We knew there was a good chance the New York Jets would keep four quarterbacks, and talked about why it made sense not that long ago. Now that they have actually done it, we should also touch on one downside to the move.
This is going to hinder Christian Hackenberg’s development, something we all know he is in dire need of.
The reality is that Hackenberg was no better than a third quarterback even if Geno Smith or Bryce Petty had been given their walking papers. While he had a few nice moments in the two preseason games he played in, the bad moments outweighed them completely.
Hackenberg is a project—something we and the Jets both knew when he was selected in the second round. He showed that this August. The only way he can get better is to practice but here’s the rub—he’s not going to get snaps.
Of course, it makes sense that the starter (Ryan Fitzpatrick) gets the bulk of the snaps during the week. And naturally, the second stringer (Geno Smith) will get whatever scraps are left after that, just to make sure he’s somewhat ready if the starter goes down.
And then, if there’s some time, a third string quarterback (Bryce Petty) might get a little burn. Most of the time, though, the most he’ll get to do is play as the scout team quarterback, pretending to be whoever the team is facing that week so the defense can get a look at what they will face.
There’s a reason teams don’t keep four quarterbacks and it isn’t just roster space.
There’s just not enough work to go around.
Now, that isn’t to say this wasn’t the way to go. The team needed a veteran backup, so they couldn’t dump Smith. Petty has shown enough to get more development and you can’t throw Hackenberg out after a summer. Further, Smith and Fitzpatrick are both likely gone after this season, so you have to keep your young guys especially since you can’t be sure Hackenberg can be fixed.
The Jets were backed into a corner the moment Fitzpatrick returned so they did what they had to.
The problem is, Hackenberg will get almost no work prior to the offseason. It’s not quite a wasted year as he gets to be in the quarterback room and be around the veterans to learn what works and what doesn’t. And retaining four quarterbacks means that if the Jets need or want to, they can trade one, in which case Hackenberg will move up a spot and get some practical work.
That said, being the 53rd man on the roster—and make no mistake, that’s what he is since he has almost no value to this year’s team—isn’t going to help Hackenberg develop much as a player. In fact, because he will get virtually no reps—and certainly nothing live with contact—Hackenberg is going to stagnate from a mechanical and practical standpoint. For a guy who needs as much work as Hackenberg does, that’s a problem and could set him back.
The one way this changes is if Hackenberg puts in an enormous amount of time before and after practice. Hopefully, Kevin Patullo (the quarterback coach) and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey have the time and energy to give Hackenberg some one-on-one instruction at that same time.
Still, Gailey’s priority is the whole offense, and Patullo has a lot of other quarterbacks who might need his assistance and are a higher priority immediately.
Hackenberg is a huge project, but he’s not going to get better sitting. In the end, the team couldn’t let any of their signal-callers go, but the result is that their rookie is going to have to improve a lot in a short amount of time this offseason.