The good news is that Baltimore’s unemployment rate is a breathtakingly low 6.1 percent in August of 2017; the bad news is, there’s one job applicant who just can’t seem to get a break in Charm City: Colin Kaepernick.
News broke this week that because starting quarterback Joe Flacco suffered a back injury, the Baltimore Ravens were in need of a trusty backup. Now they’re thinking about putting together a committee to discuss a white paper to marinate on the possibility of debating the likelihood of giving Colin Kaepernick even a tryout for a backup position.
But if you talk to local sports experts in Baltimore, you hear that there are levels to the Kaepernick-in-Baltimore story that aren’t being covered. It’s not about his protests, his play, his personality or even Ray Lewis cosplaying as Stephen from Django. Kaepernick is Mr. Steal-Your-Job, and there are some who worry he won’t be a backup quarterback for long.
“[Baltimore Ravens coach] John Harbaugh has made it clear [publicly] he’s riding with Joe Flacco,” says Milton Kent, a veteran sports reporter who teaches sports reporting and investigation at Baltimore’s Morgan State University. “But … Flacco’s got a $10 million arm and a 10-cent head. He just doesn’t make good decisions on the field.”
Flacco has been a mediocre quarterback who had one hot season that won the Ravens a Super Bowl in 2013. That bought him some support from team owner Steve Bisciotti and coach Harbaugh. Even when players like Flacco have played poorly, teams are usually reluctant to change starters who’ve won Super Bowls, and Bisciotti seems particularly comfortable with Flacco.
However, since that Super Bowl, there haven’t been nearly as many highlights to which Bisciotti can cling. Enter “alleged” backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He’s the guy who comes into the office all humble, just looking for a chance, and a month later your boss is asking you to switch offices with him. A month after that, he’s running staff meetings, and a month after that, you’re fetching him coffee.
Every quarterback job Kaepernick has had since college, he earned by snatching it from an injured starter. In 2007, as an unheralded backup at the University of Nevada at Reno, when starter Nick Graziano got hurt, Kaepernick stepped in and started 47 straight games. Graziano never saw the field again. In 2012, as a backup for the San Francisco 49ers, Kaepernick took over for an injured Alex Smith and came within 1 yard of beating the Baltimore Ravens in the infamous “Blackout Bowl.”
Since that game, Ravens QB Flacco has gotten a huge contract that has hemmed up his team financially, and he’s been mailing it in on the field ever since. Kaepernick lost his coach Jim Harbaugh (twin brother of Ravens coach John Harbaugh), then lost his starting job, then started protesting last season, won his starting job back, and now he’s looking for a job, anywhere in the league.
Statistically, Kaepernick has played better than Flacco over the last four seasons despite being on a worse team, and there’s every reason to believe that on a better squad like the Ravens, he could step in for a “couple of weeks” if Flacco’s back injury lingers.
Let’s be honest, though: We’ve seen this story before. Black folk, consistently denied a fair chance of employment, have a tendency to break through when finally given a chance. What happens if Flacco is out a few weeks and Kaepernick steps in and goes 3-2, or even 4-1, with a division win?
“You know his brother Jim is whispering in his ear about this,” Morgan State’s Kent says of the Ravens coach. “That’s probably why Kaepernick was even on their radar. John Harbaugh is coaching for his life right now; another sub-.500 season and [the Ravens] are looking for a new coach.”
With a large African-American fan base in Baltimore; with the Baltimore Sun running a huge editorial Monday saying that in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, Baltimore needs Colin Kaepernick; with a coach on the hot seat needing to make a splash; and with a history of snatching jobs from hurt starters, all of the dominoes are lined up for Kaepernick to snatch a job with the purple and black.
Of course, none of this may happen if Ray Lewis has his way or if Ravens owner Bisciotti keeps blocking the process. A report out of ESPN on Wednesday states that despite publicly neutral statements, Ravens coach Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome really want Kaepernick on the team, and that the owner is the holdup.
There really is no obstacle other than that. With the scars of the Baltimore riots and the death of Gray still fresh, the city of Baltimore would welcome Kaepernick with open arms. There is not one business in the city that would miss out on the chance to be associated with a multibillion-dollar franchise just because of one backup—soon to be starting—quarterback.
Lastly, Kaepernick is definitely better than any of the rec league YMCA scrubs the Ravens have tried to bring in as a backup already. Bisciotti has nothing to worry about; Kaepernick is only known to steal starting quarterback jobs, not CEO positions …. at least not yet.