Numbers Never Lie - Combine Edition

Yesterday people were freaking out about measurement day for the quarterbacks at the NFL combine. Loudest were the people like Ian who wanted to shame anyone who read anything into the numbers that spent half the day on our television screens. "Oh my god he's not six feet, you can't draft him!" he screamed time and again. I don't think anyone actually said that and if they did they don't have a clue in the world about football. Ian's just exaggerating for dramatic effect the real group who think that's Jonathan Football's height is a concern as well as Teddy Bridgewater. Considering that group includes Bill Polian and other really smart football people, I'm willing to listen. 

Nobody's saying that you shouldn't draft these guys. They've proven their worth on the field over the course of seasons. However these measurables help provide context to some questions teams might have. 

The height thing with Manziel is far more about size and durability than being able to see over an offensive line or having balls batted down due to his style of play. He's just not a big guy and he runs around a ton and is gonna take a lot of hits. If he came in at 6'2 and a solid weight, you're not as concerned because he'd at least be bigger than some of the guys hitting him. He's not. He's not close. Everyone on the field is bigger than him making every hit that much riskier and risk is a word you want to minimize with your franchise quarterback if you can help it.  
As for the hand size issue, it again provides context. Manziel's big hands help him with his style of play. You feel better about him running around because his grip on the ball will be better. He's less likely to fumble or have the ball slip when throwing on the run. 

Meanwhile Bridgewater has small hands raising concerns about ball security and throwing in bad weather. If you go back and see that his worst games were in cold or inclimate weather, than having the context of hand size tells you that probably wasn't an anamoly and there won't be much he can do about it. Context matters. The numbers aren't the end all be all. 

This is what drives me absolutely bananas about our current sports culture. We focus on exceptions not rules. If none of this stuff was a concern, we wouldn't be talking about it. But there's a reason Drew Brees and Russell Wilson are the exceptions. Colin Kaepernick has small hands but can rip it. He's the exception. No one's saying it can't be done, but when you're making evaluations of numbers you take out the outliers. Instead of looking at Russell Wilson and saying "look a short guy did it" you should look at the things he has in common with other winning quarterbacks and try to find those. You just realize some of his outlying characteristics aren't inhibitors. 

And that's why Bridgewater and Manziel are just fine. Bridgewater is an exceptional decision maker who has adequate arm strength and good mobility. Manziel's competitive fire burns bright and his improvisational skills are the best most evaluators have ever seen. They're gonna be top 10 picks. And they should be. But if a part of the underwear Olympics didn't have a purpose, they wouldn't have it. There's a reason they do this stuff. We've just gotta be smart enough to figure out why.