“They’re 1-4 now and let me tell you what they need to do right now,” Max Kellerman said on ‘First Take’ Monday morning. “The New York football Giants need to sign Colin Kaepernick right now. They need a dynamic quarterback, a starting-caliber NFL quarterback which Kaepernick is to pair with the most talented wideout I have ever seen in Odell Beckham, and the most talented running back prospect I’ve ever seen in Saquon Barkley. Not to mention Evan Engram when he comes back.”
Can we discuss this. Because it makes sense on every football level. The operative word is “football”.
If the Giants owners want to continue keep Kap out of the league, and if some fans don’t want Kap signed for his racial justice protest, that’s on them. If other fans want to continue an Eli Manning Sentimentality tour, that’s on them, too.
But this author is old enough to remember when Patrick Ewing was traded by the Knicks, and the backpage headline that read “GOOD RIDDANCE”. Though not as harsh, Joe Namath had an ugly end, too, and Don Mattingly was pushed out the door on the cusp of his postseason dreams.
New York has always been a tough town – except for Eli Manning I guess.
After getting benched for Geno Smith last year, Eli’s watery locker room eyes seemed to produce more sympathy and visceral outrage than for Christine Blasey Ford. The Giants coach was fired. Eli got his job back, and Brett Kavanaugh became a Supreme Court Justice.
But I digress. Now let’s talk football.
1. Eli is a Bad fit for this Team, and Especially his Lack of Mobility
“The quarterback play is killing this team!” says Kellerman. “Now does Kaepernick walk off the street and become the starter? Of course not. If they can come back because the division is weak, good for them and then they can develop Kaepernick as an answer.”
In fairness, ‘killing this team’, did not apply to Sunday in North Carolina. Despite two picks, Eli actually played well, and that loss was definitely not on him. Had Graham Gano knocked booted an insane 63-yard field goal (which would have been good from 70 yards), we would be celebrating Eli’s first 30-point win since 2015.
And to Eli detractors, that’s the whole problem right there. Eli can’t seem to move drives into the end zone — for years now —despite most coming with an elite wide receiver in Odell Beckham.
Eli’s supporters tend to use the words “two Super Bowl MVPs” as a form of lifetime immunity, and mostly point out his porous offensive line. Eli detractors also tend to focus on Manning’s last six years (34-50; 85.4 passer rating), and his severe lack of mobility that could mitigate the damage from that line.
One can argue Odell’s recent public interview critiquing Eli’s lack of mobility publicly was selfish and counter-productive before arguing it was untrue. The way this team is constructed right now, particularly the addition of Barkley, makes Manning’s lack of mobility an even greater concern.
But if Kellerman or this author are wrong on this point, and Eli starts winning like it’s late 2011, the Giants would still benefit from signing Kap.
2. Kaepernick is an Option to Eli
“Kaepernick might be ready to play if he gets involved in a system right now, by the middle or late of this year,” Kellerman said. “If they do start to make a run, but Eli’s play starts to falter, you have an option there.”
Kaepernick continues to train every day, and why wouldn’t any fan want that option? If Eli starts winning, then let Eli play out the season while Kaepernick learns the Giants system. If the Giants keep losing, you have the best back-up quarterback in the NFL who can step right in.
You also have an answer for the immediate future, and he costs zero draft picks.
Kap is seven years younger than Manning, and the same age as Kirk Cousins, and Matthew Stafford, neither who have won a single playoff game – let alone win four playoff games against two close losses (a Super Bowl, and one famous Richard Sherman deflected pass from going to another).
This Giants talk of “rebuilding” is nonsense. Your QB is 37, your back-up is a 4th-round rookie, and the Giants have serious playmakers to win right now as you add more pieces. How about using next year’s first-round pick on an offensive lineman? To waste the primes of Odell Beckham and Saquon Barkley on the mere hope you might draft a franchise QB would be a football crime.
3. Kaepernick has never had a wide receiver close to Odell Beckham. You must be at least curious?
In 2016, here was Kaepernick’s progression as he returned from injury.
Kaepernick Passer rating 2016
66.2 First 2 games
93.6 next 5 games
100.1 last 4 games
After needing two games to recover from injury, Kaepernick steadily improved as the season progressed.
But the most amazing thing is that Kaepernick did it with Jeremy Kerley as his No. 1 receiver.
