Moeller: Hackenberg’s Days Appeared To Be Numbered

Christian Hackenberg was in some elite company.

As a number two draft pick, Hackenberg was among high Jets’ quarterback draft picks over the past 30 years such as Richard Todd (1st), Ken O’Brien (1st), Browning Nagle (2nd), Jeff Blake (6th), Glenn Foley (7th), Kellen Clemens (2nd), Eric Ainge (5th), and Mark Sanchez (1st).

All of the former draft picks had varying degrees of success in their Jets’ careers.

Apparently, Hackenberg won’t have the chance.

The Penn State phenom hasn’t taken an NFL snap in two seasons.

Last season, the Jets stated that he was basically going to be kept in bubble wrap, studying and digesting the NFL game.

This year, his career was addressed with budding optimism. Heading into training camp, the  presumed plan had Hackenberg eventually taking over for journeyman Josh McCown and backup Kyle Petty when the team would flounder winless or with possibly one win around midseason.

Hackenberg saw action in all four preseason games, getting starts against the Titans and Lions and seeing plenty of action against the Giants and Eagles. He finished the preseason 42-for-74, 372 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions, and nine sacks – a few he caused on his own.        

Not bad for his first showing. His raised confidence level during training camp became quite obvious. He remained in the running for the starting job until the final week of the preseason until head coach Todd Bowles named McCown the starter.

Still, you had an inkling Hackenberg would see some prominent time.

No one figured McCown would have a career year, but there were some openings for Hackenberg to get some snaps.

One game left and no snaps.

There was an opportune time to enter the game against the Chargers when Petty was struggling and also hurt his hand. Hackenberg got the call to warm up.

But Hackenberg soon put his gloves back on.

What is Bowles’ and GM Mike Maccagnan’s motive for not playing him? The mystery deepens. Sherlock Holmes would have trouble finding a logical reason.

The practical one is Bowles and the Jets believe he can’t play in a real NFL game, and picking him was a mistake. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure that out.

He is the career passing leader (8,457, more than 1,000 yards more than the second-place passer) second in career touchdowns (48), and once threw for a school-record 454 yards in a game.

Yet, it hasn’t been good enough to crack the Jets’ lineup. It is his physical, mental ability or both?

Ask Bowles.

“Christian is not that bad,” said Bowles. “Bryce is the backup. He won it in the summer. It’s only his second start. I’m not going to condemn the guy because he didn’t play well in Week Two of starting this year after not playing all year. I’m not going to jump a guy in [Hackenberg] that hasn’t played all year.’’

Huh? Why hasn’t he? The question remains. Hackenberg may get some time in New England, but you get the feeling he won’t. If he doesn’t get a snap in New England, will it be a major blow to him?

“I can’t look at it that way,” said Hackenberg in response. “I think that’s a really negative way to look at it. I try not to look at it that way. It’s a waste of energy. I just need to continue to focus and be as prepared as I can for when that opportunity does come.’’

Again, the question remains when. If it isn’t against New England, Hackenberg’s contributions among high Jets’ quarterback draft choices likely won’t be found.


About the Author

Jeff Moeller

Jeff Moeller has been covering the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and college football and basketball as well as high school sports on a national and local scene for the past 39 years. He has been a Jets and Giants beat reporter for the past 13 years.

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