If we needed evidence Christian Hackenberg is a bad quarterback, his AAF debut proved it.
After a good freshman season at Penn State in 2013, Christian Hackenberg got some premature buzz as a potential No. 1 overall pick in the NFL. As it was he was second-round pick by the New York Jets in the 2016 draft, but he never took a regular season snap in two seasons. He was traded to the Oakland Raiders in May of 2018, but was cut in June, then signed and cut by the Philadelphia Eagles before spending two months on the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad last season.
The Alliance of American Football, or AAF, is partially labeling itself as a league of second chances. The first set of games came this weekend, and Hackenberg was the starting signal caller for the Memphis Express against the Birmingham Iron on Sunday afternoon. With a revamped throwing motion, Hackenberg was optimistic heading into his AAF debut:
I don’t think I’ve ever thrown the football this good. Never,” Hackenberg said, via John Luciew of PennLive.com. “I wish I had this five years ago. But the good news is I’m 23 (years old), not sure that I could do it and I did it. Now it’s just about going out and playing.
Quarterbacks are mic’d up in the AAF, but Hackenberg seemed to forget that. If the result of the game (a 26-0 win for Birmingham) isn’t enough to convey how badly he played, let’s take a look at some of Hackenberg’s performance (with some NSFW elements, and play-by-play man Ben Holden even apologizes for the quarterback’s language).
In what can only be considered a kind assessment, CBS Sports Network’s halftime tweet of the quarterback comparison suggested Birmingham’s defense “put the clamps on Hackenberg and the Express offense.”
Hackenberg finished the game 10-for-23 for 87 yards and an interception, though to be fair he had a nice touchdown pass taken away by a formation penalty. Brandon Silvers replaced him late in the fourth quarter, and promptly threw an interception on his first drive. The third quarterback on the roster for Memphis head coach Mike Singletary is Zach Mettenberger, the LSU product with 10 regular season NFL starts on his resume.
The Express will have their home opener next Saturday night against the Arizona Hotshots. The odds are against Hackenberg getting a second straight start after such a dismal debut, but it’s safe to assume he’ll get another chance to play at some point before the inaugural AAF season finishes.