There was no era of Christian Hackenberg on the New York Jets. Instead, it’s the end of an error featuring a bad quarterback.
The Christian Hackenberg era in the big apple officially came to an end this week when the New York Jets shipped the former second-round pick to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick in next years draft. While the Penn State product never even took a snap in a regular season game for Gang Green, he is widely seen as general manager Mike Maccagnan’s worst draft pick during his current tenure with the team.
Hackenberg shined under Bill O’Brien in his freshman year at Penn State and was talked about as potentially being a future first overall pick. However, once O’Brien left for the NFL following the 2013 season, Hackenberg’s play declined over the next two years under current Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin.
O’Brien ran a pro style offense at Penn State which fit Hackenberg’s strengths as a pocket passer while Franklin’s scheme is much more designed towards a run first quarterback. As concerning as Hackenberg’s struggles were in 2014, 2015 there was a consensus among several NFL scouts and executives that with time and the proper coaching, the talented passer could eventually become a quality NFL starter.
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With ideal size at 6″4 to go along with above average arm strength, Hackenberg was seen as a long term project but not a totally lost cause. The Jets ended up falling in love with his makeup and raw talent at the combine, and took a chance on him with the 53rd overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
The timing of the pick was questioned from the start being that the latest rumblings were that enough teams had soured on his ugly sophomore and junior tape. There was a lot of belief that he could slip through Day 2 of the NFL Draft and perhaps be a Day 3 pick somewhere in the fourth or even fifth round.
The Jets stood by their decision for two years, claiming that his development was a work in progress, and that despite being buried on the depth chart for much of the time, they were pleased with his overall development. It’s hard to believe that the Jets actually liked what they saw out of Hackenberg during his first two years in the league.
Especially since he couldn’t start much less see any action in a regular season game for a team that finished 5-11 the last two seasons. Hackenberg endured less than stellar quarterback play from the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, and Bryce Petty.
Since Oakland already has their franchise quarterback in Derek Carr, the pressure will be off Hackenberg and he can focus on retooling his mechanics and throwing motion with the QB guru himself, Jon Gruden. It’s expected Hackenberg will compete for the backup job with third year pro Connor Cook.
For the Jets who no longer had a need for Hackenberg’s services with three other QB’s ahead of him on the depth chart, getting any sort of value in return for somebody who was a failed second round pick should be deemed a success. Maccagnan should be granted credit for making a good trade to at least get a late-round draft pick for the future.
Once the Jets selected USC quarterback Sam Darnold with the third overall pick in this year’s draft, the writing on the wall was pretty clear in that they had closed the door on the Hackenberg error. It was only a matter of time before the two sides parted ways so it couldn’t have come up as such a big surprise once the trade was official. The Jets have had little to no luck with their second round picks over the last decade or so, and Hackenberg may very well find himself at the top of the list as the biggest bust of them all.