When it comes to the quarterback quandary that now befalls the New York Jets, it appears management is adopting the adage that it’s better to be silent and be perceived a fool instead of opening their mouths and confirming it.
That may be the case because there really is no other reason to not throw Christian Hackenberg into the starting lineup and see what their former second-round pick can do — unless the suits in charge already know the Penn State product can’t play and the team is simply ready to admit their mistake. Perhaps general manager Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles think appearances will look better if Hackenberg simply rots on the sidelines and be considered a bust than to actually get on the field and have it roundly confirmed.
Now that starting quarterback Josh McCown is out for the season with a broken hand, Bowles and co. decided to turn to backup Bryce Petty, who has shown in his few career starts and mop-up duty that his fate will likely be that of a nice journeyman understudy — a stopgap to say the least.
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Bowles barely batted an eye when deciding to insert Petty and bypass Hackenberg. But since the forgotten signal caller is just one hit away from playing in a regular season game for the first time in his career — and Petty’s penchant to take those big hits — Gang Green may actually get the chance to see Hackenberg before the season concludes.
The New Orleans Saints (9-4) are up next on the docket. And with such a rejuvenated defense, and the team fighting for playoff positioning, there will be no mercy taken upon Petty and the Jets. Hackenberg just may get into the game, but it won’t be due to any showing of faith from his head coach.
The Jets aren’t officially eliminated from Wild Card contention, but at 5-8, that dream has all but vanished. Petty critics and Hackenberg supporters would probably think that now is the perfect opportunity to get the latter into the lineup and see what he’s capable of doing on the field.
Bowles, however, noted there are no plans to play Hackenberg “right now.”
“Bryce is our starter. He’s the next man up,” Bowles said, reasoning that there’s a pecking order and depth chart to follow. “We have people at every position that want to play. We’re not jumping people over people just to play considering anything. Bryce is our starter.”
Hackenberg has taken this snail’s pace method with aplomb, never rocking the boat. But he did sound antsy when asked if he feels prepared to be the guy in a game that actually counts.
“I’m as ready as I’ve ever been. I think I’ve been ready. I’ve been prepared. For me, it’s just been about trying to stay in the same mindset every day [and] continue to grow, continue to learn,” Hackenberg said. “I just keep trying to continue to approach things the way I’ve been approaching them. … That’s the theme. Every day, come in, come to work. When you get your opportunity, take full advantage of it. Let it fly, have fun. That's how I approach it.”
Hackenberg will actually need to get in a real game to take advantage and let things fly. The Jets have taken a glacier-slow approach with his development, particularly last season when he spent a majority of that time as the fourth-string quarterback. Promotions up the depth chart in both of his seasons have only come via injuries to guys ahead of him.
Maccagnan isn’t worried about the pace, though, and certainly won’t deem the pick a bust.
“All players develop at different paces and different rates,” Maccagnan said. “So, I wouldn't say [that I’m] discouraged.”
He may not be, and Hackenberg may not be publicly, but the Jets’ faithful are starting to get fidgety for sure — especially with this upcoming draft featuring some promising prospects, and the Jets’ quarterback issue still unsolved.
Gang Green notes:
- There have been nine quarterbacks drafted between the first and fifth rounds since last season, and Hackenberg is the only one to have not attempted a regular-season pass.
- Hackenberg has been kept in bubble-wrap for so long, that Sunday’s tilt will be just the third time in his career that he’s made the gameday active roster.