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Penn State Football: Gruden Might Just Be The Answer For Hackenberg

by on May 23, 2018 2:00 PM

If there was a moment when Christian Hackenberg's collegiate and professional worlds collided for the first time it may have been the exact second he walked into the room to film Jon Gruden's QB Camp special.

It was, a 23 minute unpacking of everything known to be good and bad about Hackenberg's career so far. His footwork, the sacks, his rocket arm and an undeniable set of skills that made teams like the New York Jets overlook an otherwise rocky college career in favor of a rare set of tools.

For the entire segment Gruden went over all of it. Some of the blame lying at Hackenberg's feet, other blame piling up at the feet of then Penn State offensive coordinator John Donovan and still current head coach James Franklin. Everyone had a part to play in getting Hackenberg to that point, but Gruden, either through his own genuine football insight or just a bit of TV magic, managed to parse it all and present one of the more concise assessments of Hackenberg at that moment in time.

Years later they will join forces again, Hackenberg traded from New York to the Oakland Raiders for next to nothing, but a chance for the Raiders' newest head coach to get his hands on a talent he has seen up close.

Will it be enough to save Hackenberg's career? He's 23, hardly old but not exactly young. The Raiders are well set with David Carr at quarterback and the current roster prior to mandatory cuts later this summer, lists former Big Ten star Connor Cook and former Buffalo Bills starter EJ Manuel at the position as well.

What exactly went wrong in New York is likely a collection of things. The Jets have a long history of fumbling in a myriad of ways on and off the field with its quarterbacks, and Hackenberg was always going to be a project, hardly the franchises' forte in its current form. Hackenberg has always been the consummate professional, but thrown into the pressure cooker of the New York media market, was hardly given much rope by anyone within 100 miles of the stadium.

As for the Raiders, a franchise that has always been something of an Island of Misfit Toys will get its show with a player that still has all the tools, but might need a reminder of how to use them the right way.

And if anyone can do it, Gruden might just be the one, some 3,000 miles from where Hackenberg made his first collegiate start and the stadium that he never really got to call home.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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