The curious case of Christian Hackenberg took another unusual turn on Sunday. The former Jets second-round bust will get his next chance to state his case as an NFL quarterback with a decidedly unexpected team: the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles.
But it remains to be seen how long Hackenberg will remain in Philadelphia.
The Eagles have four other quarterbacks on the roster, including 2016 No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz, Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles, Nick Sudfeld and Joe Callahan. So this likely will be nothing more than a chance for Hackenberg to get in some practice throws in training camp before the Eagles send him packing prior to the start of the regular season.
Hackenberg failed to get into a single game during his two seasons with the Jets in 2016 and 2017. He was traded to the Raiders in May for a conditional seventh-round pick.
Why the Raiders? Well, coach Jon Gruden, who was an ESPN analyst when Hackenberg was drafted out of Penn State in 2016, had considered him a first-round talent. the year he came into the NFL.So he gave up a conditional seventh-round pick to the Jets to get Hackenberg.But Gruden realized early on that he couldn’t do anything to jump-start his career. Three weeks after the trade and more than a month before training camp, he released Hackenberg and the Raiders got back the pick.
Hackenberg has little chance to stick with the Eagles and likely will serve as a training camp arm to give Wentz and Foles a break. from the practice grind.But if he needed a good landing spot, this is it. Coach Doug Pederson is one of the league’s best quarterback coaches and has done splendid work with Wentz and Foles.
The Eagles wouldn’t have won the Super Bowl without excellent play from both quarterbacks last season. Wentz enjoyed a breakout season in his second year and guided the Eagles to an 11-2 record before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Then Foles , who had previously considered retiring from football,did a magnificent job in relief in leading the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title. He capped a remarkable playoff run by outdueling Tom Brady and the Patriots in a 41-33 thriller.
Hackenberg’s failure to develop with the Jets is one of the factors that led them to where they are today: brimming with optimism about their current cast of quarterbacks.
Josh McCown took advantage of poor play from Hackenberg and fellow backup Bryce Petty to claim the starting job last season, and he did a credible enough job to be asked back as the starter in 2018.
General manager Mike Maccagnan pulled off a major coup bytraded up from No. 6 overall to No. 3 and selected prized USC quarterback Sam Darnold with the third pick. He also signed former Vikings Pro Bowl quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
Darnold and Bridgewater looked terrific in Friday night’s preseason opener against the Falcons, and coach Todd Bowles acknowledged afterward that deciding which quarterback will go into the season as the starter is a very good problem to have.
McCown won the job by default last year, but now the Jets might go with Darnold the same way the Eagles anointed Wentz the Day 1 starter in his rookie season in 2016.
It’s a staggering turn of events. The Jets had viewed Hackenberg as their quarterback of the future. But rather than turn into a big-time passer, he did nothing to convince his coaches he deserved to be on the field.
Two years was long enough.