Throughout July and August, a thought has bubbled in the back of Cowboys fans' minds. Every time Kellen Moore, the team's de facto backup quarterback, was on the field during the Cowboys first three preseason games, committing turnovers, stalling drives and generally getting outplayed by Cooper Rush, an undrafted free agent signed out of Central Michigan University, it's been there: "Why don't the Cowboys just sign Colin Kaepernick?"
Despite an on-the-field match between the two parties, however, a marriage between the Cowboys and Kaepernick isn't going to happen, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made clear Tuesday.
Kaepernick, the erstwhile 49ers starting signal caller, is by far the best quarterback available on the free-agent market. He's better than Moore; he's better than Rush. He's better than at least 10 quarterbacks who will start for their teams during the NFL's opening weekend in a couple of weeks. Although Kaepernick isn't the force he was during the 49ers run to the Super Bowl in 2012, he averaged about 7 yards per pass attempt in 2016 and finished the season with a passer rating above 90, good enough for 17th place among qualified quarterbacks. Unlike the noodle-armed Moore, Kaepernick can make all the throws and is capable of extending plays with his legs.
Kaepernick doesn't have a job — and seems unlikely to find one because of his decision to kneel during pregame renditions of the national anthem.
During his nearly three decades in charge of the Cowboys, Jones has rarely shied away from bringing in players shunned by the rest of the NFL, as long as he believed they could help the team win. In 1992, he brought in Hall of Fame defensive end Charles Haley despite Haley's long history of erratic behavior. (After his retirement, it emerged that Haley has from bipolar disorder. During his time in the league, however, he was just considered a hothead.)
Jones kept Michael Irvin around for the duration of the wide receiver's career although Irvin was arrested on cocaine and marijuana charges in 1996. In 1998, Irvin stabbed teammate Everett McIver in the neck with a pair of scissors because he didn't want to wait for a haircut.
Jones signed Pacman Jones, the man who inspired the NFL's current disciplinary policy, in 2008 and Tank Johnson, fresh out of jail on firearms charges, in 2007. Linebacker Rolando McClain was a key member of the 2014 and 2015 Cowboys but missed the next two seasons for failing and missing drug tests. Before a recent stretch of model citizenship, even Dez Bryant was maligned, perhaps unfairly, as a shady character because of a run-in with NorthPark police over sagging pants, as well as a fight with his mother in 2012.
The 2017 Cowboys feature Ezekiel Elliott, who's facing a six-game suspension stemming from domestic violence allegations; David Irving, a defensive end who will miss the first four games of the season for using performance-enhancing drugs; Damien Wilson, a linebacker facing two aggravated assault charges in Frisco; and Nolan Carroll, who could be suspended after the NFL finishes its investigation into his May 29 DWI arrest.
There are others, too, players Jones was happy to take in when the rest of the league considered them toxic. Kaepernick's political stand, however, appears to be a bridge too far for Jones.
"I just feel so strongly that the act of recognizing the flag is a salute to our country and all of the people that have sacrificed so that we can have the liberties we have," Jones said during his regular Tuesday stint on 105.3 The Fan (KRLD-FM). "I feel very strongly that everyone should save that moment for the recognition of the flag in a positive way, so I like the way the Cowboys do it."
Jones' comments echoed those made by Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett to reporters last week. "There's no question in my mind. The national anthem is sacred. Our flag is sacred. And our team has demonstrated that," Garrett said. While Jones has not said that he would discipline or release a player who didn't stand for the anthem — despite Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's retweet of a false story that claimed Jones had done so — it's clear that his views are having an effect on his team.
Bryant told a Dallas Morning News reporter that, regarding players who protest the anthem, "whatever they got going on with that, that's them. I don't really have nothing to say about that." He took issue with fans on Twitter who questioned the statement, saying he wasn't going to risk his family, whatever his convictions might be.