INDIANAPOLIS – The latest infatuation at this NFL combine is one of the weirdest. And for an already-weird event, that is saying something.
Big, grown men who have spent the majority of their lives playing football supremely enough to be one of 332 collegians auditioning for a spot in the world’s premier league of their sport are feeling inadequate here that their mitts aren’t mammoth enough.
“I just heard about that yesterday. I’ve been told I have pretty big hands my whole life,” Cal quarterback Jared Goff said.
He was thinking he might be the first quarterback taken in April’s draft.
Then he got it “handed” to him this week.
“I heard I have small hands yesterday, apparently,” he said.
Nine inches small, to be exact. That’s what the medical examination every prospect takes at the combine measured Goff’s hands to be. And that, apparently, is small.
Specifically, his were an inch smaller than the hands of North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz. You’ve got to hand it to Wentz; he is now taking his 10-inch paws and small-school pedigree to the top of the draft to join Goff as the popular choices to be the first QBs selected.
“Naw, I’ve never had a problem with that or expect it to be a problem. At all,” Goff said of hand size.
Nor should it be. Goff’s hands were adequate enough for him to become Cal’s first freshman QB to start a season opener. To throw for 3,508 yards on a 1-11 team in 2013. To set Pac-12 records with 4,719 yards passing and 43 touchdowns this past season and gain national renown for his accuracy down the field with his howitzer-like throwing arm.
Good thing for him that arm is still bigger than his hand.
National stories published Friday asserted Goff stands to lose millions by getting drafted later because of his 9-inch hands.
Goff finds the attention on his hand size comical.
“Yeah,” he deadpanned. “I’ve played football my whole life and never had any problem with that.”
Teams have noted the sizes of prospects’ hands for decades – just like their feet, necks, chests, arms and just about every other body part. This extra preoccupation with hand size, specifically, and it emerging as such a huge issue is an example of how hyped and scrutinized the combine has become. The league credentialed 1,100 media members for this week’s event. That feels like about 1,000 more than used to come to this.
All those people are eventually going to find something new to hype. And this year it’s hands.
Guess one of the reasons coaches and league personnel guys are bringing up Russell Wilson’s name here this week: Yep, it’s because his how big the Seahawks quarterback’s hands are, especially for a man his size. New San Francisco coach Chip Kelly told 49ers beat writers Thursday the importance of hand size is “huge” for quarterbacks.
“You better have big hands,” Kelly said, according to The Sacramento Bee. “Russell Wilson is 5-10½ – but he’s got 10¼ (-inch) hands.
“You better have a big paw to manipulate the football.”
Then there’s Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. He said “a guy could have tiny, Burger King hands … if he doesn’t fumble, who cares?”
Goff took pride in confirming he fumbled just four times at Cal this past season. He handled the ball on nearly all of the Golden Bears’ 989 plays in 2015.
Yet this has become such a “thing” here this week quarterbacks and wide receivers who feel their hands are on the small side have kept their hands noticeably under tables while being seated and talking to the media.
Subconsciously or not, USC quarterback Cody Kessler was doing that when he got asked about teams inquiring about his hand size. He must not have liked his measurement.
The draft-evaluation process has preoccupied players so much about their hands some are talking about working with specialists to stretch their mitts so they can be perceived to have bigger ones.
“Gives you guys something fun to write about,” Wentz said. “But I think it’s just another measurement that they do here – just because.”
Hue Jackson, the new coach of the Browns, brought up the advantage bigger hands give to quarterbacks playing in Cleveland’s bad-weather AFC North.
So did Cincinnati’s director of player personnel, Duke Tobin. But Tobin isn’t getting as out of whack about this as many others are here.
“There are some measurements that I think are accurate. And there are some measurements that sometimes aren’t,” he said. “It’s amazing the change in hand size from one event to another.
“The way it’s measured is a little odd. I might be alone in this: That’s an 8-inch hand …”
Tobin then contorted and stretched his hand.
“…and that’s a 10-inch hand,” he said.
“If you can’t extend your thumb or pinky you end up with a small hand – but you might not have a small hand.
“It’s a little bit useless of a measurement. When you shake a guy’s hand you know whether he’s got a big hand or not.”
Tobin’s right. Massachusetts wide receiver Tajae Sharpe reportedly has had these different hand measurements taken at January’s East-West Shrine all-star game, last month’s Senior Bowl and this week at the combine, respectively: 7¾ inches, 8 inches and 8 3/8 inches.
Checking with Sharpe on Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium, turns out he is the same guy with the same hands he’s had, well, his entire life.
“It’s not something I can work on,” Sharpe said, shrugging.
“I mean, my hand size is what it’s going to be.”
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