The Jets have seemingly been searching for a franchise quarterback since Joe Namath was wearing green. So it's no surprise that Namath doesn't want to see them waste any more time in their search.
The Jets legend made it clear that he wants to see Christian Hackenberg emerge as the starting quarterback for his old team this season, not the soon-to-be-38-year-old Josh McCown. Speaking before the United Way's Gridiron Gala in Manhattan on Tuesday night, Namath said he understands why the coaches might go with McCown.
But he said if there's a chance the 22-year-old Hackenberg is the future, then the future has to be now.
"I would like to see Hackenberg because I think we need someone for the future," Namath said. "I know you want to win as you go along. There's negativity about his ability to lead them to win. (But) I would use him. And again, this is no reflection on Josh taking the job. He's a proven veteran. He brings a lot to the team. But realistically you want to make the playoffs, you want to win a Super Bowl. We've got to get the guy that can do that."
Whether Hackenberg is the right guy to do that now or in the future is certainly up for debate. He was a controversial second-round pick for the Jets in 2016 and then he didn't play a snap last season even as all the other quarterbacks on the Jets roster ended up getting hurt. The Jets said it was always their plan to give him a "redshirt" year, but reports emerged about his lack of progress during the season, including some damning critical comments from anonymous assistant coaches.
Namath admitted that "as a fan I don't know as much about it as the coaches do," and he understood "they still want to play the guy that gives them the best chance to win." But like many others, he believes the Jets should play Hackenberg so they can at least see what they've got.
And some players do believe the Jets have something in Hackenberg. Receiver Quincy Enunwa, who was honored at the Gridiron Gala with a Hometown Hero award for his community service work, said he's seen progress in Hackenberg during the first few weeks of the Jets' offseason workout program.
"I definitely think he has taken a next step, you know?" Enunwa said. "He's definitely gotten better. He knows what he needs to work on. So I'm excited for him to put it together. It's hard against air to really tell what he's doing, but you can tell that he's worked hard this offseason."
Hackenberg, who was also at the event, said only that things were "going well" this offseason. He declined to answer any football questions - including his thoughts on the Jets not drafting another quarterback this year - but promised to talk during the Jets organized team activity (OTA) sessions in a couple of weeks.