Welcome to the Wednesday edition of The Cooler, where sometimes things are as simple as they look. Let’s get to it:
*Colin Kaepernick played his most recent NFL game on Jan. 1, 2017 — the last game of a wretched 2016 regular season for the 49ers. He completed 17 of 22 passes for 215 yards, one TD and no interceptions and finished with a 122.3 passer rating in a narrow 25-23 loss to the Seahawks.
He went just 1-10 as a starter that year, but the 49ers were a truly damaged team and went 2-14 overall. Kaepernick threw 16 touchdown passes with just four interceptions and ran for 468 yards on 69 carries. He was not a great nor accurate passer, which was reflected in his 59.1 percent completion mark and his No. 23 finish among qualified passers in Total QBR.
Still, Kaepernick was at least a functional and dangerous quarterback — one that could help a better team, if not as a starter then at least as a high-quality backup. Given his skill set and history, he in fact seems like the perfect fit for a suddenly QB-needy team.
We all know, of course, what has happened since then. In his final season, he didn’t stand for the national anthem as a protest of the treatment of racial minorities in the United States.
Kaepernick hasn’t played since then, with numerous teams offering increasingly cowardly excuses for keeping a 31-year-old dual-threat quarterback out of the league. The latest came Tuesday, when Washington — already without Alex Smith and Colt McCoy, and already having signed Mark Sanchez (!) but needing yet another QB in a season that still has potential — put Kaepernick through the excuse generator.
Let’s see, head coach Jay Gruden said Kaepernick was considered but it came down to wanting a QB familiar with Washington’s system and with a similar skill set to the QBs already on the roster.
So the first opportunity when Smith was lost for the season went to McCoy who — checks notes — is a year older than Kaepernick and is a marginal (at best) NFL backup. He was already on the roster, so we can’t get too worked up about that.
But the next chance after McCoy, too, was lost for the season went to Sanchez — another 32-year-old with marginal skills. I guess if you want someone who can duplicate what McCoy can do, Sanchez is your guy. But if you want to be honest about which quarterback givs you the best chance to win, especially in this situation? It’s Kaepernick by a mile.
“In order to utilize someone like Colin Kaepernick’s skill set, you’re talking about a whole new group of formations and run concepts,” Gruden said. “It’s very difficult. … Whoever the backup is, they have to have skill sets similar to Mark, that he can fit into the plays we’re going to run vs. the Giants.”
It sounds plausible to those inclined to believe such nonsense, but in reality Washington deserves all the ridicule you can muster. Pretty soon, teams can start using the excuse that Kaepernick has been out of football for too long to help them — an excuse they helped manufacture by keeping him out of the league.
The excuses would be funny if they weren’t sad.
*When the Timberwolves were shopping Jimmy Butler, I was banging the drum for a trade with Miami. One particular trade machine deal I kept falling in love with was Butler and Gorgui Dieng to the Heat for Josh Richardson and Hassan Whiteside. Richardson has upside and a friendly contract. Whiteside has talent but seemed like a fresh start candidate. I loved the idea of pairing Whiteside with Karl-Anthony Towns to give the Wolves more size and rim-protection. It was win-win!
And … well … maybe that wouldn’t have been such a good idea. Whiteside had some strong early games, but on Tuesday he was benched for the fourth quarter and actually just walked off the court with a little under a minute left in a 105-90 loss to Orlando. He didn’t talk to reporters postgame, leaving coach Erik Spoelstra to guess that Whiteside was just upset with the outcome while teammate Dwyane Wade made the excuse that Whiteside had to use the bathroom.
Richardson, by the way, was just 2 for 14 in the game and has cooled off considerably since a hot start. He’s shooting just 29.5 percent in his last five games for the Heat, which dropped to 9-14 with the loss. It was fair to wonder if the Wolves would regret not making a trade with the Heat when Richardson was reportedly available. Now it’s fair to wonder if the Heat regrets not pushing harder to get a deal done for Butler.
*Really good read from The Undefeated about Hamza Mohamed, a Somali-American football player in Willmar High School.
*The NHL trade deadline isn’t until late February, so Wild GM Paul Fenton has time to preach patience with the roster as he did Tuesday in talking to reporters.
The Wild won in Vancouver on Tuesday to stop a slide, but overall Minnesota has fallen from one of the top early teams in the league to clinging to the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. Another couple weeks of mediocre play might make Fenton less patient.