FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Asked about an ESPN report that quoted an anonymous Jets coach saying rookie quarterback Christian Hackenberg “couldn’t hit the ocean,” Woody Johnson couldn’t help but crack a joke.
“I guess it depends which ocean,” the Jets owner said, smiling. “Maybe it was a small ocean. The EPA describes that as an ocean. Anyway, no, that’s not funny.”
But seriously, folks, Johnson didn’t seem particularly unnerved by the anonymous dis of the second-round pick.
“You ought to ask Todd Bowles about that, about Christian, because he has some opinions about Christian Hackenberg. I think he has maybe a little bit higher opinion than that,” Johnson said Thursday in his first group interview since the fall.
General manager Mike Maccagnan refuted the idea that Hackenberg regressed during his redshirt season. “From where he was initially, he has made progress,’’ Maccagnan said. “He has improved, but this will be a big offseason for him. I’ll probably have a better feel for that once we got to training camp.”
The Jets entered last offseason with four quarterbacks, including Hackenberg and fellow project Bryce Petty. The plan all along was for Hackenberg, the 51st overall pick, to spend the entire year on the sideline. Said Johnson: “There was no way that Christian Hackenberg was going to get the reps to really get himself ready.”
So the Penn State product is still somewhat of a mystery, even to the men who drafted him. “We like Christian as a prospect,” said Maccagnan, adding that there’s “some benefit” to taking the time to allow a young player to develop.
The GM acknowledged that “the key to success in the NFL is having a talented team and, of course, quarterback is part of that,” but he declined to get into specifics about his offseason plans for the draft and his roster.
Although he noted Petty had “a lot of potential” and the “physical ability” to develop into a starter, Maccagnan said it’s up to the 2015 fourth-rounder to determine how far he goes.
With Ryan Fitzpatrick not expected to be re-signed, the Jets likely will add a free agent in the offseason. Speaking of the quarterback position, Maccagnan said: “All options are on the table.”