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Jets must solve the mystery of Christian Hackenberg

Christian Hackenberg of the New York Jets looks

Christian Hackenberg of the New York Jets looks on from the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Credit: Jim McIsaac


Todd Bowles spoke Monday. Mike Maccagnan will speak later this week. Woody Johnson will speak at some point.

Brandon Marshall spoke for 23 minutes, which might be a record for an NFL receiver on a locker clean-out day.

But talk is cheap when it comes to a Superfund site as toxic as the Jets’. What everyone in green needs most is what every NFL team needs: a very good quarterback.

So it was that as the Jets parted ways, perhaps the most important man in the building was a 21-year-old who did not have much of interest to say and who never has taken a regular-season snap as a pro.

With the owner frustrated and coach Bowles and general manager Maccagnan under pressure, Christian Hackenberg could do more than anyone else on the roster to save everyone’s reputations and fix this mess.

Will it happen? I would not bet the college fund — or even the spare change in the living room couch — but stranger things have occurred in a league in which passers drafted in the sixth round in 2000 and fourth round in 2016 are leading the No. 1 playoff seeds.

Hackenberg does not have to be Tom Brady or even Dak Pres cott, but the second-round pick needs to be something of use as the Jets face a crisis at the position.

Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith are headed out the door — Fitz chatted with reporters Monday before doing so; Smith just waved — and Bryce Petty is headed for surgery on his non-throwing shoulder after an inconclusive, uninspiring late-season tryout.

The projected veteran free-agent market is . . . meh.

Then there is Hackenberg. Coordinator Chan Gailey has called him “a developmental player.” An unnamed Jets coach told ESPN he “couldn’t hit the ocean” with his passes, although to be fair, ESPN did not specify which ocean.

Asked about that Monday, Hackenberg said, “A coach has never said anything to me directly, so until he does that, I am not too concerned about it.”

Fans and reporters are groping in the dark on this because we have not seen for ourselves what young Hack can or cannot do. Hence the anonymous quotes from those who actually watch practice.

The Jets will scrounge up a veteran to compete with Petty and Hackenberg, but the best solution is to somehow have Hackenberg find the ocean, then a lake, and eventually the cupped hands of Quincy Enunwa.

“He just needs to play; he’s got to play,” Bowles said. “There’s nothing wrong with Christian.”

Bowles said with three guys initially ahead of him on the depth chart, “He’s allowed to have a redshirt year.”

But why not at least throw him out there in Week 17? “A lot of guys need a chance to play that don’t play right away, or don’t play in the first year,” Bowles said. “He’ll play when his time is right.”

Hackenberg doggedly stuck to his talking points, insisting he took away a lot from his rookie experience, especially observing how to prepare and how to carry oneself off the field.

Does he share fans’ frustration at not seeing him play? “I think my role and my goal and my job is to just come in and work and grow and learn in practice and show up and be the same guy every day,” he said. “That’s kind of what I got lost in.”

Would he like a chance to compete for the starting job this offseason? “I know that I’m going to come in as prepared as I can be,’’ he said, “and if that opportunity is given to me, or however that’s laid out, I’m going to put everything I have into it.”

Shrug. Who knows? But if the Jets don’t find someone to man that position competently in 2017, Bowles and Maccagnan could be three-and-out.

Asked if he is any closer to finding a franchise quarterback than he was at the start of the season, Bowles said, “I haven’t even started looking for a franchise quarterback yet.”

Umm, now would be a good time.

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