Doom and gloom. This is the life of the New York Jets fan. What if, though, what if … Christian Hackenberg can actually play role of savior?Accuracy. It’s an attribute of the NFL quarterback that isn’t just important in EA Sports’ Madden NFL series.
To the masses, it is the difference-maker, the absolute truth when separating the real gunslingers from the posers. For accuracy cannot be taught. It is either born in one’s arm or curiously missing in action.
Perhaps no NFL QB has been forced to deal with inaccuracy rumors through one year of sitting as much as New York Jets second-year righty Christian Hackenberg. From Fork Union, Virginia in high school to Penn State with Bill O’Brien, until now with the big boys of Sunday, accuracy has been the Hack’s Kryptonite.
According to Pro Football Focus, accuracy and calm under pressure were the two red flags raised prior to the 2016 NFL Draft.
There isn’t a more inaccurate quarterback prospect in this draft with a reasonable chance at being drafted. Hackenberg is inaccurate at every level of the field, on all throws and against all coverages.
This season his completion percentage when adjusted for drops, spikes, etc. was 64.0 percent, which was 120th in the nation. In 2014, he was 105th. Every accuracy number you look at sees Hackenberg struggle, and the tape shows the same thing.
Even when under no pressure at all this past season, he completed just 61.9 percent of his passes. That’s the same completion percentage Cardale Jones managed on all plays, not just pressure plays, and Jones is a player whose accuracy is seen as a negative.
According to Rich Cimini of ESPN New York, there was one scout who was “taken aback” in terms of how inaccurate the young Penn State product is.
The West Coast scheme is predicated on timing and accuracy, especially on short passes. Accuracy is an issue for Hackenberg, whose adjusted completion rate (counting drops, spikes, etc.) was 64 percent in his final year at Penn State, according to Pro Football Focus. That ranked 120th in the nation. The previous year, he was 104th. I talked to an opposing scout who studied him in pregame warmups for one game last season and was taken aback by how many off-target passes he threw.
Legends, current coaches and many talent evaluators agree: accuracy is one attribute that cannot be taught. While some bright-eyed dreamers look to improve it, generally, it is what it is.
Not a good look if you’re Mike Maccagnan who used a prime time second-round selection on Hackenberg.
Don’t go joinging the doom and gloom team just yet. What if everybody is wrong?
What if the kid shows command of John Morton‘s west coast offense from jump street and wins the starting job in August, and then goes on to sparkle in September? What if suddenly, everything clicks and the QB whisperer, Jeremy Bates, suddenly showcases his next prize with enthusiasm?
Bates, a man whose latest pride is his starting signal-caller, worked with a young Jay Cutler in Denver. In Denver, the three years under Bates, Cutler threw 54 touchdowns to 37 interceptions. He played well during the first three seasons of a rocky career (later with the Chicago Bears and now retired).
Cutler was a kid who, while he displayed amazing arm strength and leadership abilities out of Vanderbilt, dealt with accuracy concerns.
What if Bates and Morton figure it out with Hack?
Suddenly, the weakest roster in the league to many, would now revolve around a supreme positive, a franchise quarterback.
Suddenly, the name of Sam Darnold will mean much less.
Suddenly, the most difficult position to fill in all of sports is secure for the organization of the New York Jets.
Admittedly, everything coming out of Florham Park and the surrounding goings on forces us to believe the Jets are up against a wall with their young QB. And admittedly, it’s not a good sign the kid couldn’t find the field during a lost 5-11 campaign.
Before you ultimately stick that final nail in the coffin, allow the process to play out this summer.
Don’t proclaim he’s the answer to all of the Jets problems. But don’t bury him either, just yet.
Let’s find out if there’s a little magic on the horizon this August and September and if there is, these so-called accuracy concerns were either semi-garbage or something incredible unfolded before our eyes.