Pete Carroll regrets not signing Colin Kaepernick onto Seahawks before--but won’t now

Pete Carroll regrets not signing Colin Kaepernick onto Seahawks before--but won’t now
(Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

SEATTLE — Pete Carroll regrets not signing Colin Kaepernick onto the Seahawks when he could have. Twice.

But Seattle’s coach is not going to sign him now.

That’s even though the movement the former Super Bowl quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers started in the NFL in 2016, against racial inequality and police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem, has never been more accepted and urgent in America than it is right now.

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Carroll said Thursday his team and the country is learning “Kaep was right on point” with his protests four years ago.

But Carroll is going to stay with 29-year-old former New York Jets and Giants starter Geno Smith as Seattle’s backup to franchise quarterback Russell Wilson. And Kaepernick, 32, is going to stay unemployed.

He’s been blackballed from the league for more than three years.

“I like our setup right now. I love the way Geno fits together in our role and all that. So it’s not really available at this time for us,” Carroll said of Kaepernick, in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement surging across the country in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death under the pressed knee of a police officer in Minneapolis.

“But I wouldn’t hesitate—and I’ve said this, ongoing, for years—if Russ ever got tangled up and couldn’t play or something, Kaep would have been an extraordinary candidate to take over. Because of the dynamics of his play. We always really cherish the unique qualities that players bring. And he had a unique style that we couldn’t have respected more.

“But as the backup, I hope he’s going to get a chance to do that. Because, really, he deserves to be playing.”

Carroll’s words during a wide-ranging, online Zoom call that lasted more than an hour Thursday afternoon didn’t fully answer why, since he says he so respects Kaepernick, he and the Seahawks don’t sign him back into the league now. Or didn’t then.

Last week, Carroll was on his “Flying Coach” podcast with Steve Kerr, coach of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. On it, Carroll said of Kaepernick and his social-justice cause at NFL stadiums in 2016: “I think that there was a moment in time that a young man captured. He took a stand on something, figuratively took a knee, but he stood up for something he believed in.

“And what an extraordinary moment it was that he was willing to take.”

But Carroll and the Seahawks weren’t willing to bring Kaepernick and his stand onto their team. Not in 2017 when they were the only team to have him in for a free-agent visit. Not in 2018 when they considered him again.

And, Seattle’s coach said Thursday, not in 2020. The Seahawks are like every other of the NFL’s 32 teams.

Carroll did say that Thursday, for the first time, a decision-maker from another team called him asking what Carroll knew and had learned about Kaepernick and his possible return to the NFL.

“Someone is interested,” Carroll said.

He declined to specify the team or whether the caller was another coach or a general manager.

‘MISSED OPPORTUNITY’

This all still begs the question: did the Seahawks miss an opportunity to further Kaepernick’s—and thus blacks’ and the country’s—cause by not signing him in 2017, and again when they considered it before the 2018 season?

“I regret that it didn’t happen, in some fashion,” Carroll said. “I wish we would have contributed to it, because the guy deserved to play.

“I thought, at the time, in our situation, as a backup, I just didn’t feel right, at that time. So, I had to make that football decision. It was about our team. We had our starting quarterback, all of that. And it wasn’t going to be the open, competitive situation that I like to think all of our spots are, because Russ is such a dominant figure.

“So, anyway, that’s what happened. ...He could play for us. He could have been a fantastic player in our program. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work out.

‘When I look back, I felt like we missed the opportunity. So, as I look back at it, I wish we could have figured it out, knowing what we know now, and given him the chance. Because I would love to see him play football those years.

“Really, simply put: I, we all held him in great regard as a player. We had coached against him in championship games and watched him go the Super Bowl. He beat us. We beat him. I think we knew Kaep as well as anybody could have known a player, because of the depth of competition we had against him. And when we had the opportunity, it had come up...”

SEATTLE’S 2017 TALKS WITH KAEPERNICK

Carroll said Thursday Kaepernick had called him during that offseason in early 2017, months after the 49ers and the quarterback mutually parted ways amid the national controversy over his kneeling during anthems the previous season.

“He had called, out of the blue, to ask me advice about where he would go next,” Carroll said. “I was flattered that he would even think to call me, because we had never talked before other than just greetings. And so, from that point I was kind of rooting for him, you know, and hoping that things would work out. So when he came back around, then I forgot about, when he came back around and I had a chance to visit him and it came up, I was thinking, this is an incredible football player, let’s find out how he could possibly fit football-wise, and all of that. And then, also, because he hadn’t been anywhere (else) yet (visiting other teams besides Seattle), maybe this would open up doors for him if our thing didn’t work out.

“We had great meetings. ...We spent have the day together. He spent time with our people throughout the building, and almost a full day. And he was awesome. He just backed up more of the play that we had seen, and the character, and his smarts and his competitiveness—to the point where it was SO obvious that he is a starter in the NFL, you know. I think that’s what I wound up answering to you guys, saying to you guys. He was a dominant figure as a football player, and that’s what we saw.

“The fact that it didn’t work out, for us, I figured he’s go somewhere else and start, for sure. And it just didn’t happen.”

SEATTLE’S 2018 INTEREST

The following year, the Seahawks were again looking for a quarterback with experience to backup Wilson. They again considered Kaepernick.

But Carroll and general manager John Schneider decided to trade with Green Bay for Packers backup Brett Hundley in late August of 2018, near the end of the preseason, without having Kaepernick back in for a free-agent visit that time.

“It just didn’t come together,” Carroll said.

The coach said it had nothing to do with Kaepernick’s anthem protests or any Seahawks concerned about them.

“But there was nothing about—there was stuff in the media that we were concerned about him taking a knee, or whatever. That never even came up in our conversations. That was never even an issue for us. That wasn’t true,” Carroll said.

“And, so, in that regard to that one, things just didn’t work out and we moved on. It was, at the time, I can’t remember what Russ’ health was all about, but that would have been one of the issues.

“I always felt like Kaep was the kind of guy that was a starting quarterback, like I said way back then (in 2017), that had we had that opportunity that it would have been a great...possibly a great fit with us.

“That situation never got to that.”

That was in 2017 and ‘18.

This is 2020. The nation and—if you believe the words of commissioner Roger Goodell Friday were genuine—the NFL have changed in their regard for Kaepernick’s message and causes. At least now more white Americans, to the point, are saying they want to help in fix racial inequality and police brutality.

But Kaepernick, a Super Bowl starter for San Francisco in the 2012 season, remains unemployed while the likes of unproven journeymen have NFL jobs. Such as Mike Glennon. Glennon, now a backup in Jacksonville, has earned $27 million in cash in the three seasons Kaepernick has been out of the league.

NFL players notice that.

Some believe the league won’t be sincere about change until one of its teams signed Kaepernick.

“I think the NFL could start by signing Kaep back,” new Seahawks running back Carlos Hyde, a teammate of Kaepernick’s in San Francisco for three seasons, said last week.

“I think if they sign Kaep back, that would really show that they are trying to move in a different direction.

“Kaep was making a statement four years ago about what’s going on in today’s world. And the NFL didn’t bother to listen to him then.

“So I think they should start by doing that.”