Is Now The Time To See Christian Hackenberg?
- Kevin Sirkin
- December 12, 2017
- 0 Comments
Following news that veteran quarterback and team leader Josh McCown would miss the remainder of the season with a broken hand, head coach Todd Bowles quickly affirmed that Bryce Petty will be his starting quarterback entering Sunday at New Orleans. With eight losses and an eye toward the future, is now the perfect time to get a look at where Christian Hackenberg is in his development?
The case against Petty
Those in favor of remaining with the twenty-six year old Bryce Petty as the starting quarterback will argue that he deserves his shot after winning the backup quarterback job. Fair. Judging him solely on a relief appearance would be wrong, no matter how awful it was. His work in four starts and two relief appearances last year wasn’t much better however. Combined, over four starts and seven games, Petty has compiled a 54.2% completion percentage with just three touchdowns and seven interceptions.
On Sunday in Denver, Petty entered in relief of McCown, going just two of nine for 14 yards before the coaching staff decided that establishing the run in the 4th quarter, down 20 points, was a better option with the season on the line. If we are going to throw away Hackenberg because of preseason tape, spare me the excuses when it comes to Petty’s actual game tape. The things Hackenberg has been buried for in preseason games each of the last two years while learning a new offense are things Petty continues to put on tape in the regular season.
Bowles had every reason to rationalize going with Petty after a strong finish to the preseason (against backups) once he was healthy, but they simply do not view him as the answer. Bryce will flash the occasional deep ball, but remains wildly inaccurate and inconsistent with his mechanics. As a fourth rounder that has also struggled to read defenses, set protections at the line, and make sound decisions, it was no wonder Bowles was in no hurry to bench the 38-year old McCown who was playing well. With four years on Hackenberg, Petty has yet to put anything on film that suggests he could potentially be the Jets long-term answer for a franchise quarterback.
Barring a much improved performance against Drew Brees this coming Sunday, it would be a mistake to continue with Petty over the final two games.
The case for Hackenberg
While Petty may have a future place on the roster, which is certainly worth finding out, it is not as a starter. Petty would be auditioning to make his case as a competent backup quarterback in this league for the Jets, or possibly elsewhere in 2018. Hackenberg would be trying to throw his name into the mix as a potential starting quarterback option. Watching both quarterbacks every day at practice for over a month will show you many things. It is easy to see why the Jets drafted Hackenberg after already having Petty on the roster. Hackenberg has the size, arm, and all the physical traits you would want in a quarterback. He was a bright enough football mind to run Bill O’Brien’s pro-style offense at 18-years old. While it is fair to question whether or not Hackenberg will ever put these traits together at the NFL level, denying the ceiling for him if he does would be silly.
So why not give him the chance?
Hackenberg’s regular season film remains blank, with plays in preseason that inspire both hope and fear. There are moments you see the potential and others that make you cringe, ups and downs that many other successful quarterbacks have endured early in their young career.
At some point, the Jets need to give Hackenberg an opportunity to sling it. Hack is a likeable guy that has been sworn off by so many for being exactly who we thought he was coming out of the draft, a quarterback with desirable traits but one that was far from being ready to play. After almost two years, McCown sidelined, and the team all but eliminated from postseason contention, now is the perfect time to see where Hackenberg fits into the equation at quarterback in 2018.
The Jets have ignored pressure to just throw Hackenberg in there before he’s ready, sticking with their plan to remain patient with a quarterback that needed much development. There still comes a time where you have taught a quarterback all he can learn in the film room, and he needs to learn on the field with repetitions at game speed. At 22-years old, it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility that Hackenberg can improve, but he needs the reps to do it.
Hackenberg defying all odds and emerging from the Pit of Misery as the Jets franchise QB would in fact be a dream come true scenario, however unlikely it may be. Instead of $30M on Kirk Cousins, Hackenberg would cost just $1.27M and $1.48M each of the next two seasons, leaving close to $100M in cap space to invest around him. Instead of trading additional first and second rounders to move up and select a quarterback, the team could use their full array of draft picks to target impact players. Would fans sign up for another year of evaluating Hackenberg under Josh McCown, with a Terry Bridgewater type in the mix, if it means solidifying the offensive line, finding a legitimate edge rusher, and adding a pair of shutdown corners? If those needs are addressed, the QB would arguably be the final piece of the puzzle in making the Jets a legitimate contender.
Hackenberg has not been active on gameday since week one, so expecting Bowles to name him the starter against the Saints is unrealistic. Hackenberg will see an increase in reps this week in practice and likely go through a similar preparation as if he was starting. Petty will get his opportunity to shine, but it would make little sense to continue playing him without seeing significant progress. While I expect Maccagnan to make every effort to land the right guy at quarterback in the offseason, the goal remains to build a team for sustained success. On that note, I think it is unlikely Maccagnan will panic and make a major investment (financially or with draft picks) for a quarterback he is not 100% sold on. If Kirk Cousins at $30M per year (not a fan) is unwilling to come here, and Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen are not obtainable via trading up, will Maccagnan feel comfortable putting his fate in the hands of Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, or Josh Allen who all come with their share of questions? It will make some cringe, but Hackenberg could very well factor into another 2018 QB competition, making it even more imperative for him to see playing time this season.
JeffCap – Hard for me to say that Hackenberg is a colossal mistake before he has played. A reach, absolutely, but there are obvious traits that make it easy to understand how Maccagnan fell in love. Chad Pennington was one of the most intelligent and accurate quarterbacks we’ve had the pleasure of watching, and he did not start until year three with the Jets. There are different ways of developing and molding quarterbacks to succeed. The team has remained patient with Hack, but I see no harm in playing him at this point. If he is bad enough then it only strengthens their draft position to find his replacement.
Eliot – If he is bad so be it. Petty has shown very little and Maccagnan will look to add competition regardless of what either shows during this stretch. I still like the idea of continuing to allow a 22-year old quarterback with plenty of natural ability time to develop in this offense under John Morton.
CJ – According to Manish, there are mixed feelings on Hackenberg within the organization. You can almost certainly bet that at least one of those people that believe in Hack is Maccagnan, so I would be shocked if he’s is not on the roster in 2018. Petty is the one who needs to show he should stick, as he will enter 2018 on the last year of his rookie contract.
Tuna – While I agree that Petty earned the right to be evaluated first, he must show significant progress from his outing in Denver to get another start after that. Hack’s opportunities have come in preseason both years just months after learning a new offense.
Tony – While I would prefer three games of Hackenberg to get a better evaluation, I understand going with Petty this week. It is not in Todd Bowles nature to skip next man up, even if Petty’s future may only be as a backup.
JCollins – Writing any young quarterback off before they have played a regular season game is foolish. The Jets will in all likelihood add a quarterback (or two) to the mix this offseason, but the development of Christian Hackenberg will continue. These reps over three games, however good or bad, could only help.