The NFL Scouting Combine for hopeful rookies-to-be ended Monday in Indianapolis. To have this much fun again, observers should go to a slaughterhouse and watch guys in white coats hang slabs of gore on moving hooks.
The combine is, in this scribe’s opinion, one of the most oddball, meat-on-the-hoof, dehumanizing annual rituals in American society.
Can you imagine young bankers-to-be, carpenters-to-be or — hell, let’s come out and say it — newspaper columnists-to-be marching around half-naked in front of strangers with clipboards and video phones, looking inside their mouths and asking what kind of tree they would be if, indeed, they were a tree?
But so it goes.
And such is the allure of an NFL future that wannabe players will do almost anything to impress almost anyone to help themselves get drafted as high as possible. So ‘‘workout warriors’’ often excel at the combine over what frequently are referred to as ‘‘just dang football players.’’
NFL.com writer Nick Shook even named a 2022 all-combine team, with Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett as his quarterback. (We’ve got more about Pickett in a moment.) Thought here: Maybe next year, the all-combine team can get uniforms and a game schedule.
At any rate, the latest measurement du jour, as many know by now, is hand size. All players get digitally measured, but it’s mainly quarterbacks who are scrutinized and valued or devalued based on the size of their fingers and palms.
Sure, there are urine tests. And body-fat tests with the $40,000 Whole-Body Air-Displacement Plethysmography chamber, also known as the ‘‘Bod Pod.’’ And arm-length tests, vertical jumps and cone drills.
It’s true the NFL got rid of the long-used Wonderlic IQ test at the combine, largely, I’m guessing, because ‘‘True or false: I want to knock someone’s head off’’ was never among the questions.
But this hand thing lingers. And, boy, if you’re a quarterback, you don’t want little grabbers. The idea is that small hands mean you’re more likely to fumble when hit or lose your grip on the ball when passing in bad weather.
This logic certainly has some merit. Legendary fumbling quarterback Dave Krieg — third on the all-time list with 153 — was rumored to have ‘‘teeny’’ hands. But the career leader in quarterback fumbles is none other than Hall of Famer Brett Favre, with 166. And Favre’s hands are a semi-gigantic 101⁄3 inches from thumb to pinkie.
That’s how the NFL measures it, by the way. The NBA is interested in width but also hand length, from the base of the palm to the top of the middle finger.
You want huge? Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo has 12-inch hand length. Get a piece of regular 8-by-11 printer paper, put your palm at the bottom, lie your hand flat, then imagine your fingertip going over the top by an inch. Hello, Greek Freak.
So back to Pickett. The poor dude is stirring up great controversy because, even though he had a fine college career and might be the first quarterback picked in the draft next month, he’s being savaged for having dainty hands. Critics want us to know his 8½-inch spread is smaller than that of any active NFL quarterback.
Such an online fuss has been made that you wonder how the guy even can pick up a dime without tongs. Forget the fact he threw for 12,203 yards and 81 touchdowns in college; it’s all about the hands.
When new Bears general manager Ryan Poles commented on having only five picks in the draft, saying it was the ‘‘hand we were dealt,’’ it might have had hidden meaning.
Was it possible he secretly was referring to quarterback Justin Fields’ little (for a quarterback) 9 1/8-inch hands and troubles ahead? Consider that Fields’ playing-style role model, Russell Wilson of the Seahawks, has 10¼-inch hands. Aaron Rodgers’ hands measure 10 1/8 inches. Super Bowl champ Matthew Stafford has 10-inch hands. Big, all.
Ah, but those outliers. Just-retired Tom Brady has 9 3/8-inch hands, and Patrick Mahomes’ hands measure 9¼ inches. How digitally handicapped were/are they?
Also, the widest quarterback hands on record, at 11¼ inches, belong to a fellow named Jim Druckenmiller. He started one game for the 49ers in 1997, threw one touchdown pass and four interceptions and basically drifted off into the rest of his life. Maybe he can hold a football like it’s a lemon, but he couldn’t make lemonade.
So chill out, finger critics. And please backhand them away, Kenny Pickett.