It defies explanation and most common sense that the Jets drafted a quarterback in the second round and, in a season where they became desperate at the position, decided to never use him.
Two of their four quarterbacks got hurt. Another got benched. And still, Christian Hackenberg spent the whole time on the sidelines.
The Jets either made a mistake drafting him that high, or they just wasted a full year for a young player, and it may be a while before we know which. But for whatever reason, they decided he wasn't ready to play for the first 15 games of this miserable regular season.
And that's why, no matter how desperate they are, no matter how loud people may be screaming to see him, they're right to not play him now.
"Why does he have to play now?" receiver Brandon Marshall asked the media on Tuesday. "It's the last game of the season. He'll have a whole offseason to get better and work hard. Why would you want to do that to the kid?"
Exactly. Why would the Jets want to do that to the 21-year-old who still, maybe could be their quarterback of the future? The Jets right now are the ultimate no-win situation. They are a disaster of a team that's threatening to disintegrate even further. They've won just one of their last seven games, and they needed overtime to do that against a team that's 1-13. In the three losses they've suffered in the last four weeks they've been outscored, 116-26.
That makes them a near-total embarrassment. It's hard to argue that they haven't just quit on their coach. Their offensive line was such a mess it nearly got Bryce Petty killed, and it certainly didn't help his performance. Neither did his drop-prone receivers. And he certainly hasn't been helped by a defense that's gone from horrible to hideous over the last month.
Petty couldn't win nor even really have much success at all with this team. Neither could veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. This isn't the ideal situation in which to throw a young quarterback who looked like a project over the summer then spent the last four months getting mostly scout team reps. Ideally, the Jets would put him in a situation where he'd have at least a chance to succeed.
But right now, in their current state, and with the veterans surely eyeing the end-of-season exits, the Jets are just far too much of a mess. At this stage, what's the point of putting him in a game that will likely be another in a string of disasters? Why not just wait and start over again next year?
That, of course, is what the Jets intend to do. Head coach Todd Bowles has made it clear that Fitzpatrick will start on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills and -- barring an injury to Fitzpatrick -- he'll continue what he once called Hackenberg's "redshirt" year. He said that "if the game gets out of hand" he might get Hackenberg a few snaps in the fourth quarter. But in general, Bowles said "We're not going to gain or lose nothing by looking at Christian or not in this game."
And he's right. Playing him in this game just to play him, or just to give him the "feel" of NFL action is pointless. In fact, it could do more harm than good. He'd have no chance to bounce back from whatever happens in this game until next summer. And given the way the Jets have played lately, it's not likely that whatever happens would be good. The risk of the damage that could be done isn't worth the little bit of experience that could be gained.
"He can use some mechanical work and he got better as the year went on. That will only show in the game," Bowles said. "But (putting) him out there in the last game and say his mechanics aren't great or his mechanics aren't bad doesn't make any sense either."
"A young player coming into the league needs a lot of work," Bowles added. "Some play right away, some don't."
And maybe the fact that Hackenberg hasn't played means that he really isn't ready. And perhaps that is alarming considering he's a second-round pick on a team desperate for quarterback help and in an era where most early picks play right away.
But Bowles and the Jets, after waiting this long, don't seem too concerned about that. They always planned to sit him for all 16 games anyway. His time has always been in the future. They don't really need to know if he's ready right now.
"Anybody that hasn't played, they won't be ready until they play," Bowles said. "But you don't leap frog people to start playing. If Fitz gets hurt and (Hackenberg) gets to play, you'll see him play.
"But if not, it doesn't mean anything plus or minus that we're not playing him this year. We had a plan for him going in when we drafted him. He's taken a lot of reps in practice. … He's ready to play. He'll be ready to play. Obviously with experience comes better play and you'll see a bunch of things, but putting him in right now isn't going to hurt or help him."
"Just because we're having a bad season, doesn't mean you throw guys out there just because and say, 'You're ready to play,'" Marshall added. "Let the kid sit there and continue to learn from Fitz. Sit there in the room and approach the offseason with guns blazing and he'll be fine. You don't need to throw the kid out there right now."