FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Christian Hackenberg still hasn't taken a snap as the Jets quarterback, but he handled his first media firestorm without flinching at all.
The still unused second-rounder brushed off an ESPN report from Sunday that quoted an anonymous Jets coach saying Hackenberg regressed during his "redshirt" season and was so inaccurate that he "couldn't hit the ocean." Todd Bowles insisted that assessment was "not at all" true.
Hackenberg wasn't bothered by it regardless.
"I really don't have any opinion on it," he said. "A coach has never come up and said anything to me directly, so until he does that I'm really not too concerned about it."
While those quotes were certainly harsh, a team source did express concern with Hackenberg's performances during practices this season. He actually was inaccurate and struggled during the open practices in training camp attended by the media. But since then, during closed practices, Hackenberg has still struggled in very limited reps, the source said.
That's part of why Hackenberg was the only one of the nine quarterbacks taken in the first four rounds of the last NFL draft to not play a single down this season. Both Bowles and Jets GM Mike Maccagnan said all along that was their plan, since they went into the season with four quarterbacks on the roster. But even after the first three got hurt, Hackenberg obviously didn't show enough to convince the Jets to alter that plan.
The Jets haven't given up on Hackenberg, though, and he is expected to get a long look this offseason and next summer.
"There's nothing wrong with Christian," Bowles said. "He just needs to play. He's allowed to have a redshirt year. Next year, he's got to show some progress and make some jumps."
It's probably a longshot that Hackenberg will enter next season as the Jets starter, but the opportunity is certainly there -- at least for now. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a free agent and isn't expected back. Geno Smith is a free agent who possibly could return, but he's coming off an ACL injury. And Bryce Petty is the only other Jets quarterback under contract for 2017, but he's having surgery later this week to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder.
The Jets are likely to bring in a veteran quarterback, either through free agency or a trade. It's also possible they'll select a quarterback with the sixth overall pick in this year's draft. But if Hackenberg shows enough progress when he returns to work this spring, he could still offer some competition.
His reaction to that possibility, though, was lukewarm at best.
"I know that I'm going to come in as prepared as I can be," he said. "If that opportunity is given to me, or however that's laid out, then I'm going to put everything I have into it.