Memphis Express head coach Mike Singletary confirmed in his weekly news conference Monday afternoon what most suspected would: “Zach Mettenberger will be our starting quarterback Saturday against San Diego.”
I wrote about Christian Hackenberg hopes of relaunching his career, starting with the AAF, here. So what happened? After two unproductive performances the former New York Jet was drinking at the last chance saloon. That chance ended after he threw two interceptions in the first half Saturday’s Alliance of American Football against the Orlando Apollos.
His replacement was also a former NFL player. Drafted in the sixth round by the Tennessee Titans, Zach Mettenberger hoped to have more success. However with the same offensive personnel the results could be that different could they?
Thankfully for Memphis fans the answer was a resounding yes! Taking the field at the start of the second half, Mettenberger put the Express offense into overdrive. The former LSU star’s third pass was a nice looking ball to Devin Lucien for a 30-yard touchdown . It was the first passing touchdown of Memphis’ season! He followed it up with a 40-yard scoring strike in the fourth quarter to Gerrard Sheppard and a 2-point conversion pass to Anthony Manzo-Lewis. Memphis couldn’t complete the comeback but Mettenberger completed 9 of 12 passes. More importantly he did this without an interception.
The comparison between Mettenberger and Hackenberg is night and day, even on the simplest of levels. Hackenberg has thrown no touchdowns in two and a half games. In his lone half on the field Mettenberger has thrown two.
Nothing stops a drive like an interception and here again Hackenberg comes off worse. Hackenberg has thrown three, including this shocker.
— The Alliance (@TheAAF) February 24, 2019
During his time as starter Hackenberg completed only 51.6% of his passes. He connected 32 of 62 for 277 yards. Mettenberger, although in a much smaller sample size, has completed 75% of his passes for 120 yards. Even the average length of completion goes to Zach with 13.3 yards per completion verses 8.7 average yards per completion.
The difference between the two players is perhaps highlighted most in this play:
— Memphis Express (@aafexpress) February 25, 2019
Mettenberger avoids the rush, all the while keeping his eyes down field. He then step up in the pocket, sets his feet and delivers the ball accurately to the receiver. Moreover, the ball is well placed so that the receiver can make the receptions and keep on going.
Mike Singletary, the former 49ers head coach, now in charge of the Memphis Express said. “The lift that Zach gave the team Saturday, it was a great feeling,” “To see a young man go out there and make some plays and really change the momentum of the game was impressive. We just have to put a whole game together and see how that looks.”
One last thing on Mettenberger. He’s a guy I really like in his first year (2014) with the Titans. He did well with very little in the way of weapons. His best receiver was tight end Delanie Walker and running back Bishop Sankey (now in the AAF with the San Diego Fleet ) was the lead back. While he showed a tendency to try and do too much I felt he should have got a chance to progress. Tennessee ultimately drafted Marcus Mariota with the 2nd overall pick in 2015 which meant we never got to see Mettenberger with a Todd Gurley or an Amari Cooper, who were both first round picks in 2015.