Despite a training camp to prove he’s the team’s quarterback of the future, Christian Hackenberg will begin the season third on the New York Jets’ depth chart, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.
The move comes as a blow to Hackenberg, who finds himself behind 38-year-old journeyman quarterback Josh McCown and third-year quarterback Bryce Petty, who boasts a 3:7 touchdown-interception ratio in six games.
Hackenberg has had a somewhat infamous NFL career thus far. Most NFL analysts were surprised when the Jets took him in the second round of the 2016 draft – Pro Football Focus argued he wasn’t worthy of a draft selection – and he has been on the receiving end of blunt criticism.
Last season, an anonymous coach told ESPN that Hackenberg couldn’t throw the ball into the ocean. Jets owner Woody Johnson responded, saying, “I guess it depends which ocean. Maybe it was a small ocean. EPA describes that as an ocean. Anyway, no, that’s not funny.”
This year, during training camp, in between taking reps with the starters and the bench units, Hackenberg reportedly had several passes hit reporters standing on the sideline. He later reportedly was ordered off the field by coaches for failing to correctly break the huddle.
While Hackenberg has at times shown improvement this offseason – he has a big arm and has reportedly made strides in his accuracy – it’s not a good sign to begin as the third quarterback on this Jets team.
The Jets are all but tanking this season, having cut, traded, or released notable veterans like Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Darrelle Revis, and Sheldon Richardson. The team is clearly rebuilding and all of its quarterbacks seem like stop-gaps until a better answer emerges.
But as many argued, this was the summer and training camp to see what Hackenberg could become. With little at stake this season (besides possibly wins and a high draft selection), the Jets could let Hackenberg show what he could do and see where he fits in the future.
That chance may still come, but to not be granted that opportunity in Week 1 is not a good sign. Unless the Jets fear Hackenberg is simply too good and might risk them having the top draft pick in 2018, it doesn’t seem Hackenberg, like McCown and Petty, is in the Jets’ long-term plans.
If Hackenberg can’t start for this Jets team, it’s worth wondering where else he would fit.