Christian Hackenberg deserves a real shot in 2017

Jun 13, 2017; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) throws during mini camp at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 13, 2017; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) throws during mini camp at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports /

The New York Jets will more than likely have different quarterbacks under center this upcoming season. It must be a priority to give Christian Hackenberg a real shot to see his development so far.

The New York Jets have had a cycle of quarterbacks throughout the years. From Chad Pennington, Brett Favre, and Mark Sanchez, to Geno Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Although the Jets have made the playoffs three times, they’ve been unable to find “the answer” at the Quarterback position. Christian Hackenberg deserves a chance under center in the 2017 season.

Head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan took a gamble when they drafted Hackenberg in the 2nd Round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Then they stayed patient and true to their word by not putting him into regular season action until he was ready.

The question now: is he ready? Over the past two seasons we’ve heard plenty of bad comments from scouts and executives to unnamed Jets employees; one of which being that he can’t even hit the ocean due to how bad his accuracy is. Early on in OTA’s he even hit two reporters who were standing out of bounds on the sideline, that’s something you don’t want to hear.

No matter what you hear in the media it’s just that, the media. They blow everything out of proportion and no one truly knows if Hackenberg can be an NFL quarterback until he gets game action during the regular season.

Currently, the Jets have three quarterbacks on the roster, Hackenberg, Bryce Petty, and veteran Josh McCown. The Jets brought in McCown for two reasons, create a legitimate quarterback battle during the offseason, and to teach and mentor Hackenberg and Petty. From all that I’ve read and heard, it sounds like McCown has done the latter very well, as Hackenberg has been under McCown’s wing all offseason.

So why should Hackenberg start Week 1 of the 2017 season? Because the Jets need to figure out if he can play the quarterback position or not. There’s no denying the Jets may be one of the worst teams in the NFL right now and they can only go up.

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It’s more likely than not that they’ll have a top three if not top five draft pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, a class that expects three of four quarterbacks to go in the top 10.

The Jets need to see if Hackenberg, the most invested quarterback on the roster, can play at the NFL level because if he cannot they have to invest in another quarterback in the draft.

New offensive coordinator John Morton wants to run a west coast offense, much like the New Orleans Saints offense. In a west coast offense, the quarterback needs to be able to make quick decisions with accuracy and be able to show better than average arm strength. That’s sort of check for Hackenberg as he does have a very strong arm but not the most accurate. Mobility is also important as that’s another check for Petty and McCown.

Hackenberg was the top quarterback recruit in the country and took a risk signing with the newly sanctioned Penn State Nittany Lions at the time. Bill O’Brien made Hackenberg look fantastic with a strong senior-led offense in year one. In year two, Hackenberg digressed a little bit but still proved he can be a top quarterback at the college level.

The next season, James Franklin brought in a new offense, the pro-style spread, and Hackenberg couldn’t adjust, especially with a terrible offensive line. Hackenberg got sacked a college career high 108 times in three seasons, due to the lack of scholarships Penn State had and the bad offensive line.

It’s been more than a year and a half since Hackenberg played in an official game, not including preseason, and that was vs. Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl game. He couldn’t have gotten worse under NFL teaching, I don’t believe the rumors that he can’t throw because he can. The question is whether or not he can run an NFL offense precisely and consistently.

I expect Hackenberg to play at some point during the 2017 regular season, but if he can win the job in August and go into the season with confidence, I think people will be pretty surprised with what they see. I’m not going to pull a Rex Ryan and guarantee anything, but there’s a reason Bowles and Maccagnan took a chance on him and if they never give him the chance to play than Hackenberg will just be another failed 2nd round draft pick and another failed Jets quarterback.

Hackenberg has the tools to succeed this season. Running backs Bilal Powell and Matt Forte should be weapons in the west coast offense, and wide receiver Quincy Enunwa wants to start off where he left off last season.

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At the end of the day Hackenberg has more doubters than most NFL quarterbacks right now, and if he can win the job and shake off the haters, the Jets could be content with the progress he can make. That does not rule out the option of drafting a quarterback in 2018, they will do that no matter what. Nevertheless, it’s time to give the reigns over to the quarterback that the Jets have invested in the most in. He sat for his entire rookie season, something that is extremely rare in this day and age, so let’s see what he’s finally got.