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4 NFL Officials Told The MMQB That Christian Hackenberg Did Not Blame James Franklin For Struggles

Christian Hackenberg interviewed on his future.


Two weeks ago, Robert Klemko of The MMQB wrote that two NFL personnel sources told him that Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg blamed head coach James Franklin when asked about his sophomore and junior year struggles. Hackenberg had a very strong freshman year under Bill O'Brien after sticking with his commitment to Penn State after the Jerry Sandusky scandal, but his productivity fell after James Franklin took over the program following O'Brien's departure to the NFL.

Following his final collegiate game, Hackenberg publicly thanked O'Brien and a number of other people within the program, but not Franklin.

That's not the full story on how the Hackenberg-Franklin relationship is playing into this NFL Draft process, however. In a new MMQB post by Jenny Vrentas, four NFL officials say that Hackenberg did not blame place the blame for his struggles on Franklin.

Two weeks ago, The MMQB’s Robert Klemko reported that two personnel sources told him Hackenberg had shifted blame to Franklin when their teams asked about his declining production his sophomore and junior seasons. But four high-ranking club officials who were part of their team’s interview process with prospects, speaking for this piece, said that was not how Hackenberg responded in their meetings.

“His answer was that he didn’t play as well, and there were things he needed to get better at,” one head coach said. One senior executive said he was impressed that Hackenberg didn’t throw Franklin under the bus, despite questions that set him up to do so. Another team decision-maker said he could read between the lines that Hackenberg and Franklin weren’t especially close, but that Hackenberg did not blame his coach. During Hackenberg’s 12 formal interviews at the combine, some teams pushed that button harder than others and some may have interpreted his answers differently. Hackenberg doesn’t believe he left any room for interpretation.

There's a chance that Hackenberg responded differently to various teams, but it is interesting that there is a divergence here in stories. Whether or not Franklin did play a role in Hackenberg's struggles, no team wants a prospective player to have a history of throwing his coaches under the bus. As Vrentas' piece posits, Hackenberg is one of the most intriguing and difficult to place players in the upcoming draft.

[The MMQB]