Actually, there's a better way to say it:
He didn't lose the competition. Big difference.
This isn't a triumph for him or the organization because the only thing it accomplished was to underscore the Jets' dire situation at quarterback. McCown was the favorite since Day 1, so this is hardly a franchise-altering bombshell. The bigger story, one that casts a pall over this so-called coronation, is that Christian Hackenberg didn't even challenge for the job.
I never expected him to overtake McCown, but he finished third in a three-man race, unofficially -- and that's disappointing. Think about it: Mike Maccagnan's second-round project from last year wasn't able to push a 38-year-old journeyman who was limited to seven reps in the first three preseason games. That is troubling on multiple levels.
It's premature to call Hackenberg a bust, but he's not anywhere close to being NFL-ready. He has had two starts and a long relief appearance this preseason, and his offense has surrendered more points (16) than it scored (nine) -- two pick-6s and a safety, if you're keeping track. Hackenberg's field awareness and pre-snap decisions are highly suspect.
He can't be trusted to start a game. He can't be trusted to be the primary backup. He should be the No. 3 quarterback, assuming Bryce Petty (sprained knee) is available for the season opener.
"There must have been someone in that building who pushed for Hackenberg extremely hard to get him drafted in the second round," an opposing scout said last week. "He's everything you want from a look standpoint -- smart, articulate, good size -- but it doesn't match up with his tape."
Maccagnan fell in love with Hackenberg and put his reputation on the line by drafting him a couple of rounds before many expected. Recognizing he wasn't ready to play, the Jets showed patience, essentially redshirting him as a rookie. They changed quarterback coaches, bringing in the well-respected Jeremy Bates. They signed the ideal mentor in McCown, an unselfish, positive influence for young quarterbacks.
They removed Hackenberg's training wheels and sent him on his way, expecting to see progress. Is he better than last year? No question. Will he continue to improve? Yes, probably, but now he's on the bench and practice reps are scarce for backups.
At some point, Hackenberg will get a shot because -- let's not forget -- the Jets need to form an evaluation before next spring's blockbuster quarterback draft. But now, based on his preseason, the long-anticipated debut could get pushed back.
This wasn't entirely his fault, not with the personnel deficiencies on offense. Every quarterback needs a dynamic playmaker, and the Jets don't have one, adding stress to the position. Petty handled it better than Hackenberg, but he also had the benefit of facing second- and third-team defenses.
The Cleveland Browns are in a similar situation -- rebuilding -- and they've handed the reins to rookie DeShone Kizer, a second-round pick. Kizer didn't win the job with a lights-out preseason, but he showed enough to make them willing to live with the inevitable growing pains. The Jets didn't see enough in Hackenberg to make them believe the bumpy ride would be worth it.