Christian Hackenberg remains undeterred about his NFL future despite not getting a chance — not one single chance — to play in a game in his first two seasons.
“I think there have been some things I can build on, that I’ve done well,” said Hackenberg, who was drafted in the second round out of Penn State in 2016. “I think taking the positives away, I felt good about it. Not necessarily satisfied, but really excited about being able to go into the offseason and come back and work on things and correct some things.”
Only one other second-round quarterback since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 — Gene Bradley of the Bills in 1980 — didn’t take a snap in his first two seasons.
Hackenberg lost the backup job to Bryce Petty in the preseason and didn’t play a down despite three mediocre performances by Petty to end the season. The Jets scored only three points in the first half of Sunday’s 26-6 loss to the Patriots, but coach Todd Bowles didn’t give a thought to getting a look at Hackenberg in the second half.
“Bryce beat him out in the preseason,” Bowles said. “I’m not going to bench Bryce over three games when he has a chance to play . . . When you don’t win the No. 2 job, it’s kind of a foregone conclusion that you’re not going to play. When you lose the No. 2 job and you’ve got two guys ahead of you, how’s it going to fluctuate when you lost it honestly?”
Bowles said he wanted to get a more definitive look at Petty, who threw for 232 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. He was sacked four times, once for a safety.
“These were the last three games,” Bowles said. “You have to see [Petty] play.”
Hackenberg believes he still has a future in the NFL, possibly with the Jets.
“I’m confident about my ability to come in,” he said when asked if he has a chance to be the Jets’ starter in 2018. “That’s not my call, but I know the way I approach things and the way I work. I’m excited about the ability to compete for it.”
Despite not playing in any games, Hackenberg believes he has improved.
“I feel like I’ve gotten better every single day,” he said. “I played a lot more in the preseason, got to see a lot more live reps in practice and had some periods where I felt like I was throwing the ball really, really well. Just continuing to build on those things. Really excited about the spring. I think ultimately, I just try to control what I can control, and that’s to continue to grow. I feel very confident in my ability to do so.”
Will he ever get the chance to play? “Haven’t gotten the reward yet,” he said. “It will come full circle eventually.”