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Patience Needed for Hackenberg, Jets

Courtesy of: Mark Kelly (@CKMagicSports)


As the New York Jets get ready to play their annual preseason game on August 26 against their cross-town rival New York Giants, all eyes are focused on the future of Christian Hackenberg.

While most fans and critics have buried the New York Jets in 2017, the hope was that at least the Jets could finally see what they have in Christian Hackenberg. After his play went from completing 18-25 passes for 127 yards in the preseason opener against the Titans, to completing just 2 of 6 passes for 14 yards against the Lions, most have written him off again.

Understanding Hackenberg’s Past

Ever since the New York Jets selected Hackenberg with the 51st overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, experts and critics were shaking their head and questioning why. After a solid if not spectacular freshman season at Penn State, where he completed just under 60 percent of his passes and threw for 20 TD and just under 3,000 yards, Hackenberg took steps back in his sophomore and junior seasons.

A major part of the setback for Hackenberg was that his coach his freshman season was Bill O’Brien, who is known for his amazing ability to guide and influence QB. Hackenberg thrived in his pro-style offense and looked well on his way to becoming a future franchise QB.

While there are many reasons that can be looked at for why Hackenberg didn’t continue on his learning curve toward becoming a complete QB ready for the NFL, one person who had an idea who to blame was Hackenberg himself.

Never quite comfortable with the offensive system he played under James Franklin his sophomore and junior seasons, Hackenberg was quick to throw his coach under the bus when explaining his lack of success. Despite whatever clear differences Hackenberg had with Franklin, scouts and others around the program also saw an offensive line that often struggled with protection. Many times Hackenberg would be left running for his life and picked up many bad habits that led to his decline in accuracy.

Despite the obvious differences that were with and without O’Brien, NFL scouts did not like Hackenberg’s attitude toward Franklin, or that he was so quick to point blame others instead of taking the full responsibility on him.

Despite the fact that he didn’t answer the questions in the best way, it is still hard for a player, especially one that thrived the way Hackenberg did when in a system he understood, to evaluate himself. I’m sure he has regrets for the way he was perceived coming out of Penn State. No one likes to be thought of as someone who points fingers instead of taking responsibility. Especially a QB in the NFL where you need to have tough skin.

After a disastrous rookie season where he hardly saw any reps on the practice field and heard many negative comments about his play, that had to take its toll on him.  Along with the on the field issues he had, he has also had to hear about the lack of confidence from some around the organization about whether or not he will ever be successful. Hearing things like he “couldn’t hit the ocean” with a football from an anonymous coach, has had to shatter his confidence a bit.

2017: A New Beginning

Nothing can take back the way Todd Bowles, Chan Gailey and others handled Hackenberg last season. This season Bowles has been committed to learning for the mistakes he has made his first two seasons and has implemented many changes around training camp.

Overall the coaching staffs attitude with new offensive coordinator John Morton and QB coach Jermey Bates, along with Josh McCown’s presence have made a huge difference in how Hackenberg feels about himself and the ability that he can be the type of QB this franchise needs him to be. However, it takes time for those changes to seep in, and results can be very inconsistent at first.

Morton brings with him excellence from the people he has worked with to the results he has accomplished. His belief in Hackenberg is vital to helping him understand an entire new system, on top of the mental damage and negativity that surrounded him last season. That can be very overwhelming for a young QB to handle, never mind one that finds himself with an organization that is desperate to find a franchise QB they have been waiting seemingly forever for.

Perhaps before critics and fans judge so harshly, they need to be just a little more patient with the overall product and consider the history that is trying to be fixed. Ultimately talent will determine Hackenberg, Bowles and the New York Jets future, but for now patience and commitment to learning, determination, self analysis, taking criticism and holding each other accountable is what is needed. Those types of lessons will have long lasting effects and ones this franchise has not been used to seeing through.

The New York Jets have always been quick to reverse course when faced with failure. For the first time it seems they have finally committed to allowing a coach, GM and offensive system to learn from mistakes and understand how to best build a winner. The results won’t come right away, but after watching this franchise float in mediocrity at best for countless seasons, these are welcome changes.

Mark Kelly covers the New York Jets for You can follow him on twitter @CkmagicSports.  Looking for more Jets news and features? Like our Jets Facebook page and also follow @spot_jets on Twitter.

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