There seems to be a bit of a Civil War brewing among Jets fans over the team’s 2016 second round pick, former PSU QB Christian Hackenberg.
Jets fans have had plenty of lively internal debates over the years, but it has been a while since I have seen so much friction between members of the fan base about a player who has never played in an NFL game before. Even Geno Smith – controversial as his selection was – didn’t seem to engender this much friction among those who bleed green and white.
In case you haven’t been paying particularly close attention to the bones of contention between these factions of the gang green faithful, here is a quick Cliff Notes version of the four main groups when it comes to all things Christian Hackenberg:
Group 1: Success Is Not Impossible, But It Is Not Likely
This group has taken what they would call the realistic approach as to what to anticipate from Christian Hackenberg. They contend that he played very poorly at Penn State his final two seasons – completing under 55% of his passes and throwing 21 INTs collectively – and more importantly, produced a plethora of bad tape that includes missed screens, overthrows to wide open receivers, and questionable pocket presence.
They further point to a wide array of negative scouting reports as well as his ugly 2016 pre-season and media reports of major struggles in practice as important evidence that Hackenberg’s NFL path is at best an uphill battle and at worst an incredible longshot.
This group strongly believes Hackenberg is not going to be a productive NFL quarterback and tends to view those who think differently as pie-in-the-sky dreamers who are ignoring the bulk of the available evidence. They combat charges of being overly pessimistic by saying that they are not trying to be negative, they are simply attempting to express reasonable expectations based on what we have already witnessed of Hackenberg’s work.
Those in group #1 may not think Hackenberg will be the team’s answer at QB, but they will also be the first to tell you that they want nothing more than for him to go out on the field and prove their assertions wrong.
They claim their skepticism regarding the former PSU signal-caller is nothing personal, and while they doubt his competency greatly and expect the team to be picking a QB in the first round of the 2018 draft, as Jets fans, they would be delighted for their predictions to look silly. They would love to be shown to be fools and for Hackenberg to become a franchise QB, something that has been unbelievably elusive to the franchise over the past few decades.
Group 2: He Is Being Given A Raw Deal
This group has taken what they would call a more fair and equitable approach towards Christian Hackenberg. They contend that Hackenberg may have struggled mightily at times in his final two college seasons, but he was put into an untenable situation that would have doomed nearly anybody. They point to his weak supporting cast, an offensive line that couldn’t protect him, and a switch to a system that hindered his development as primary reasons for his poor tape.
As proof of his true potential, they look at his excellent freshman season under former PSU coach – and current Houston Texas coach – Bill O’Brien and claim that it shows that with the right coaching, Hackenberg has a pretty reasonable chance to thrive in the NFL.
This group strongly believes in Hackenberg’s potential and tends to view those who do not as being excessively gloomy and ignoring all the QB’s positive traits. They say the negative press reports have been blown out of proportion and point out that there have been multiple reports claiming that the team’s coaching staff is actually quite pleased with Hackenberg’s progress.
They argue that taking any stock in pre-season games is a fool’s errand, because those games do not matter. They cannot understand why anybody would be so ready to dismiss the possibility of the team’s 2016 second round pick becoming a quality quarterback before he has even had a chance to take a meaningful NFL snap. They take the view that with a combination of high-level physical skills and good coaching, there is no reason not to believe that – at the very least – there is hope for him to become the Jets’ long term solution at QB.
Group 3: Scam for Sam, Frozen for Rosen, Lose for Lamar
This group is a more extreme extension of group 1. Not only do they doubt Hackenberg can be successful, they already know it and literally NOTHING is going to talk them out of this pre-conceived notion. They called for Maccagnan’s firing as soon as he made the pick, and before Hackenberg even plays, they have begun screaming from the rooftops that he is a gigantic bust.
This group’s main concern is that the team will win too many games to be in position to select the 2018 draft’s top quarterback – whoever that ends up being – and thus the team will be doomed to many more years of embarrassing failures. This group seems to be invested in Hackenberg’s failure to the point of preferring to be right than to actually see the Jets develop a good starting QB.
In fact, some have even taken the preposterous preemptive step of beginning to be pessimistic about NEXT YEAR’S potential Jets’ QBs, though it should be kept in mind that this particular “genius” believed the Jets would rue the day – rue it! – that they passed on all-time busts Johnny Manziel and Matt Leinart.
Group 4: No Doubt Whatsoever
This group is an extreme extension of group 2. Not only do they think Hackenberg has been given a raw deal, they KNOW he is going to be a stud in the NFL and literally nothing is going to talk them into believing otherwise. They blame every negative critique of Hackenberg’s abilities on everybody else – from the offensive line to the coaching staff to the supermarket clerk who gave him improper change – and contend that his immense talent is undeniable and his success is a virtual guarantee. This group is so invested in the idea that Hackenberg is going to be a star that much like group 3 in reverse, they stick their collective fingers in the ears and yell “lalalalala” at the top of their lungs anytime anybody so much as suggests the former Penn State star might not be a viable option.
All of this got me wondering: Why all the fighting? In all seriousness, we are ALL Jets fans and every single one of us is in this together. So regardless of which of the preceding four camps you fall into, all any of us should want is for this team to be good.
Which begs the following question: Can’t we all just get along?
I figured that with all of the heated rhetoric going back and forth, SOMEBODY had to step up and broker a peace agreement, and while I may not be a former Secretary of State or anything, if nobody else is going to do it, then why not me?
With that in mind, I have put together the following Jets fan peace accord – call it the Treaty of Hackenberg if you will. Feel free to read it, sign it, and pass it along to your fellow Jets fan friends. Please note, this is all in good fun and is not actually legally binding, so please don’t try to sue me or something if this deal doesn’t actually broker sustained peace among Gang Green Nation:
I _________ am a long, suffering Jets fan of _________ years and I hereby pledge to root for the best possible outcome for the Jets, regardless of who the coaches and players are that deliver said outcome. In that vein, I hereby pledge to root for Christian Hackenberg to become a quality starting quarterback regardless of my views on whether or not the Jets made the right decision when they selected him in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft.
I promise not to allow my expectations to be driven to a level that is either too high or too low and likewise agree not to impugn the motives and character of those who disagree with my assessments. I recognize that whether I think Christian Hackenberg is going to be a star or a bust, he is a player who was selected by the franchise with the intention of turning him into an excellent player, and if that occurs, it would be a major coup for the team. Therefore, whether I am a believer or a skeptic, being that I am a diehard Jets fan, and understanding that Christian Hackenberg becoming a quality signal-caller in the NFL would be the answer to the team’s long-held prayers, I promise to watch him with an open mind and hope for the best.
Further, if Christian Hackenberg does flourish, I vow to focus on the long term good it will do the franchise and will refrain from either being negative just because I was wrong, or rubbing it in people’s faces because I was right. I hereby certify my understanding that my love of the Jets comes above the need to be right or make others feel bad for being wrong, and that above all else, I only want what is best for the team. I vow to cheer for the Jets, hope for their success, and agree to refrain from picking fights with my fellow fans – with whom I share a common goal – for no good reason.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com