Since the loss of WR Quincy Enunwa, I’ve seen a lot of chatter around social media about how there is no possible way to evaluate QB Christian Hackenberg with the offense around him. How Mike Maccagnan has left the offense so barren that going into 2018 we won’t know what we have in Hack. Now, Todd Bowles categorically denied that when asked about it, but still, the talking point lingers.
To me though, this idea never made sense. While it may be difficult for fans to get a proper read on a quarterback that has a lackluster supporting cast, (mainly because the offense usually will suffer) the coaches have the benefit of not only film, but knowing which play is called and how it’s supposed to unfold.
Example #1: Say Hackenberg drops back to throw, no receivers can get open, he waits around, maybe avoids some pressure and throws it away. While that won’t help his stat line, when looking at the film, the coaches could see that the receivers didn’t separate, and Hack didn’t try to force it. Maybe they see that he had a running lane he could’ve used to at least get positive yards, or how he did a good job avoiding a pass rush.
Example #2: Hack drops back, anticipates the receiver’s route and lofts one downfield. Unfortunately it lands 5 yards away from the receiver and is incomplete. Now on the surface this could look like an awful misfire, but in the film room, the coaches can see that maybe the receiver ran the wrong route or maybe had a poor release and was off on his timing. They would know that had the receiver run the route perfectly, it’s a likely completion.
Example #3: This can work in the inverse as well, say the Jets had Julio Jones on their team. Hack drops back, launches an errant ball into double coverage in the end zone, Julio jumps up and makes a great play. A highlight reel touchdown, a great mark on the stat sheet, but in the film room the coaches may see Bilal Powell wide-open in the flat for an easy score, the smarter, safer option but Hack didn’t see it, does that play really look good for him?
Look beyond the numbers
The point is, not having quality weapons might make it harder to develop your quarterback, it certainly makes it tough to score points and boost confidence, but it doesn’t hinder any evaluation process done by the coaches. Having poise, going through reads, making the right decisions, taking what the defense gives you, those aren’t dependent on having good offensive weapons, yet they’re the trademark of any great passer. I expect Bowles and Co. to look hard at the film through the year, they’ll know what Hack does well, and what he struggles with.