Jeff Pearlman

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The last laugh belongs to Christian Hackenberg

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In case you missed this, Christian Hackenberg was cut by the Oakland Raiders yesterday, a mere 72 hours after the team acquired him from the Jets.

The former Penn State quarterback was selected in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, and New York’s front office executives were immediately lambasted for wasting such a high spot on a relatively unexceptional player. The Jets, naturally, fought back. Hackenberg was a big-program product with a powerful arm and tremendous (6-foot-4, 228 pounds) size. Was he the team’s quarterback of the future? Hard to say. But, man, the potential!

Alas, it didn’t go well. Hackenberg never appeared in a game (and it wasn’t like the Jets were overflowing with stud quarterbacks), then was sent to the Raiders for a conditional 2019 seventh-round pick.

Now he’s unemployed and likely done as a quarterback—and the mocking and ridicule has been intense.

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But here’s the thing: Christian Hackenberg signed a four-year, $4.66 million contract featuring a $1.6 million signing bonus, when he was drafted. In other words, he’s 23 and wealthy. Not never-have-to-work-again wealthy. But wealthy enough to enjoy his life and take his time. He’s also walking off into the sunset having taken absolutely zero punishing NFL hits. That means, in all likelihood, no CTE, no eternity of battered knees, no strained peas through a straw at age 40.

So laugh all you want.

He won the lottery.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life