FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The Christian Hackenberg era ended before it started, and that's on the New York Jets, specifically general manager Mike Maccagnan, whose second-round reach in 2016 will be remembered as one of the franchise's all-time draft clunkers.
Hackenberg's mechanics were a mess, and his confidence was shot after three up-and-down seasons at Penn State. If there were a chance for reclamation, it was ruined by the Jets, who stunted his development by limiting his practice reps (remember the four-QB depth chart in 2016?), entrusting him to a position coach (Kevin Patullo, 2016) who had no experience with quarterbacks and twice changing offensive coordinators.
If this were a class, it would be called How Not to Groom a Quarterback 101.
For the sake of their long-suffering fan base, you hope the Jets learned some lessons from the Hackenberg debacle and will get it right with Sam Darnold, the new golden boy in Gotham. From now on, everything the Jets do must be geared toward making him a better quarterback. He's the future, and he must be allowed to develop in a stable environment, one that has a clear plan and sound coaching.
That is why it made sense to unload Hackenberg on Tuesday, when the Jets sent him to the Oakland Raiders for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2019. Selling off a former second-round choice for a possible seventh-rounder is a pennies-on-the-dollar return, but quite frankly, it's amazing the Jets got anything for Hackenberg. After all, he didn't play a single down in two seasons. Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who got to know Hackenberg during his ESPN QB Camps, must see something the Jets don't.
It's a win for Hackenberg, who desperately needed a fresh start -- especially after throwing the Jets' coaches under the bus Tuesday. It's also a win for the Jets, who eliminated a potential training-camp distraction and a reminder of a quarterback experiment gone bad. It might sound harsh, but they didn't need that kind of vibe around Darnold.
In the process, the Jets simplified the depth chart. Now it's just Darnold, Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgwater, whose surgically repaired knee appears fine (so far). The Jets have one promising rookie and two high-character pros.
Hackenberg and Bryce Petty -- cut on May 3 -- had to go because they would've impeded Darnold's progress. Every practice rep that went to them, and not to Darnold, would have been a waste of precious practice time. Maccagnan's drafting record takes a hit with the Hackenberg and Petty misses, but you know what? There comes a point where you have to cut bait, consequences be damned. Look at the New England Patriots; they aren't afraid to admit to personnel mistakes. One of them, former third-round tackle Antonio Garcia, is now on the Jets' roster.
The Jets' primary motivation should be preparing Darnold to play. If that doesn't happen by September -- he certainly didn't look ready in Tuesday's practice -- that's fine. McCown or Bridgewater can hold down the fort until the former USC star is capable of leading the offense. Patience is paramount.
The Jets showed plenty of patience with Hackenberg -- maddeningly so. Coach Todd Bowles had such little faith in him that he refused to play him in the ultimate garbage-time situation -- a blowout loss in the meaningless 2017 season finale. In reality, Hackenberg was toast last summer. He was given a shot last preseason to win the starting job, but his ragged play underscored what many in the organization already sensed: The kid doesn't have it.
"Any time a pick doesn't work out, I guess you can look at it as a waste," Bowles said after announcing the trade. "When a pick does work out, it's not a waste. You learn lessons from everything you do in life. It's not just football and draft picks.
"If anybody has a four-leaf clover up their butt and [you know] it's going to work out every time, please let me know that person because ... hey, it didn't work out here."
Asked if he can apply any lessons learned from Hackenberg to Darnold, Bowles said, "Sam's situation and Christian's situation are completely different." For the most part, he's right because of the difference in draft pedigree, but the comparison can't be easily dismissed, not given this franchise's track record with quarterbacks.