New Yorkers are always in a hurry. We sneer at people who stop on the sidewalk, we want the check now, we honk all the time ...
And we rush our young quarterbacks.
The New York Jets did it in 2009 with Mark Sanchez and they did it again in 2013 with Geno Smith, throwing both players into the fire as rookies even though they weren't ready. They took a slow and easy approach last year with Bryce Petty, but the situation was different than the others because he was only a fourth-round pick.
Now there's Christian Hackenberg.
General manager Mike Maccagnan answers in riddles whenever he's asked about the possibility of playing the second-round pick as a rookie. He won't dismiss it, but he also says it's not the ideal option "in a perfect world."
News flash: The Jets don't live in a perfect world, especially at the quarterback position.
Double talk aside, we all know there's only one choice for the Jets: Let the kid sit for a year. It's the best decision for the team, an older group of win-now players, and it's the best decision for Hackenberg, whose psyche and mechanics need to be re-calibrated after two mentally and physically taxing seasons at Penn State.
"I don't think he's ready to play right away," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., said Monday on a conference call with reporters. "I think he needs time. Hopefully, he's not forced to be the guy, or he's going to be a bust. IF they handle him properly, manage him properly, I think he's got a chance three years down the road to surface. If they're forcing Christian Hackenberg to right away be a factor at quarterback, they're barking up the wrong tree."
Presumably, Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles know this. They have to know it would be a terrible idea to put Hackenberg on the fast track, but they can't say it because they want to maintain a competitive environment. They also don't want to say anything that could hurt their bargaining position with Ryan Fitzpatrick or tip their hand with regard to future plans for Smith, who could be trade bait at some point. The sensitive and fluid nature of the quarterback position has prompted team officials to stay neutral, understandably so.
For now, they need to get Hackenberg in Chan Gailey's classroom and the let the learning (and fixing) begin. This will be a fascinating study on so many levels.
"He was one of the most difficult evaluations in the entire draft because there are so many flashes of greatness and there are so many flashes of concern when it comes to his accuracy," ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. "To me, it's worth a shot because of the importance of that position. Chan Gailey has a lot of work to do, but there's clay to be molded."
Back in '09, Sanchez struggled mightily, but the Jets made the playoffs because it had a strong and seasoned cast around him. Smith would've been better off sitting in '13, but he was thrust into the lineup because Sanchez got hurt. He needed time, and the Jets didn't have it.
The current situation is better for a young quarterback, and it'll improve if Fitzpatrick returns. That would reduce the temptation to play Hackenberg. If Fitzpatrick doesn't come back, they need to add a veteran insurance policy for the same reason. Patience is critical. Previous regimes didn't have it, and it probably hurt player development.
"It's a good pick; I just hope they don't force Hackenberg to really try to compete," Kiper said. "You want to right the ship, you want to re-create what we saw as a freshman with Hackenberg. If they allow him some time, I think they'll be in good shape and maybe have their quarterback of the not-too-distant future."