Dear NFL general managers,
I hope this letter finds you in good health. I understand this is a busy time of year for you, but I wouldn't be writing unless I thought this matter was of the utmost importance. It ... it's about Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg.
Hackenberg is one of the more talked-about prospects in the 2016 NFL Draft, as you may know. The former five-star and possible No. 1 pick is now a potential mid-rounder, but I am not here to discuss his merits as a professional quarterback. There are plenty of other places where you can find people opining on his NFL outlook. I'm not a scout and don't pretend to be one on the Internet.
I am, however, someone who has seen Hackenberg just get smashed to a fine powder for the past two seasons while he played behind an extremely bad offensive line. And as someone who grew up rooting for Penn State, all I want is for Hackenberg to go to a nice, quiet NFL team where he hopefully won't get hit very much.
Hackenberg was sacked 38 times in 2015, tied for third-most in the nation. He was sacked 44 times in 2014, which was somehow only second in the nation. Here he is being hurried within two seconds by a mid-major that's only rushing two defenders against six blockers:
The numbers for Penn State's offense last year, neatly compiled over at Football Study Hall*, are grim.
- 59th in Offensive S&P+
- 101st in points per game
- 111th in Offensive Success Rate
- 107th in points per trip inside the 40-yard line
- 107th in Rushing Success Rate
- 120th in Stuff Rate
- 107th in Passing Success Rate
- 111th in Adjusted Sack Rate
"I don't know what the fuck we're doing."
Yeah, same here.
It was more than just the sacks and hits, though. I can only speak to what I saw, but it seemed like he was more likely to hit an open receiver in the ankles than in the hands. His completion percentage dropped every year, ending at 53.5 percent as a junior in 2015. The numbers paint an ugly picture by themselves, but it was so much worse to actually watch the games.
Every now and then, you'd see flashes of the talent. But you didn't see it nearly often enough.
I realize I'm not selling you on drafting him as a way to necessarily make your team better.
Make no mistake; I have no idea whether he'll ever help you win. I really don't even want him to have to play football for a while, if that's what it takes. Just park him on your bench, where he can't be sacked.
Maybe it was the terrible offensive line. Maybe Hackenberg regressed. Maybe he received suspect coaching. All seem pretty likely, actually. The marriage between Hackenberg, head coach James Franklin and (now former) offensive coordinator John Donovan just never got off the ground. Donovan was fired following this past season, and murmurs from the message board set about a bad relationship between quarterback and head coach feel pretty much confirmed.
Players have to earn everything they can get in the NFL. That's not the case for coaches, maybe, but it definitely is for players. But if we're going to sit here and talk about things that people have earned, Hackenberg has more than earned the chance to go play somewhere extremely quiet and peaceful. Somewhere he won't be harried like a fox, trying like hell to escape from a pack of hounds and rich aristocrats.
We're trusting you with him now. We just hope you make the right decision.