1. Colin Kaepernick, Dallas Cowboys backup quarterback?
It became a relatively hot topic late in the week. Kaepernick, of course, is unemployed and looking for a job. Seattle sounds interested in him as a backup. I assume Kaepernick would rather start. But right now there doesn’t appear to be a starting job open.
He is, also, polarizing, given his protests last year during the National Anthem. He has indicated that he does not intend to continue those protests this season. It could signal that Kaepernick has found other ways to channel his energy when it comes to his off-the-field endeavors. If you do enough research, you’ll find a person that is donating his time and money to charity in unique ways, including a recent donation of 100 suits to a New York City-area parole office for parolees to wear on job interviews.
Despite what appears to be a player that has his eye on helping his community, Kaepernick remains unsigned a season after doing something that, frankly, few agreed with — kneeling during the National Anthem. Now, my father served two tours in Vietnam and I was taught to stand during the Anthem and put my hand over my heart, and I do so to this day. I also support the First Amendment. I support free speech. If you’re going to exercise that right, well, you have to be prepared to listen to people that disagree with you (and there are many people that I disagree with these days. But I still listen, and I support their right to say it because if I don’t then I lose my right to speak out).
I’ve spent the offseason watching and listening to writers and pundits that I trust make a case for and against signing Kaepernick this offseason. Those who write that he deserves a job cite his on-the-field play which, last year, was solid on a bad 49ers team — 16 touchdown passes and 4 interceptions in 12 games, plus 2,221 passing yards. At his best he had back-to-back 3,000-yard passing seasons and led the 49ers to a Super Bowl.
Those who make the case against Kaepernick getting an NFL job point to his protests and the distraction that he might become for another NFL team. Yes, the press will make a beeline for Kaepernick the second he hits town, but if he’s with the right team with a stable quarterback situation that energy is likely to wane as time goes on because the press will want to speak to the starting quarterback once the season begins.
Seattle make sense. Their quarterback situation is stable. Russell Wilson is the entrenched starter and he’s not going anywhere. It would take an injury, not poor play, to prompt a switch from Wilson to any other quarterback.
That’s where the Cowboys’ situation differs just a bit. As good as Dak Prescott was last year, he is, after all, a second-year quarterback. He’s liable to take a step back — in fact, I expect him to do so. Now that doesn’t mean I expect Prescott to have a bad season, only that his play might take a step back before it takes a step forward, and that’s a natural occurrence for a second-year player. But what if he has an extended slump to start the season? Imagine if Tony Romo were still on the roster and that happened? Imagine that distraction? The same could happen if Kaepernick was on the roster. He’s not Romo, but he’s a veteran who’s had past success and that would lead to the kind of distractions that start to make the wrong headlines.
It’s a volatile mix. Anyone who signs Kaepernick will have to deal with the fallout from last season. Avoiding distraction is a legitimate concern if you’re concerned about locker room chemistry. But passing on a quarterback with obvious talent when you have a less-than-desirable quarterback situation is foolish from a roster standpoint.
That’s why any interest the Cowboys might have in Kaepernick boils down not to Prescott, but to their comfort level in Kellen Moore, his current backup. If the Cowboys are comfortable with Moore’s ability to fill in for Prescott, they won’t make a move. If they aren’t, they will. And right now?
This isn’t about talent. This is about protest. This isn’t about being “blackballed.” This is about all of it. Reducing Kaepernick’s unemployment down to one thing ignores the totality of one of 2016’s most polarizing NFL stories. And it’s something the Cowboys aren’t interested in — not because they’re averse to controversy (lord knows that isn’t the case), but because they feel they’re set, or "set enough,'' at the position. You may disagree, but I think that’s where they are right now.
2. The Cowboys opened their new athletic club this week, Cowboys Fit. It’s in their facility at The Star in Frisco and it includes lavish amenities, including a rooftop pool. Fish has the coverage here.
Another reason why Jerry Jones is a Hall-of-Fame businessman. He never squanders an opportunity to make money or improve the fan experience. Who wouldn’t want to work out where (or near where) the pros work out?
3. I’m not sure how, exactly, Pro Football Focus is grading Zeke’s rookie season. I’m sure there’s plenty of analytics involved. But any way you look at it Ezekiel Elliott had one of the best rookie seasons of all-time. Heck, he was only 177 yards off Eric Dickerson’s all-time rookie rushing mark.
Yes, it probably seems odd to see Alfred Morris and Steve Slaton ahead of Elliott. But let’s look at this from a more traditional perspective:
Morris — 335 carries, 1,613 yards, 13 TDs, plus 11 receptions for 77 yards.
Slaton — 268 carries, 1,282 yards, 9 TDs, plus 50 receptions, 377 yards and a TD
Elliott — 322 carries, 1,631 yards, 15 TDs, plus 32 receptions, 363 yards and a TD
Yep, still struggling a bit. Elliott had a better season, overall, than both of them.
What I’m more interested in is seeing how those Top 5 all-time rookie rushers did their second seasons in the NFL. Is there a drop-off? I’m going to delve into that as we get closer to the NFL season. But, just out of curiosity, how did Morris and Slaton do in their sophomore seasons?
Morris — 276 carries, 1,275 yards, 7 TDs, plus 9 receptions for 78 yards
Slaton — 131 carries, 437 yards, 3 TDs, plus 44 receptions for 417 yards and 4 TDs.
Interesting. There’s definitely a dropoff. Off to research mode.
4. StarCast! If you missed last week’s StarCast on Jaylon Smith and his prospects for this season, give it a listen today.
5. Our Matt Galatzan tackled the “sophomore slump” when it comes to Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (see, we were just talking about this). It’s never too early to start fretting about the second-year pro, and Galatzan goes back in time to examine the second seasons of some other QBs that had great rookie seasons but didn’t follow up, including Vince Young, Sam Bradford and Robert Griffin III. He also has some more positive examples and it’s worth a read.
I tend to think Prescott will fall into the latter category, though, as I mentioned above, I see bumps in the road, the natural ones that most second-year players experience.
And be sure to check out the E:60 feature on the impact that Prescott’s late mother had on his life.
6. Rico Gathers and Ezekiel Elliott got in some hoops earlier this week.
You know, if the football thing doesn’t work out for Gathers, he’s got a shot at basketball. (But no less an authority than Jason Witten says the football thing's gonna work out. Our story on that, coming up.)
7. Here’s a novel way to try and get out of that final exam.
Your move, Dez. Your move.
8. Tweet of the Week
Just a reminder … Zeke has a loooooooong way to go to Catch 22.
9. This week’s “Great Moments in Headline Porn?” “Mouth of a legend: Michael Irvin’s best quotes this year, including love for Zeke sending him to the bathroom” from Dallasnews.com
Not exactly outlandish. Just fun.
10. One More Thing ….
Travis Frederick is taking a page from the Jason Witten playbook when it comes to handling things off the field. Frederick announced on Tuesday two new initiatives to combat childhood hunger in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. “Nourish to Flourish” will help provide boxed meals to 200 children during the summer, and “Travis’ Pantry” will help supplement local reduced or free lunch programs at local schools. Frederick has been supporting local initiatives focused on childhood hunger since he arrived in Dallas, but his new efforts represent an extended commitment to the project. DallasCowboys.com has more here.