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Jets GM keeps door open for Hackenberg debut in 2016

Two words describe the New York Jets' quarterback room right now: It's complicated.

If the season started tomorrow, 2015 pariah Geno Smith likely would be the team's starting quarterback. Then again, if Ryan Fitzpatrick finally re-signs -- as many believe he still will -- Smith would probably find himself out of a job entirely.

As it stands, Smith is flanked by second-year project Bryce Petty and rookie Christian Hackenberg, New York's surprise second-round draft pick. On Monday, general manager Mike Maccagnan expressed his preference to allow rookies to develop behind the scenes while leaving the door open for special circumstances.

"With any player coming into the league, there's definitely a maturation process," Maccagnan told ESPN Radio, via the New York Daily News. "And it doesn't matter what position you play. I think quarterbacks are probably one of the harder positions to transition to the NFL. The reality of it is, though, is it's going to be determined by how he does."

Maccagnan reiterated the team's desire to bring back Fitzpatrick. Maccagnan has been extremely measured in his approach with the veteran and believes he still has time on his side even as the Fitzpatrick contract stalemate rolls into its fifth month.

"Going forward, you always have contingency plans," Maccagnan said. "In the NFL, it's kind of like playing chess. At some point in time, you get down to where you run out of moves. We're not at that stage yet.

"Right now, Geno has been a starter for us, and actually played quite well prior to getting hurt last year, and was doing a good job in the offseason. So we're kind of excited to see what Geno can do, coming back. And we feel good about that."

The Smith chatter feels like lip service from a GM who hopes he doesn't have to break the Geno emergency glass a year after IK Enemkpali broke Geno's jaw. In an ideal scenario, Fitzpatrick returns and plays at an effective level while Hackenberg learns the position.

The Jets don't historically traffic in "ideal scenarios" at the quarterback position, of course, but the hope is that Hackenberg will put a lot of the franchise's ghosts to bed.

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