On Tuesday afternoon, a blockbuster trade sent shockwaves through the NFL: the Raiders traded a seventh-round pick for quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
The 23-year-old Hackenberg was drafted in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Jets and has since compiled precisely zero touchdowns, zero interceptions, and zero game appearances in the two seasons since.
Silver lining: he’s still undefeated in the NFL. Can fellow 2016 picks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz say the same? Didn’t think so.
Was Hackenberg not able to see the field because he’s god awful at his job? Well, without answering my own question, allow me to point out that he had a murderer’s row of quarterbacks starting ahead of him, including Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Even Aaron Rodgers took three years to gain his starting job in Green Bay.
In all seriousness, it’s questionable that the Raiders obviously deemed him worthy of even a seventh-round pick. Not bad considering that Raiders head coach Jon Gruden thought he was worthy of a first-round pick back in 2016, when Gruden was still with ESPN. But seriously, you can get actual players that are going to actually play with a seventh-round pick.
Gruden gets a lot of credit for being a quarterback aficionado or a whisperer, and I’m not totally sure it’s deserved. He had Brett Favre in Green Bay roughly 80 years ago, but it’s hard to say if Favre was the product of him or Andy Reid,or if Favre was a product of Favre. Rich Gannon got better when he joined Gruden in Oakland, but he also won an MVP in 2002 with Bill Callahan after the Gruden trade. Then there’s Chris Simms and Bruce Gradkowski. Yikes.
Back at Penn State, Hackenberg was what you might call a mixed bag. After his freshman year, Hack was being projected as a future first-overall pick (much like Josh Rosen after 2015). Then, after years two and three, Hackenberg fell off dramatically and was considered a reach when the Jets took him on day two of the draft.
A lot of that had to do with his supporting cast changing around him. Head coach Bill O’Brien left for the NFL in 2014, leaving James Franklin to change Penn State’s pro-style offense to a spread system which clearly didn’t fit Hackenberg. PSU also lost Allen Robinson to the NFL, robbing Hackenberg of his best weapon on offense.
Does this explain the lack of footwork when he got drafted, or account for passes that landed in the Hudson River like Sully Sullenberger rather than his receivers’ hands? Not really.
My guess is that it’s an issue of confidence with Hack. You need an absurd amount of confidence to play quarterback. Roughly the same amount of confidence that you would need to approach Bella Hadid and ask her for a date (let us not forget that Christian Hackenberg’s middle name is Blaize, so on paper he should ideally have the confidence of a drunken frat boy).
Mechanics have to be unconscious. If you’re up in your own head all the time or constantly tinkering, they’re going to be a disaster. And with Hack, they were in New York.
Who knows if Gruden can get something out of Hackenberg. I kinda doubt it, but crazier things have happened in the NFL.