As the roar of the NFL's free agency period died down early in the spring, the chatter about Colin Kaepernick picked up.
Kaepernick, who brought controversy upon himself by kneeling during the national anthem out of protest all throughout the 2016 season, opted-out of his contract in March but has gone unsigned in the five months that followed. As each journeyman quarterback got picked up, media attention surrounding the lack of news on Kaepernick grew larger.
Of course, the lack of interest Kaepernick has received does have less to do with performance and more to do with kneeling. However, it's clearly not a matter of "racism" or "politics" among the higher-ups of NFL front offices. Rather, NFL owners and executives presumably see that signing Kaepernick would cause a significant portion of their team's fan base to feel alienated. Whether that's justified or not is an entirely different story, but that is the reality that franchises would face if they added the former phenom.
The story of the NFL in these last few days has been the Miami Dolphins' quarterback situation. Sixth-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill went down with a knee injury in practice last Thursday, one which initially looked less serious but quickly turned into an expectation of season-ending surgery.
The first name that came to the minds of many fans: Kaepernick. We waited to see if the Dolphins would "go there," but they never did. As you might expect, that decision has renewed the firestorm that so many wish would disappear.
Leaving performance off the table, it's important to note why Dolphins fans might feel more alienated than any other fan base after a hypothetical Kaepernick signing. This past August, Kaepernick wore a shirt that positively depicted former Cuban president Fidel Castro. Not many took note of it at the time, but ahead of the 49ers' game against the Dolphins in November, Kaepernick was questioned about the shirt by Miami-based reporters and actually proceeded to defend Castro.
The story took off when Miami Herald reporter Armando Salguero wrote a scathing criticism of Kaepernick on November 25. Ironically, Castro died only a matter of hours later. Castro's death only magnified Salguero's story, which had already made national headlines itself.
Miami is home to, by far, the largest Cuban population in the United States. Kaepernick joining the Dolphins might have caused a fan uprising in Miami far different from what you might see if Kaepernick signed with any of the league's other 31 teams.
Of course, Colin Kaepernick hasn't been the only aspect of the Dolphins' quarterback saga this month. The Dolphins' top choice to replace Ryan Tannehill was Jay Cutler, who quarterbacked the Bears from 2009 to 2016 before "retiring" and joining FOX as a broadcaster this past May. Cutler agreed to a 1-year deal with Miami on Sunday.
Though Cutler previously declared his career over, this situation almost seemed tailor-made for him. Most notably, Dolphins head coach and noted quarterback guru Adam Gase was Cutler's offensive coordinator in Chicago in 2015, and Cutler put together one of his most productive NFL seasons under his tutelage.
Cutler's style of play is not all too different than Tannehill's, as opposed to Kaepernick, who simply is a different kind of quarterback. Familiarity and continuity usually prevails in the NFL, and that's what the Dolphins are getting by matching Cutler with this offense. The same could not be said for any other available quarterback.
The difference in media attention between Cutler and Kaepernick would also be noteworthy. Kaepernick would surely attract a swarm each day if he had signed with the Dolphins, while Cutler just isn't all that interesting. While the obsessive media attention Kaepernick receives may not entirely be his fault, it is hard to ignore and could certainly have been a distraction for the team.
By signing Jay Cutler, the Dolphins gave themselves a fighting chance in the wake of devastating injury news. Though Colin Kaepernick continues to be the center of attention, it's the former Bears' quarterback that just made too much sense as Miami's quarterback.