Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg is unusual among quarterback prospects in the NFL draft in that his best season was his freshman season: That year he showed great potential playing for coach Bill O’Brien, but when O’Brien left to coach the Texans, Hackenberg struggled mightily as a sophomore under new coach James Franklin, and only improved slightly in his junior year before leaving school early to turn pro.
Given that history, it’s not surprising that Hackenberg thinks the departure of O’Brien and arrival of Franklin hurt his college career. What is surprising is that Hackenberg turned off NFL teams in private interviews by blaming his problems on Franklin and the Penn State staff.
Two personnel sources on two separate NFL teams told Robert Klemko of TheMMQB.com that Hackenberg said all the wrong things in interviews. Specifically, Hackenberg blamed Franklin when asked what went wrong.
“Despite the fact that it’s probably true, you don’t want to hear a kid say that,” a personnel source on one team said.
As in any job interview, there’s a right way and a wrong way to talk about yourself when you’re a player talking to NFL teams. If Hackenberg says, “I committed to Penn State because I thought Coach O’Brien’s offense would be perfect for me, and after he left I didn’t do a good enough job of adapting to the new offense,” NFL teams aren’t going to have a problem with that. If Hackenberg says, “Coach Franklin didn’t do a good enough job of adapting his offense to me,” NFL teams are going to have a problem with that.