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Take A Knee

There is an expression in competitive football that all players are familiar with. When a player is injured badly, no matter which team that player is on, you “take a knee.” The teammates and opponents alike pay tribute to the fallen soldier by huddling together on the field while resting on one knee as the injured are attended to. You’ve no doubt seen this. It is an unwritten bonding experience between two teams on the battlefield. A reality check that the next man down, in fact, could be you.

When first string 49er quarterback Trey Lance was injured in just the second game of the season, last year’s starter Jimmy Garoppolo was on the bench to relieve him. Jimmy G turned the season around and San Francisco started winning after floundering around with a losing record early on. But then HE goes down. Out for the season. Who is HIS back-up? Up steps rookie 3rd string quarterback Brock Purdy and the rest is history. Or is it?

Here is where the 49er top brass may have made a huge mistake.

Knowing they are now down to literally their last standing quarterback, why on earth would GM John Lynch and Coach Kyle Shanahan sign Josh Johnson to back him up? There are still 7 games left in the season. Johnson is a journeyman practice-squad QB at best . Definitely not ready for prime time. This is your best insurance policy in case somehow Purdy gets hurt too? Well let me give you the news. This insurance policy was never going to pay-out, even if you thought you were covered. In fact, you may have just unknowingly thrown your season away as soon as the ink dried on Johnson’s contract.

Why not take a chance on someone more familiar with the franchise? Why not make the biggest headlines of the NFL season? Why not bring in a double-threat QB who can run and throw? And why not a guy that this NFL franchise city might welcome with open arms given the circumstances? Why not bring in a quarterback who fairly recently took this storied franchise all the way to the Super Bowl?

What a story! Let’s play fantasy football, shall we? Had 49er GM Lynch and company re-signed Colin Kaepernick as their 4th-string-quarterback-insurance policy instead of the woebegone Josh Johnson, we would have had a completely different story line today. Yeah the Niners may have still lost the NFC championship game. But imagine if a familiar number 7 trotted out to the huddle when Purdy went down instead of number 17. Can you imagine?!

First off, hold the press. The media would have gobbled this story up like a late night White Castle slider. The announcers, clearly pro-NFL, would be gobsmacked and tongue-tied. The vaunted Eagles defense would no longer be able to put 8 men in the box to stop an obvious running play. No. They’d have to defend the pass. Kaep can still zing a football 60-70 yards with reasonable accuracy. He has showed as much in his audition work-outs, most recently with the Raiders. He is much more mobile and a serious threat to run. Just ask the Packers. But most of all, his teammates would have believed they may have had a chance in this one. He would’ve given them at least that much. And you can’t tell me fans across the nation wouldn’t be glued to their TV screens to see what Kaepernick would do. Most of them probably hoping he’d fail. 

But what if he didn’t? What if this 49er hero-turned-villain was suddenly the hero again? What if he led his team to a couple of touchdowns and the Niner defense, no longer having to defend such a short field, was able to thwart the Eagles and make it a close game? Theoretically they would have had a much better chance to win this game. And Colin Kaepernick leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl? I can’t even fathom the media hype.

But in the real world this could never happen. In fact, the one entity that would stand to benefit the most from this hoopla is the one entity that made sure it will never happen. Make no mistake about it, the NFL has banned Colin Kaepernick. The 49er quarterback still had a bright future in this league when he decided to sit out the ceremonial pre-game National Anthem. He felt there was too much police brutality in America and so to bring attention to this festering issue he would not participate in “ honoring America”. This was 6 years ago. Care to argue that point today? Anyway, though they publicly deny it, Kaepernick won a huge court settlement suing the owners for collusion. So as 49er fans watched in horror as Josh Johnson fumbled away an easy shotgun snap from center, we all knew right then we were watching the end of our season.

I’ll bet someone else was watching all this with interest as well. But unlike the rest of us Couch Coaches and Monday Morning Quarterbacks, this guy could have actually played. But he didn’t. He couldn’t.

You want to know why? 

Because when the rest of the team was standing on the field, he took a knee.

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