Former NFL coach Steve Mariucci, now an analyst for NFL Network, met with the top two quarterback prospects in this year's draft and declared that Cal's Jared Goff "is the best passer in the draft."
And as for all the hubbub about Goff's allegedly small hands and fumble, Mariucci laughs as he says "forgettaboutit."
The amiable analyst known affectionately as "Mooch" met with Goff and North Dakota State's Carson Wentz during the NFL Combine at Indianapolis last week. The meeting will be aired on NFL Network at some point before the draft, which begins April 28 in Chicago.
"I put them through some interviews and I put them on the board and tried to see how smart they are," Mooch said Friday on KCBS radio in San Francisco.
"I put my hand up against Jared Goff's hand because they were talking about it so much about his hands being nine inches," he said. "Well, you know what? Eli Manning's hands are nine inches and an eighth. Ryan Tannehill is nine inches, just like Jared Goff. Too much has been made of it. They are on the smaller end of hand size between nine and 10 inches. It's not going to be a factor. If they were seven and a half, then you start worrying."
Mariucci, a former head coach at Cal, says his ties to the Berkeley school has nothing to do with his evaluation of Goff.
"Right now, Jared Goff is the best passer in the draft," Mariucci said. "He is a pure passer. Love the kid not just because he is a Cal guy, but he has a great football IQ and he has been well coached. I love him to death."
Pushed further on the so-called small hands and fumbles talk regarding Goff, Mariucci said the whole subject is ridiculous. And statistics seem to back him up.
Playing in Cal's wide-open passing attack, Goff's career stats show 1,568 pass attempts, 83 sacks, 170 rushes and 12 punts for a total of 1,833 times he handled the ball from scrimmage. He fumbled 23 times, a number that was thrown around at the combine last week as if it were significant.
That means Goff fumbled once every 79.7 times he handled the ball, a totally acceptable stat in any league, even the NFL.
Mariucci was also impressed with Wentz, especially considering Mooch identified with the level of competition at North Dakota State.
"I sat down with Carson Wentz from North Dakota State for crying out loud ... North Dakota State," he repeated loudly. "I used to play against them when I was at Northern Michigan. He is really something.
"Those are the two best quarterbacks. Cleveland is probably going to take one of them, but we don't know who. You know Hue Jackson is the coach and he coached for me at Cal, so I don't know if he favors the Cal guy or not. But we just learned that Dallas says they might not take a quarterback at four and we thought they might take a quarterback."
The Browns seemingly are still seeking a replacement for Hall of Famer Otto Graham (1946-55), with apologies to Brian Sipe, Bernie Kosar and a couple of other candidates for the Hall of Very Good. The Browns have the second pick in the draft. In mock drafts by NFLDraftScout.com senior analysts Rob Rang and Dane Brugler, the Browns take Wentz.
"They are both excellent, but Goff looks like the real deal, right now," he said. "But those are two really good draft prospects in this draft. They are going to play a long time at quarterback in the NFL. They are both keepers, you bet."
-- Frank Cooney, founder and publisher of The Sports Xchange and NFLDraftScout.com, is in his sixth decade covering football and 26th year on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee.