An argument that 15 backup NFL QBs are better than Colin Kaepernick was countered by a simple fact check

Colin Kaepernick is still unemployed, and the NFL world has been in a heated debate over whether this is due to his national anthem protest, declining quarterback skills, or both.

On Wednesday, Andy Benoit of the MMQB joined the argument by posting on Twitter that there are 15 backup quarterbacks in the NFL who are better than Kaepernick and then naming them. Benoit then published an article on MMQB backing his stance.

The argument, like many criticisms of Kaepernick as a passer, suggested that Kaepernick can’t throw from the pocket, can’t make reads, resorts to running too quickly, and only throws “fastballs” — that he has no touch for softer throws.

The biggest argument, however, revolved around pocket play:

“I would take any of the 15 backups I listed before I’d take Kaepernick, because those 15 quarterbacks are all willing and able to play from the pocket. … That’s a trait most starters have and one Kaepernick is nowhere near possessing.

“Inside the NFL, this is where 90% of the discussion about Kaepernick begins and ends. Playing from the pocket is not a quarterbacking attribute; it’s a prerequisite. If a team’s QB can’t play from the pocket, the vast majority of the play designs won’t work. Coaches can’t draw up plays that call for the quarterback to break down, run around and hopefully find an open guy. Today’s defences are too good for that.”

Many in the NFL world passionately disagreed with Benoit’s take, arguing that Kaepernick is a starting-quality quarterback who is simply being cast out for his political views.

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, however, offered a strong response to the article with a simple fact-check:

Six of the quarterbacks on the list posted a higher in-pocket passer rating than Kaepernick. And from 2014-16, Kaepernick played in 37 games, starting 35 of them. Here’s how the rest of them compared:

  • Jimmy Garoppolo — 17 games, two starts
  • Matt Moore — seven games, three starts
  • Colt McCoy — six games, four starts
  • A.J. McCarron — eight games, three starts
  • Cody Kessler — nine games, eight starts
  • Derek Anderson — 14 games, four starts

Clearly, there is a sample-size issue here. As Barnwell also noted in his tweet, Kaepernick has more pass attempts than all of them.

There are, of course, other things to consider in this argument — game situation, distance of the throws, teammates, opponents, etc. A relatively high passer rating from the pocket over two years doesn’t mean Kaepernick is suddenly Tom Brady.

However, it’s worth wondering if at a certain point, reputation is surpassing reality. Kaepernick has never been a great pocket passer, and the mechanical flaws Benoit points out are reasonable. But according to the stats, when Kaepernick does throw from the pocket, he has been steady and has done it in far more games and attempts than the backups Benoit listed.

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