Jared Goff’s Small Hands Are Not That Big of a Problem

Feb 25, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; California quarterback Jared Goff speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 25, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; California quarterback Jared Goff speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports /

Jared Goff’s below averaged-sized hands, instead of the golden arm, have become a focal point this offseason, and they could be hurting his draft stock.

You know what they say about people with small hands, right? In the NFL, as former California Golden Bears quarterback Jared Goff is finding out, it means he’s prone to fumbles, his draft stock is going to take a hit, and as Steven Ruiz of USA Today puts it, they’re “going to cost him millions of dollars”.

Jared Goff’s hands are nine inches long, measured across from the tip of his thumb to the tip of his pinky finger. The average male human being has hands that are 7.4 inches long. After the NFL Combine, where the issue of Goff’s tiny hands arose, he said that he’s been told he has pretty big hands “all his life”, and in the grand scheme of things, he does have big hands. If Goff were a plumber or a chef, he would probably have the biggest mitts of his peers. But Goff isn’t a lawyer or a chef. He isn’t an average man. He’s going to be an NFL quarterback, where being an average person doesn’t exist, and his hands are small among his NFL peers.

Since 2010, 16 college quarterbacks have been taken in the first round of the draft, and their average hand size is approximately 9-3/4 inches. Only one of those 16 quarterbacks, 2012’s eighth overall pick Ryan Tannehill, has had hands that are as small as Goff’s.

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The main issue with small hands is the perception that a quarterback would be more susceptible to fumble the ball when they’re hit, because they don’t have the kind of grip they need on the ball. Just looking at the fumble numbers proves that Goff did, in fact, fumble more than a lot of other quarterbacks in this draft class. In his career, he put the ball on the ground 23 times in 37 games over three seasons, and that’s a lot to the naked eye. On closer inspection, it’s not as ugly as it may seem.

10 of Goff’s fumbles occurred during his freshman season, when the entire team around him was a mess and the Golden Bears finished 1-11 on the year as Goff set a school record (still standing) with 530 pass attempts. As the team improved (namely the offensive line in front of the quarterback), so did Goff’s fumbling, down to nine in his sophomore season and four in his junior season. In 1,149 touches (pass attempts and carries) in those last two years, Goff fumbled once every 88.4 touches. Among most of the top quarterbacks in this draft class, Goff was right about average.

Touches Per Fumble
Touches Per Fumble /

In comparison, North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz, Goff’s biggest competition for the number-one quarterback spot (who has 10 inch hands), fumbled nine times in 757 touches over 26 games during his two seasons as a starter, slightly more often than Goff at a fumble every 84.1 touches.

Attempts Per Fumble
Attempts Per Fumble /

When those numbers are cut just to pass attempts, Goff is above average among his competitors. Despite throwing over 100 passes more than any of the other 10 quarterbacks listed, Goff fumbled the ball less than three of them, and had a higher pass attempt per fumble rate than more than half.

Fumble Lost %
Fumble Lost % /

When it comes to fumbles lost, Goff lost 40 percent of his 13 fumbles in the past two years, better than the average quarterback that lost 50 percent of their fumbles. All these numbers prove that, while on the surface it appears that Goff has a touch of the fumble-itis, he actually fumbles less than the average quarterback.

A comparison between Goff and Wentz has to take the team around each player into consideration. Wentz’s Bison won three consecutive NCAA FCS championships before he took over as the starting quarterback, and then won two more under Wentz’s leadership. The team had one of the best defenses in their division, and dominated opponents on a nearly weekly basis. In 31 games between the 2014 and 2015 seasons, North Dakota State outscored their opponents by 596 points, over 19 per game. They won 16 of those games, over half, by at least 20 points. The game was rarely on the line and put in Wentz’s hands late.

On the other hand, Goff’s Cal teams were much less dominant, and the quarterback was forced to take the game into his own hands (small or not) when his defense failed time and time again. In 37 games with Goff as a starter, Cal was outscored by 198 points (5.4 per game), and won just four of those 37 by 20 points (three came in Goff’s junior season). Almost every time Cal took the field, Goff was forced to air it out to keep his team in the game, or to attempt to overcome a large deficit.

Even when all three seasons as a starters are included, Goff’s fumbling was slightly less problematic than Wentz’s. In 1,569 pass attempts over his entire three-year tenure at Cal, Goff fumbled 23 times, or once every 68.2 attempts. Wentz made 612 pass attempts and fumbled nine times, or once ever 68 tries. Also noteworthy is that Wentz was sacked 30 times in his two seasons at North Dakota State. Goff was sacked 30 times in his freshman year alone, and 87 times overall.

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Also on a semi-unrelated note, despite the notion that Goff’s smaller frame (215 pounds at the Combine) makes him more susceptible to injuries, he started all 37 games possible during his tenure at Cal. The bigger Wentz (6’5″, 237 pounds at the Combine), missed eight games in his senior season and came off the bench in another because of a broken wrist. Speaking to the team’s overall dominance, North Dakota State went undefeated in the games Wentz missed.

Just as having small hands doesn’t automatically preclude a quarterback from NFL success, having extremely large hands is not a golden ticket to success as an NFL quarterback. In the past six drafts, six quarterbacks have had hands at least 10 inches long. Andrew Luck is the only one of those six that currently has a solidified starting job in the NFL, while two may or not be a starter this coming year (Blaine Gabbert and EJ Manuel), and three are not on NFL rosters (Johnny Manziel, Tim Tebow, and Christian Ponder).

There isn’t really much Goff can do about the size of hands, but maybe he can try Arkansas Razorbacks’ quarterback Brandon Allen’s method. Allen is in the same boat as Goff, as his hands measured in at 8-7/8 inches at the Combine, smallest among quarterbacks that participated this year. But between the Senior Bowl in January and the Combine in February, Allen’s hands grew three-eighths of an inch, because of the magic of massage.

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Either way, Goff’s arm, strong and accurate, should be the focus in the coming draft.

*Editor’s Note: I’d like to give a big thank you to Sam Charles for bringing these numbers to me in an effort to clear Goff’s name on these charges of excessive fumbling. Sam is also a great soccer guy, so check him out!