Christian Hackenberg Might Have All the Tools but that Doesn’t Mean He’s Great


I should probably preface this entire post before we get going with a little acknowledgment: I, like so many others, think that Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Christian Hackenberg has all the tools it takes to one day end up playing in the NFL. Or at least, whatever the hell qualifies as all the tools these days.

Sure, Hackenberg has a pretty strong arm, the ability to spread the ball north, south, east, west, to a variety of his teammates. He can throw a solid ball to the back shoulder of a wide receiver here and there.

These are all the same tools most every four-to-five star recruit has when he enters the realm of college football.

Yet, because people want it to be the case so badly, Hackenberg’s skills are somehow so transcendent a number of media types are overlooking the fact that he’s been closer to less-than-average than he has even been mediocre in his time at Penn State

I see why everyone thinks Hackenberg is special. You can watch any game from last season and see the flashes that so many folks talk about. However, just showing flashes of having a unique skill set does not make a quarterback all that special.

Tim The Toolman Taylor sure had all the tools — could even make a hot rod in 30 minutes — but that didn’t actually make him a good handyman. Right now, Hackenberg is more like The Toolman than he is Andrew Luck.

Sure, he has what it takes to be good or even special, yet he hasn’t exactly been consistent enough to warrant the praise that he is going to be an upper-echelon quarterback — assuming he isn’t already.

A lot of the Christian Hackenberg hype probably comes down to people’s expected growth from the youngster.

As a true freshman Hackenberg in 2013, he hurled 20 touchdowns to 10 interceptions on 58.9 percent passing. That is truly impressive for a first-year player — especially one that was playing on such a talent void team as Penn State in the post-Jerry Sandusky scandal era.

But if there has been growth in Hackenberg’s game from year one to year two it hasn’t shown. In three games — against three “eh” opponents — the Palmyra, Virginia, native has certainly racked up yards (1082) at a pretty decent completion clip (62.2 percent), but has also thrown five picks to just four touchdowns.

What is the biggest argument against my idea that Christian Hackenberg isn’t that great of a quarterback? Well, one might argue that the sophomore doesn’t have great talent around him.

There is validity to that, largely the result of NCAA sanctions limiting Penn State’s scholarship allotment. However, it is not as if the Nittany Lions opened up the season by playing the 1985 Chicago Bears, the ’72 Dolphins and your created team from NCAA Football 2014.

Instead, they played UCF, Akron and Rutgers. So, even if Penn State is as void of talent as an apologist might argue, the Lions certainly have at least as much talent as their three opponent thus far, right?

Regardless, shouldn’t a great quarterback elevate his players and all that jazz?

None of that is to say that Christian Hackenberg is incapable of becoming the next great gun-slinger. After all I’ve laid out in this column about what he’s accomplish thus far in his young career, I actually think that he will eventually figure it out, become more consistent and be able to be a more than solid college quarterback and a possible late-round NFL Draft pick.

But some of the hype and expectations I see getting put on and around this kid are insane.

Now, what in the hell was that? Another great game? Zero touchdowns and one pick makes a great game to the point of Heisman consideration? In what bologna of a world? But that is not it.

Apparently there are far more people who think Hackenberg is the reincarnation of sliced-bread than there are those who see a player that still has a ton of room to grow.

Maybe I’m the one in the wrong here. Perhaps I didn’t get to the station in tie for the train that decided that a Heisman can be won on the idea of abilities rather than the actual showcasing of them.

Yet, because college football hyperbole lends itself to one being batshit insane, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns makes a quarterback a Heisman hopeful. No seeing the forest for the trees.

Christian Hackenberg has a bright future with Penn State passing records, a likely spot in the NFL and perhaps stardom. But that’s all potentially in the future, not ongoing right now.

Why people have the quenching thirst to crown him as a really great player already is something I truly do not understand, but it is fiction on par with the (best) worst of Steven Glass. But hey, if enough people say how great he is it must be true — or something. Majority vote wins so go jump off a cliff.