta Falcons practice facility to watch him throw. Kaepernick, however, was understandably distrustful of the NFL. The session was put together hastily and Kaepernick had previously sued, and then reached a settlement, with the NFL. 

It played into his decision to move the workout to a high school some 60 miles away. Only eight clubs made it there and just six watched him throw.

It’s clear that moving the workout alone was enough to turn off the majority of teams.

It appears Kaepernick never believed he was getting a fair shake from the league, and that is his right and there is plenty of reason for his suspicion. It is also his right is to apply for the job in any way that he wants. 

He has to deal with that decision.

Kaepernick wanted to do it his way. The NFL wanted to do it its way. 

The golden rule? The people with the gold, rule. In this case, the NFL is under no obligation to employ Colin Kaepernick and it’s clear by the reaction of NFL-types that they viewed Kaepernick’s negatives as too burdensome for his talent to overcome.

“If I was still coaching, my big question would be, Colin Kaepernick is a good quarterback,” former Super Bowl winner Tony Dungy said on NBC. “He’s a good athlete. I know he can throw the ball. I know he is one of the top 100 quarterbacks playing. But what I don’t know is how badly he wants to play. And that didn’t get answered.”  

Dungy is generally indicative of the conservative and cautious nature of the NFL, and his words are being repeated in private. 

Again, fair or not, that’s reality and Kaepernick didn’t alter that. In any job interview, the potential employee has to set out to answer questions about the weakest part of their resume – a lack of experience, a lack of education, whatever.

Kaepernick didn’t get that done. Physically, Kaepernick looked good, but it was a workout against air. He’s certainly in great shape, even at 32, but that’s the bare minimum for the NFL. 

He didn’t look good enough that he got people to stop wondering if he ever wanted to play. 

Kaepernick’s refusal to bend will further endear himself to some people. And it will further infuriate others. That’s his choice and their choice as well. Per usual these days, everyone’s base was well-served in this. A middle ground was not. 

Meanwhile both the NFL and Colin Kaepernick spin on, without each other.

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