Depending on who you ask, hand size could be one of the most important things for a prospective NFL quarterback or relatively insignificant. The elements and caliber of defense faced and weather played in could create more or less scrutiny around the statistic.
If you ask Cincinnati Bengals director of player personnel, Duke Tobin, and Cleveland Browns' head coach, Hue Jackson, they'll give you completely different perspectives on the matter. Jackson believes that being a competitor in the AFC North, there's a different level of appreciation for good hand size.
When questioned whether the measurement means a lot to him at the NFL Scouting Combine, he said, "Oh yes it does. It does. It matters because we play in a division where all of a sudden there's rain, there's snow and it's different. I think guys that have big hands can grip the ball better in those environmental situations and so we'll look for a guy that fits what we're looking for in a quarterback and is hand size important."
However, Tobin has a different perspective on the matter.
"Certainly the bigger the better. We play in the AFC North and you are going to encounter some bad weather and bad games and you are going to have to hold onto the football," he said. However, he also explained that he believes the measurement to be overrated. "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. We don't have minimums and maximums for guys. There's been small-handed quarterbacks that have been successful enough."
Both Tobin and Jackson seem to be able to agree on the fact that a quarterback needs to be able to have decent hand size to compete in the AFC North. Joe Flacco's hand measures in at 9.63 inches, Andy Dalton boasts a 9.5 inch hand and for some reason, Ben Roethlisberger's hand size wasn't made public at his combine in 2004.
At the NFL combine, hand size was all anyone was talking about regarding quarterback prospect, Jared Goff. His hand size measured in as the second smallest at the combine, tied with Christian Hackenberg at nine inches flat. Despite Jackson's perspective on hand size, Goff has been linked to the Browns as a potential target due to his leadership, charisma, and notable lack of character issues. He's also particularly good at recognizing his flaws and improving upon them, so in every other category it seems like a slam dunk to link Goff and Jackson together.
Still, the question remains: just how important is hand size? As Jackson noted, it might be more important in the elemental and very physical AFC North. However, when a quarterback hits the mark on virtually every other significant trait, does it matter? Don't forget, one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the cold weather was Brett Favre.
Favre boasted an incredible 10 3/8" hand size, which ties E.J. Manuel for the largest recorded of all time. However, E.J. Manuel has not worked out so far in another cold and brutal city, Buffalo. Granted, he lost part of his rookie season to an injury, but he's been benched more times than you would expect if hand size really was a good indicator of success in a harsh environment.
That said, Manuel fell in the draft initially due to questions about his inconsistent play. Favre suffered some of the same questions going into the draft, causing him to fall much further than modern-day legends Dan McGwire and Todd Marinovich. However, the major difference is Favre turned himself around and used his hand size to carve out a niche for himself in places like Green Bay, New York, and Minnesota. Despite his highly regarded work ethic, Manuel has yet to accomplish anything close to this.
Therefore, it may be accurate that hand size can be a bit of an overrated statistic for valuing a quarterback. Big hands can be a useful tool for the right quarterback with the intangibles to develop his play around his hands. But, Jared Goff's NFL career will most likely be unaffected even without monster hands.