5 reasons why Colin Kaepernick's NFL comeback will be short-lived

Colin Kaepernick could be offered a route back into the NFL by the Las Vegas Raiders.
Colin Kaepernick could be offered a route back into the NFL by the Las Vegas Raiders.
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Chris Winterburn

Colin Kaepernick's workout with the Las Vegas Raiders went well. He suitably impressed, and no physical issues were brought to the team's attention.

Whether or not he is signed by the Raiders now remains unclear, although the signs are more positive than they have ever been with regards to Kaepernick returning to the NFL.

Should the Raiders or another team choose to offer him a contract for 2022, there are several issues he will need to overcome.

While the quarterback has now recognized he can't expect to be a starter upon his return, it is still difficult to envisage his return as a sparkling success.


Five reasons why Colin Kaepernick's NFL return is destined to be short-lived?

San Francisco 49ers v Atlanta Falcons; 2016
San Francisco 49ers v Atlanta Falcons; 2016

#1 - The NFL has changed since 2016

Colin Kaepernick hasn't played in the NFL since he left the San Francisco 49ers in 2016.

The game and league have changed a lot in that time, with quarterback mobility being far more critical than ever before.

Furthermore, with offenses becoming more high-powered across the league, there is now an onus on scoring more points and spending more money on defensive free agents.

Kaepernick was one of the players who started to follow this trend during the early stages of his career. He was a dynamic, mobile quarterback, but he was nowhere near the level of Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. A trendsetter, perhaps.

But it's challenging to imagine Kaepernick returning to the league and playing in the same way that is required to be successful in the NFL in 2022.

A man waits outside of the training facility where the Colin Kaepernick private NFL workout is being held on November 16, 2019, in Flowery Branch, Georgia
A man waits outside of the training facility where the Colin Kaepernick private NFL workout is being held on November 16, 2019, in Flowery Branch, Georgia

#2 - Scrutiny will follow Kaepernick in every game

There is an uncomfortable reality that the 34-year-old needs to face upon his return to the NFL. Scrutiny will follow him around for reasons that are uncomfortable to discuss.

One of the main obstacles to Kaepernick's previous attempts to make an NFL return was that many fans would turn away from teams/the sport if he were involved in it.

The incredible social justice work done by the former 49er isn't seen as positive by everyone in the United States. People are, unfortunately, living in a wonderland if they think the player won't be booed at every stadium he visits in 2022.

Colin Kaepernick in 2016: “…You can become a cop in six months and don’t have the same amount of training as a cosmetologist…Someone that’s holding a curling iron has more education and more training than people that have a gun and are going out on the street to protect us.”

The scrutiny creates a level of inescapable pressure, and you wonder whether or not the player himself will find this problematic and reason to cut short a return, especially as he will only be a backup.


Kaepernick is incredibly strong, mentally and emotionally, but teams will only stick with him for so long if ticket sales and viewing figures drop.

Colin Kaepernick NFL Workout in 2019
Colin Kaepernick NFL Workout in 2019

#3 - Kaepernick is 34 and way out of practice

When the 2022 NFL season begins, Kaepernick will be 34 years old. This isn't too old for the NFL, but he is way out of practice.

Despite workouts being held this offseason with both the Raiders and the University of Michigan, there is no substitute for competitive play, and it's worth remembering that he hasn't played any form of football since his 49ers departure.

There was no XFL adventure, no Canadian Football League experience, just gym workouts and drills.

Those within the NFL will be the first to tell you just how much of a physical demand the sport puts on you.

Kaepernick will need to adjust to feature on the field, yet being thrust in as a backup wouldn't necessarily be helpful.

A solid pre-season will be required for the former 49ers signal-caller, but it may well be that this return has come a couple of years too late to mean anything.

San Francisco 49ers v Chicago Bears
San Francisco 49ers v Chicago Bears

#4 - Time on the field will be limited with the Raiders

Derek Carr was plagued with constant speculation about his future as the Raiders quarterback during the Jon Gruden era. Carr was always a player who struggled with consistency, but in 2021 he emerged as a true leader on the team.

He dealt exceptionally well with two complicated situations that engulfed the franchise, coming out with almost endless credit with both the fans and the ownership.

Carr has enjoyed the quietest off-season since the Las Vegas franchise drafted him. He is the starting quarterback in 2022, and there is no doubt about that.

If the Raiders do go ahead with this signing, Kap will be a backup quarterback. His time on the field will be limited, even if there have been accusations that Carr isn't physically fit enough to get through an entire season.

Although Kaepernick confirmed to the media that he would be 'fine' to take a backup spot to return to the NFL, some are suspicious he won't want to be a backup for long.

There is no chance of advancement in Las Vegas. Kaepernick will only play if Carr gets injured. Now, whether or not there will be a softening of stances from other franchises once the player is back in the NFL is another matter.

Kaepernick will not be the starter for the Raiders in either 2022 or 2023, which could see him elect to leave the sport forever.

Colin Kaepernick's workout with the Las Vegas Raiders was positive, but there is no deal imminent at this time, via…
San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams
San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams

#5 - Kaepernick can't have improved as a QB

This reality isn't limited to just the NFL but every profession. You don't improve with a lack of practice.

Having been out of the game for so long and being unable to play football at a competitive level, it is virtually confirmed that he can't be a better quarterback in 2022 than in 2016.

The problem with this is that in 2016, he wasn't excellent either.

Much of Kaepernick's story in the NFL has been lost or twisted over time, but his final year wasn't great.

Admittedly, he threw for 2,241 yards in 12 games and threw for 16 touchdowns and only four interceptions.

These numbers look good in the part, but he couldn't cut out mistakes, and it was merely an average return.

It was also a marked drop from the 2013 and 2014 seasons, where he was at his absolute best.

To be an NFL starting quarterback at 34, you have to be better than average. You have to give teams a reason to go with you over youth, and there is no evidence to suggest that Kap has that ability in his locker.

At his best, he was a dynamic, surprising quarterback with outstanding talent. At his most recent, he was an underperforming shadow of himself.

It's arguable that his greatest asset now is what he can bring to a locker room in terms of leadership and direction. He is a hero to many of the younger black players in the NFL, which carries weight.

However, from an athletic perspective, it isn't easy to see Kaepernick being good enough to play in the NFL in 2022 when he wasn't really in 2016. This will get highlighted if and when he gets on the field.

Edited by Piyush Bisht
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