The Year in NFL QBs Not Named Colin Kaepernick

Many quarterbacks saw action in real NFL games this year, and none of them were named Colin Kaepernick. Let's see how they did, shall we?
December 21, 2018, 10:41pm
Nathan Peterman and Colin Kaepernick.
Photos by Larry Smith and John G. Mablango/EPA-EFE

Unemployed quarterback Colin Kaepernick is currently suing the National Football League for collusion, claiming he can't get work because the NFL's 32 franchises have all secretly agreed not to hire him. But don’t coaches always say they want the guy who gives them the best chance to win? Is winning not "the only thing"?

Indeed, NFL decision-makers have offered—on condition of anonymity—plenty of football reasons for not signing Kaepernick.


"Certainly he’s good enough to be a backup," "Executive 1" told league mouthpiece Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer in 2017. "But we have a good No. 2, a guy that fits our system that we have familiarity with."

Amazingly, Breer found another exec willing to anonymously pile on—"Executive 2"—calling Kaep's absence from his roster a "system thing."

the rationale is Kaepernick's athletic gifts make him most effective in an offense where a player can improvise and create outside the pocket, and most teams just don't run an offense like that.

Another anymous suit—"Executive 3"—brought up concerns about Kaepernick's accuracy and consistency. All three cited Robert Griffin III's similar skillset and noted he didn't have a job.

Hey, want to hear a funny story? Griffin is on the Baltimore Ravens now.

"I don’t think [Kaepernick] can play," said "Executive 3."

"You don’t think if he was a good player, 20 teams would be lining up?"

It's airtight logic: NFL teams can't be blackballing Colin Kaepernick because if they were, someone would have hired him.

Curiously, none of them cited the President of the United States tweeting that Kaepernick's a "son of a bitch" who should be "fired" for protesting racial injustice during the national anthem. All the NFL needs to do to end the lawsuit is introduce as evidence is the long list of better-qualified passers who've gotten signed while Kaepernick keeps himself in game shape:


The 39-year-old McCown returned this year for a second season with the New York Jets, holding the career number of teams he's played a game for to just eight. McCown is not a great passer, with a career rating of 79.7, but he is a great athlete—just check out his basketball highlights.

Though McCown lost his starting job to rookie Sam Darnold, he was called upon to start three games when Darnold went down with a foot injury.


McCown completed less than 56 percent of his passes, threw one touchdown against four interceptions and posted an adjusted net yards-per-attempt of just 2.94 as the Jets lost all three games.

But Darnold did tell the Associated Press that watching McCown prepare helped Darnold raise his game even while being laid up. So, that's nice.


Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 draft, was named the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year for his capable 16-start debut effort for a lackluster St. Louis Rams team. Since then, he's made it through just one other whole season as a starter, averaging 9.2 starts per year over his nine-year career.

Famously, Bradford's pre-2011 CBA rookie contract and multiple splashy free-agent deals have earned him nearly $130 million over the course of his career, including the $15 million the Arizona Cardinals guaranteed him for the three games he started in 2018. The Cardinals cut Bradford in November.


The Buffalo Bills' 2017 fifth-round pick, Peterman entered this season as one of the team's three options at the position. After drafting big-armed, athletic Josh Allen No. 7 overall and trading away big-armed, athletic 2017 starter Tyrod Taylor, the less-athletic, not-as-strong-armed Peterman finished third in a three-way competition with Allen and longtime Cincinnati Bengals No. 2 A.J. McCarron. But in pushing Allen, McCarron drew trade interest—and the Bills dealt him to Oakland, leaving them with just Allen and Peterman.

Peterman, whose two rookie starts (which included a five-interceptions-in-one-half performance) qualified him for the "steady veteran" starting role, completed just six passes in the Bills' 47-3 season-opening loss. Despite Allen's inconsistency and struggles to read defenses, he was soon deemed the better option—and Peterman was released.


No worries, though: Raiders head coach Jon Gruden signed Peterman to his practice squad, bringing him in to again compete with McCarron for a reserve role.

We will pause here to just mention that Colin Kaepernick is, in fact, still unemployed.


Gabbert, Kaepernick's former backup in San Francisco, is now on his second job since leaving the 49ers. A former No. 10 overall pick, Gabbert landed in the Bay Area after flopping as Jacksonville's quarterback of the future. After putting up a combined passer rating of 70.2 in relief of Kaepernick and Carson Palmer in 2016 and 2017, the Tennessee Titans decided Gabbert was the best-available fit to back up oft-injured starter Marcus Mariota.

Unlike some of the other reserves on this list, Gabbert is a fair style match for the mobile, quick-triggered Mariota. Gabbert's posted a 73.2 passer rating over six appearances and two starts for Tennessee wasn't good, but it was at least good enough for the Titans to eke out wins in both games he started.


"You have to trust me on this one."

That's what just-fired Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson said after drafting Kessler in the third round of the 2016 draft. Most draftniks had Kessler as a late-round prospect, if even projecting him to get drafted at all.

Kessler was surprisingly pressed into duty his rookie year as part of a wild Browns QB carousel, starting eight games and posting a 92.3 passer rating despite getting sacked on a ridiculous 9.7 percent of his dropbacks. But he struggled with both health and Jackson's depth chart in 2017, throwing just 23 competitive passes.


The Jacksonville Jaguars, after deciding they were all-in on shaky starter Blake Bortles, apparently figured Kessler was all the backup they needed.

Those decisions resulted in Kessler taking over as the starter in Week 13. Since then, he's posted a 74.9 passer rating while being outscored 38-46.


When the Bills released Peterman, they decided they needed someone who could serve as a better mentor for Allen. It made plenty of sense to sign a veteran with similar athletic tools as Allen, but with start-now ability and some big playoff wins under his belt.

Instead they signed Derek Anderson, who as Cam Newton's longtime No. 2 has experience backing up a guy whose playing style he can't possibly replicate.

Eleven years removed from his surprise playoff run with the Cleveland Browns—a season for which he'll always be able to refer to himself as "Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Anderson"—DA started two games during which the Bills were outscored 62-11, then suffered a concussion that's kept him out ever since.


Mark "The Sanchize" Sanchez, a former No. 5 overall pick and veteran of two AFC Championship Games, was quickly called to our nation's capital when Washington starter Alex Smith suffered a horrific leg injury.

Sanchez's last start came in 2015, when he was sacked six times en route to a 45-14 loss—but his familiarity with Washington's coaches and system made him an obvious quick fix.

Unexpectedly, Sanchez threw three interceptions in his Week 14 start, upsetting his previously perfect lifetime 1:1 touchdown/interception ratio. Washington head coach Jay Gruden then benched Sanchez for someone who knew the system even better: Josh Johnson.


In need of both a starter and a backup when Smith went down, Gruden poached a key piece away from the San Diego Fleet of the Alliance of American Football: Josh Johnson.

A 2008 fifth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Johnson worked with Gruden both there and in Cincinnati before Johnson's football career took a turn for the, uh, hyperlocal.

The 32-year-old's last competitive NFL pass had been thrown in 2011, but Gruden showed plenty of faith in him. Gruden knew just how to make his transition back to the NFL easy: Craft some plays to highlight his athletic gifts, and install some of that read-option offense everyone's been so excited about.

Johnson, so far, has greatly exceeded expectations, leading Washington to a season-saving 16-13 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in his first start.

Imagine Colin Kaepernick doing that.