clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

A Realpolitik Argument for Signing Colin Kaepernick

There is a time for idealism and there is a time for pragmatism. This is definitely a time for the latter.

“It is not by ideologies and schemes that football games are decided — but by gridiron and blood.”

By the time Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck was forced out of office in 1890, he’d had a pretty remarkable career for a German civil servant. He had outsmarted the political leadership of three major European nations, unified a nation under his liege, King Wilhelm I of Prussia (Kaiser Wilhelm I of the German Empire), set up a complicated system of alliances creating a balance of power to avoid yet another war after German unification, isolated his domestic political opponents, instituted social policies for working class German citizens, and, most of all, consolidated and expanded the power of his king/kaiser, making Germany one of the greatest powers in 19th century Europe. It’s safe to say that overall he had a pretty remarkable career and is still widely regarded as one of the greatest political minds of all time.

When historians discuss Bismarck, they will often cite his sometimes ruthless use of realpolitik, an adherence to pragmatic political solutions without regard to ethical or ideological principles, as one of the main reasons he proved to be so successful in achieving his goals. After Prussia defeated Austria in the Seven Weeks War, he did not demand territorial concessions from Austria, which was unusual for the time, because he knew he would have to fight a war with France and did not need a pissed-off Austria helping the French out in the upcoming Franco-Prussian War. That’s realpolitik. When socialist agitators were threatening the power of the fledgling German empire, Bismarck instituted small social policies including one of the first state-provided old age pensions, accident and sickness insurance program in history. Doing this took the wind out of the agitators’ sails and made working class Germans more loyal to the throne and Bismarck’s government. That’s realpolitik.

So what does a long-dead politician have to do with the Houston Texans? Not much. His realpolitik approach to problems, however, has everything to do with the Texans. When you cut out personal ideology from the entire debate, signing former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons; some of them happy, fun, football-related reasons, others a bit more unseemly, but reasons nonetheless.

Since this is an attempt to get Bob McNair to see the value of signing Kaepernick, the remainder of this post will be directed at him, personally. Because he obviously reads Battle Red Blog every morning and bases his biggest team-related decisions on what is said and proposed here.

Hi, Bob. May I call you Bob? No? Okay, fine. Mr. McNair, you seem to have had a pretty rough couple of weeks. Critical pieces of your team have been lost for the season, fans are giving up on the Texans and the year is only half over, and you’ve been catching a lot of flak for comments which I really want to believe were taken out of context.

The season looked so promising too, what with the revelation that Deshaun Watson has been this season, right? He made watching the offense fun again. But he tore his ACL and we won’t see him under center again for a while. That really stung, not just for you, I’m sure, but for all Texans fans. But I do have a way to maybe, just maybe, salvage the season, make yourself look like the bigger man, and potentially save the NFL from a colossal headache all in one fell swoop: sign Colin Kaeper—

No! Wait! Stop! Hear me out! I know you love Colin Kaepernick about as much as you love tropical skin diseases, but I’ve put a lot of thought into this. Seriously, signing Kaepernick might just be the unlikely move where everybody wins, kind of.

Now, I know you have some serious reservations about this, and I totally understand. I mean there’s been a lot of talk out there which has put most teams off Kaepernick, and it’s hard to cut through the noise to get to the truth about Colin.

Allow me to help allay any concerns you might have. I’ll even list them in convenient bullet point to make it easier to go through; because I know you’re busy and have important football things to attend to.

No, I’m not above baseless flattery, why do you ask?

  • He’s just not that good a quarterback.

In 2016, Kaepernick was having one of his best seasons, statistically speaking. Had he played a full 16 game season last year, he probably would have eclipsed his 2013 campaign numbers in rushing yards, passing yards, and passing touchdowns. I would also like to point out that the 49ers got to the NFC championship game that year. Maybe a coincidence, maybe not, I don’t know, I am not a scientist. I just know that these are not the stats of a player who “doesn’t have it anymore.”

Still I understand your reticence. After all, Kaepernick might not be... good as...

...the quarterbacks you’ve employed...

...past or present.

  • He doesn’t know Bill O’Brien’s system.

True, he’s never been coached by Bill O’Brien. But he was coached by Jim Harbaugh; and, based on this article, there are very striking similarities between the plays drawn up by Harbaugh during his time with the 49ers and how Bill O’Brien used Deshaun Watson this season.

Kaepernick can run the offensive scheme that Bill O’Brien created (or stole from Dabo Swinney, depending on how you look at it) for Watson. Savage and Yates cannot.

Also, your front office just brought in Josh Johnson, who has not only never been exposed to Bill O’Brien’s offense, but also has not thrown a pass in six years. I’d like to repeat that because it sounds vaguely important. Josh Johnson, who could not even get a backup quarterback job BEHIND Kaepernick in 2014, has not thrown a pass in a meaningful game since the year J.J. Watt was drafted.

I also hesitate to point out that aside from Josh Johnson, both Savage and Yates are well versed in O’Brien’s offense. I point you toward the gifs above to show what that has gotten the Texans so far.

Maybe he just doesn’t want to play anymore.

It’s entirely possible. Except he’s said, in no uncertain terms, that he absolutely wants to play.

He’s stayed in football shape, according to Sports Illustrated, working out five days a week to stay in playing shape. He’s still interested in playing football, even with his private endeavors including providing free suits for parolees to help them find a new job.

If he said he did not want to play football anymore, signing Kaepernick would not be an issue for anyone.

