Jets would be crazy not to start Hackenberg in 2017

Christian Hackenberg's issues in transitioning to the NFL have been well-documented.

Immediately supporting the concerns many draftniks had with a once highly touted signal-caller, the former Penn State standout couldn't so much as earn himself a single rep as a rookie.

A team refusing to even dress its second-round quarterback until the final game of a lost season is about all the evidence you need to conclude that even those within the building already fear that a premium pick has been wasted.

But the New York Jets, as any team in a similar position would, are going to see this one through. There's a non-zero chance Hackenberg finally makes a breakthrough, after all, and it's really costing the club nothing to wait it out in hopes of such a jump.

The question is how exactly they choose to go about giving him the opportunity to make those strides. For a team so clearly in need of a mass rebuild, there's really only one answer: Hackenberg should be starting from Day 1.

Why? Well, for starters, Hackenberg is never truly going to showcase his potential, or lack thereof, until he can get on the field. Already having spent a full year on the sidelines, the only thing another season of clipboard-holding will do is further remove him from his last meaningful snaps.

Let him take his lumps against real NFL competition. It could go incredibly poorly. Given the rumblings about everything he showed upon arriving with the team last year, it's probably a safe bet to assume it does.

But that leads into another factor that's probably more important than any other. The Jets just don't have anything to lose. Nothing.

A sheer lack of talent across the board, and most notably at premium positions on both sides of the ball, gives New York a particularly strong case for the not-so-desirable title of the NFL's worst roster. An absolute best-case scenario would see this kind of team win no more than five games. And that's probably being kind.

Whether it's Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, Hackenberg, or any other quarterback they could realistically bring in to compete in camp, double-digit losses seem inevitable. The roster is that poor.

With that in mind, seeing what you have in a player you once saw as a second-round value remains a virtual no-brainer. Barring a miracle where he quickly establishes himself as the unquestioned future of the franchise, the Jets are almost certain to be targeting a quarterback atop next year's draft. A few extra losses, if that's what you envision happening with Hackenberg getting work, would only help those efforts.

Granted, it remains to be seen whether the Jets brass is bold enough to make this kind of move. Head coaches and general managers are notoriously safe when it comes to major decisions along these lines, so perhaps it can still be considered unlikely, at best.

But for a leadership duo that's already heading into the 2017 season on the hot seat, handing the keys to a young quarterback, for better or for worse, could actually be a strategy that buys them extra time. A five-win year with McCown at the helm certainly won't.

Anything other than putting the best players on the field is certain to bring up the ever taboo discussion regarding tanking, accompanied by the point that anything other than a focus on winning can be a tough "sell" for fans. In this case, though, you'd be hard-pressed to find a Jets fan with any illusion about the team's chances of racking up many victories this season. Resigned to the fact that it'll be at least another year in the basement, the majority are probably already looking ahead to a talented 2018 prospect class.

Landing one of the top quarterback talents - Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, or Mason Rudolph - early in next year's draft is exactly what this organization needs after so many years of horrendous play at the position.

Team officials will continue to preach competition, and McCown will remain the runaway favorite to be under center in Week 1, but the Jets should have no problem with any result that comes with giving Hackenberg his shot.

Start the kid.

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