The epitaph for Christian Hackenberg’s NFL career will read: “Couldn’t hit the ocean.” Even after getting traded to the Oakland Raiders, Hackenberg probably won’t get a chance to reset the record on his infamous accuracy issues.
He blew it. The New York Jets blew it. It was time to call the Hackenberg experiment what it was: an overthrow, a misfire, a shank.
His expiration date has come and gone. The Sam Darnold era is underway in New York — even if it took the Jets front office weeks to clear the quarterback room of unnecessary (and untalented) arms.
Before the draft, the Jets had Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater, Bryce Petty and Hackenberg on the roster. Petty and Hackenberg have always been a pair of misfit toys that ended up in the hands of the wrong owners. It’s fair to argue Petty and Hackenberg stood a chance to develop into NFL quarterbacks at one point. But the Jets botched every twist and turn of the developmental process.
So Darnold’s arrival spelled the departure of Petty and Hackenberg, remnants of a less optimistic era of Jets football. So it was head-scratching when the team waited seven days to cut Petty and 26 days to trade Hackenberg. Managing reps between three quarterbacks is challenging. But five? That’s idiotic. Probably hoping to get compensation for the quarterbacks, the Jets seemed reluctant to move their focus to the quarterback (Darnold) they’ve been stalking for years.
The time to move on was April 26, when they picked Darnold.
Darnold will need every rep and every second of coaching he can possibly get at practice and in the film room. At times, he will need the coaches’ undivided attention. And Hackenberg deserved none, especially when he played no role in the team’s future plans — and especially because this is what he does with his reps.
So no Petty and no Hackenberg means the team can be laser-focused on getting Darnold ready for Week 1. They will want want the best quarterback to start, but they will also want that quarterback to be Darnold. And if Hackenberg was whipping the ball at reporters, a glaring issue which would demand the time of coaching, he’d be detracting from Darnold’s development. As the No. 3 overall pick, Darnold has all the talent necessary to be a very good quarterback, and also has the foundation strong enough to start in Week 1.
Hackenberg and Petty were a waste space in the quarterback room. Their presence showed an indecisive Jets front office, caught between the past, the present and the future.
The Jets still probably have too many quarterbacks on their roster. But the group makes more sense with Darnold, McCown and Bridgewater. They have a quarterback ready to start now in McCown. They’ve got Bridgewater, who could be a strong long-term backup to Darnold. And they’ve got Darnold, a quarterback they think can help them win Super Bowls in the coming years.
Contrary to what they had before the draft, the Jets now seem to have devised a coherent plan. Let’s see how well they put it into action.