  • He’s a distraction, he’ll cause dissension in the locker room.

That ship has sailed, gotten lost at sea, and may now be a colony for octopuses somewhere on the Gulf of Mexico floor. If you think trading away Duane Brown and issuing a boilerplate apology for your “inmates running the prison” statement has smoothed things over with the team, your employees, then you are severely misinformed. Without being inside the locker room, I can only assume that there’s still a large bloc of players who are still really pissed at you for your seemingly cavalier attitude toward them.

As Mike Bullock pointed out in his excellent post also about Kaepernick, bringing him in might just bring the unhappy players together in a way that would be reminiscent of the Cleveland Indians in Major League. If the team bands together, even if it’s against you, then they’re playing for a purpose.

Besides, there’s no certainty that if Kaepernick did sign with the Texans that he would continue kneeling during the national anthem. More than likely he would, but at this point the protests have taken on a life of their own. An NFL with or without Kaepernick will continue to experience protests. So as long as that’s the case, if players are going to be pissed at you irrespective of what you do, then why deny your team the potential that Kaepernick offers to bring new life to the offense?

  • The fans might backlash about bringing in someone as controversial as Kaepernick.

First of all, when have you ever been concerned about what your fans think? Lest we forget, there’s still a non-zero likelihood that nobody wanted to name this new team the Houston Texans and there’s still conspiracy theories about you rigging the fan vote. Whether that’s true or not is besides the point. I will say this is a valid concern, but there’s a reason the phrase “winning cures all ails” exists. It doesn’t just apply to the players; it goes for the fans as well. Coaches seem less moronic, players seem happier, fans forget about their gripes with the team all because they string together a few wins.

The same thing will most likely be the case with Kaepernick. If he starts and he does win games for the Texans, suddenly his protests will be less infuriating. And while it’s true that such a move will likely prompt fans to say they’re done with the team, the number of fans leaving won’t be the mass exodus that you might fear. And bringing in Kaepernick might even draw fans that would never have thought twice about supporting the Texans in the past. In a weird way, this move could bring you in more money just from jersey sales alone!

There’s also two positives and one potentially “beneficial” reason to hire Kaepernick.

The positive, which Mike also mentioned in his Red Zone Play, would be that signing Kaepernick would be a masterful public relations coup. If you want to rehabilitate your image so people don’t think of you as merely a cold-blooded tycoon who doesn’t value his employees (and depending on who you ask, this is a generous characterization), bringing in the quarterback who has brought you nothing but ire to lead your football team to victory would be a monumental first step.

The other positive is if you do sign him and he does not prove to be the panacea that Texans fans hoped he might be (which is entirely possible), then you’re only on the hook for one year. The Texans’ 2017 campaign can quietly slip away to oblivion, Kaepernick can get cut the second the new NFL year begins, and you can wash your hands of him once and for all. After all, when he was a starter, the 49ers had a dominant offensive line for him to work behind. As for the state of the Texans’ offensive line, well, you should probably take that up with Rick Smith.

Now I did say at the beginning that signing Kaepernick could also save your friends at the NFL a massive headache. Here’s how.

As of now, Colin Kaepernick is putting together a case to try and prove that teams in the NFL colluded to keep Kaepernick from getting a job with a team. Proving collusion is incredibly difficult. So when someone starts to gather evidence to make the case, that alone is newsworthy, because this usually indicates that there’s enough evidence out there to make the case. You, Mr. McNair, are a primary figure in Kaepernick’s developing collusion case (which, by the way, signing Josh Johnson probably did not do you any favors in that department). On top of that, Bill O’Brien, your head football coach, the guy you were laser-focused on since firing Kubiak, is now listed as a witness in Kaepernick’s case.

If Kaepernick successfully prosecutes his case, it will nullify the collective bargaining agreement, give him triple what his expected annual salary would be (spoiler alert: a lot), and embroil your fellow owners in a labor dispute the likes of which you’ve never seen before. Do you want that labor armageddon on your shoulders? Sure, you could take your chances that his case falls apart on its own or let the league try to resolve it, but after all the controversies he’s gotten you into, do you really trust your mimbo commissioner to do anything but make it worse?

So you could let this grievance play out and take your chances or you could shatter the entire collusion argument with one pen stroke. Give a good, solid offer to Kaepernick for one or two years. Make it clear to him that he’ll likely be the starter (you can lie to Savage, Yates, and Other Guy and call it a competition) and do not lowball him. It has to be a legitimate offer and a serious possibility to start.

If he agrees to it and starts, there’s a better than average chance that he drops the case because he’ll be too busy learning the system. If he doesn’t, then it makes his claims of collusion immeasurably harder to prove when he’s wearing battle red and taking snaps from Nick Martin.

If he refuses the deal, then at a minimum you have shown to your fans that you at least made a legitimate “good faith” effort to bring him in and he just wasn’t interested. That’s not on you anymore, that’s Kaepernick being greedy or pigheaded or however else you want to paint him. You did your part, it’s Kaepernick’s problem after that. Then you can go back to trying to disprove his collusion allegations.

If he signs up, then you win because it’s instant public relations, the fans win (possibly) because he’s an upgrade from the riffraff currently on the roster, the league wins because a potentially thorny problem gets resolved, and the Texans win because the Texans win. And we can all live happily ever after.

See, there’s plenty of practical reasons to bring on Colin Kaepernick. There’s plenty to gain from his signing and little to lose. Bismarck would undoubtedly be proud of your shrewdness.