With the benching of Christian Hackenberg for Zach Mettenberger this week for the Memphis Express at quarterback, I think this may be the end of “The Hack” in professional football. And thank goodness for the fans of the Memphis Express.
The Happy Times:
A 5-Star Quarterback out of the state of Pennsylvania, Hackenberg was the talk of Happy Valley. He started all three years at Penn State and threw for 38 TD, and just under 9000 yards passing. Coming out of Penn State, we the NFL scouts saw a Quarterback that had the upside, the size, and the overcoming adversity from a college football program that was just getting over the turmoil that was the Jerry Sandusky trial. An early entry, Hackenberg came out as a Junior and was selected by the New York Jets in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft. For a Quarterback that only completed 56% of his passes in his career at Penn State, I was surprised the Jets took a chance on him, but knowing the Jets draft habits, I figured it could be a mistake, and indeed it was.
The NFL Journeyman, From the Happy Valley to the Armpit of the NFL:
After training camp of his rookie year, Hackenberg found himself 4th on the depth chart after a piss-poor preseason. The guy they drafted 51st overall, was now the laughing-stock at quarterback for the Jets and sat behind the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith, and Bryce Petty all who had outworked Hackenberg by miles and miles. The 2017 season, he would move up a spot but mainly because the Jets only kept three quarterbacks, not because any improvement was made by Hackenberg, still no snaps to his record after 2 years already in the NFL.
Hackenberg would then be traded for not a 2nd or 4th round draft pick but at a 7th round draft pick, which is basically an NFL team saying “this guy is odiferous, please get him off my NFL roster immediately”. To the Oakland Raiders he arrived, and 22 days later he was cut which meant the Jets/Raiders trade was dead.
Two months later, another team wanted to give him a run for it, he signed with Philadelphia. As if you thought his time in Oakland was short, he was an Eagle for exactly 21 days then cut again. Boom, 2 days later in Cincinnati and then is cut for a very long time later, 63 days without getting off the practice squad.
To the AAF Comes Hack:
The Alliance of American Football was formed in 2018 as a development league for players that have been on NFL rosters or are wanting to get on an NFL roster soon. This could be the spot where Hackenberg redeems himself, wrong wrong wrong! Hackenberg attended the quarterback camp put on by the Memphis Express in the summer of 2018. Do you know what Memphis did wrong? They took this guy in the 2nd Round of a football draft, again. Week 1 of the beloved AAF begin and the Hackenberg stats came out to play, 10/23, 87 passing yards, 0 TD, 1 INT. We could maybe forgive Hack for this one, as we now know that the Birmingham Iron may have the best defense in the league. Week 2, the game I attended in Memphis was a better stats wise showing, but Memphis blew a 12-0 lead because Zac Stacy can’t do everything. This is a game Memphis should have won, but Hack’s inability to get the ball moving(4.1 yards per attempt vs. Wolford who was at 8.8) int he later portions of the game, held this team back.
Hearing Hackenberg in the press room after the game made me cringe as sports writer even more after this heartbreaker for the Express. I heard the words “we gotta get better” it felt like 500 times in that press room, and every reporter he spoke with he gave the same answer “we gotta get better”. I am a person that likes the word will, I would have liked to hear the word will come out of his mouth. The blunt way it should be phrased, “When will you get better Hack?” Zac Stacy balled out with over 100 yards rushing (first in AAF history), the defense played very well, when the receivers got the action they got their yards after the catch. In my gut, I know a change was coming from Mike Singletary next game, I just was waiting to see when.
And It Happened: Hackenberg Benched:
Through the first half I watched of the Apollos/Express game, I thought to myself, if Hackenberg throws an INT or two, could we see Zach Mettenberger? Knowing Brandon Silvers was out, Mettenberger would be the guy. It finally happened, Hackenberg benched for Mettenberger at the half. If I was in Memphis for that moment, I would have screamed hallelujah! Mettenberger almost rallied them back against Orlando and threw for 2 TD and a 75% passing completion percentage and 120 yards in the second half. They can’t turn back now, they need to roll with Zach, the Hackenberg experiment is over now.
Being that the AAF is a development league, and the goal is to get better to get back to the NFL if you can’t succeed here your pro football career is over. Hackenberg is good as gone from the game of football. This once 5-Star All American, Penn State icon, NFL scouts “high potential player”, NFL and AAF bust will now be riding the bench of the Memphis Express and his dreams of returning the big leagues are now over. Time to get a job in the real world just like the rest of us, Hackenberg.