Like Geno Smith, the previous quarterback to have Kerley as their No.1, Kap’s critics have the audacity to not mention it. Quinton Patton, now out of the NFL, was his No. 2.
Kap had back-up receivers and the Niners possessed the NFL’s last-ranked defense in 2016, the real reasons for his 1-10 record, a tally his critics love to cite without context.
The best wide receiver Kap ever had was Anquan Boldin who had two 1,000 yard seasons with him at age 33 and 34. Boldin outperformed his previous two seasons with Joe Flacco and the Ravens in yards, TDs, and catch percentage.
The notion that Kap is not a good passer, or “could only run the read-option” is absolutely absurd. For other fans who value winning over stereotyping, the only sensible question is this:
If Kaepernick can have a 96.5 passer rating in his last nine games with Jeremy Kerley and Quinton Patton as his top receivers, what might he accomplish with Odell Beckham, Evan Engram, and Sterling Shepard?
And Saquon Barkley, too?
4. Kaepernick and Saquon Barkley would be a dynamic Run Pass Option combo
“You can’t run RPOs with Eli Manning,” said Kellerman, “Can you imagine running them with Saquon Barkley?!”
Yes, I can. And it gives me chills.
Kaepernick was at his very best those three years with Frank Gore (25-14 record), and while the departure of former 49ers coach John Harbaugh tends to get the most attention, Gore’s departure as Kaepernick’s read-option partner hurt even more. Kaepernick and an electric talent like Barkley could work magic together.
Barkley has shades of Barry Sanders (yeah, I said it), and Marshall Faulk as a receiving threat (said it again). Saquon is special. But unlike Eli, Kap could create extra space and room for Barkley so he won’t be swarmed. Saquon would return the favor to Kap.
Did you see how much the Panthers stacked the line and wrapped Barkley up on Sunday behind the line of scrimmage on so many rushing plays? Part of it was poor Giants blocking, but a lot of it was also the Panthers’ entire gameplan was centered on stopping Barkley – not Eli.
It also opened the field up for Eli a little bit. Saquon has already made Eli better, but Eli will not make Barkley better — whose body will also take massive punishment. Barkley will be great with any QB, but will thrive with a mobile one. Read-option. Run-pass option. Any option. But he needs the option.
5. The Giants will likely increase revenue by signing Kaepernick
This author really doesn’t care about financial hardships of billionaires. But since so many people on my Twitter timeline have a soft spot for the Mara family’s wallet, and would rather lose games to protect it, let’s just address it.
Firstly, yes John Mara has said the vitriol toward players kneeling in the correspondence he’s had fans is unprecedented, but do you really think Giants fans are going to burn their tickets (again) if they sign Kaepernick?
Perhaps some will. Who knows, let’s say a few do? The question is, how many more fans will you gain back?
Jersey sales will go through the roof – not just from Kap sports fans, but millions of non-sports fans who don’t even care about football. These will sell internationally too – where Kap is a beloved world-wide figure. Ask Nike about this. They will also sell for the next 50 years beyond his time in uniform.
Any lost tickets? They will be replaced in five minutes.
Polls show that older white fans are the only majority group that does not support Kap. The majority of polled African-American, Latinx, and young white fans do. In fact, young white fans are more aligned with fans of color, than their parents. That’s your future Mr. Mara.
The majority of future ticket buyers see Kapernick’s stance as one for racial justice, and police accountability. They want more murder convictions of police, like last week’s rare conviction of Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago cop who sprayed 16 shots into Laquan McDonald’s back.
Many older whiter ticket buyers don’t care about Laquan if he can’t run like Saquon.
And that’s what Kap’s stance is all about. And every day more and more fans are getting this.
And don’t be fooled by this “Kap would be ‘a distraction’ nonsense” either. Distraction from what? The Giants 4-16 record the last two years? The already existing weekly Giants soap opera? At this point, wouldn’t you want a distraction? From Odell at least.
In 2016, Kaepernick was voted by own 49ers peers as the most courageous and inspirational teammate. If we listen to actual players, the locker room will not only be fine – but far far better.
But don’t sign Kaepernick to make money. Don’t sign him just because you would be a hero to millions of New Yorkers and flip a chunk of the Jets fan base overnight. That would be for the wrong reasons.
Do it because Kaepernick will make your football team a whole lot better.