At recent NFL Combines, I have asked long snappers to rank the following objects by how hard they’d be to long snap: a football, baseball, pizza, hockey stick, frozen ham, Tide Pod, feather, burrito, human baby, iPhone, bowling bowl, hardback book, burrito, and empty paper towel tube. This is important, because who knows when an emergency might strike and we might have to long-snap such an object?
This exercise began with Oregon’s Tanner Carew in 2018. Because it’s critical to have multiple years of data, I’ve added LSU’s Blake Ferguson in 2020. (There aren’t many long snappers at the Combine.) We will build this dataset every year as a service to the scientific community.
Here are the objects, ranked by our two snappers (and counting!), starting with the most difficult to long-snap. The results are averages:
14. A hockey stick
“A hockey stick is gonna be a little bit difficult to long snap,” Ferguson said. This seems clear, given its length and the fact that, unlike a spear, it has a lopsided end.
13. An empty paper towel tube
Similarly shaped to a hockey stick, but less substantial and more cylindrical.
12. A feather
Should be last on this list, I think, but Carew inexplicably ranked it in the middle of the pack in 2018, skewing the average.
11. A pizza
“You could maybe make the pizza into a ball,” Ferguson said. You could indeed! You could even take a frozen oven pizza and fire it backward in a frisbee-like motion. Long snappers have the right to prepare any object however they want.
10. A Tide Pod
The irresistibility of first eating a Tide Pod would make it harder to snap.
9. A human baby
“That is, uh, wow,” Carew said. He followed up after more deliberation, “This is very interesting.” Ferguson needed certain assurances.
“So you’re saying no babies are gonna be harmed in the making of this snapping post?” he asked. When I confirmed no babies would be long-snapped, he said:
“Baby in the fetal position would probably be similar to a football and a burrito, so that’s #3.”
Carew only had a baby at #12. Maybe it comes down to how emotionally committed a snapper can get to firing a baby all the way back to a punter or holder.
T-7. A hardback book
T-7. An iPhone
Much like some people prefer to read books on hardback and others on their phones, some prefer to long-snap a hardback book, and others prefer to long-snap an iPhone.
We have video evidence that phones can be snapped efficiently. The Ringer’s Rodger Sherman has an Android, but the physics here would be similar to an iPhone’s:
They let me run the @ringer IG account at Super Bowl Media Night so here's the Chiefs' long snapper snapping my phone to me pic.twitter.com/z0GFKqVoyB— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) January 28, 2020
6. A burrito
“It’s got a very similar football shape,” Ferguson said. “If you have a well-made burrito, you can grip it well. If you have aluminum foil, it’s gonna hold together pretty well. But if not, you want some sour cream in there to kind of keep the tortilla together. That’s gonna be important.” Some kind of internal glue is indeed vital.
T-3. A frozen ham
“Frozen ham carries a little bit of weight, so you’re gonna have good velocity there,” Ferguson said, unmoved by the possibility of icy slippage.
T-3. A Hot Pocket
“Gotta be ham and cheese,” Ferguson said.
T-3. A bowling ball
I chose not to specify the weight of the bowling ball. But it’s dense and has football-like qualities, so it makes sense it could be snapped at least 20 or so yards. Maybe farther if you have outstanding tricep strength, as long snappers do.
“Triceps are huge in long snapping,” Ferguson noted.
2. A baseball
“That’s gonna be most like a football from the actual sport objects on here,” Ferguson said.
Carew thought a baseball would be easier to long-snap than a football. He may have a point. Most people could throw a baseball farther than a football while standing up. But perhaps the long-snapping motion would distort that picture somewhat.
1. A football
This, Ferguson agreed, is probably for the best.
For science, here’s our budding snapping dataset:
NFL Combine long snappers rank objects by snapability, from hardest to easiest
|Object||Carew, 2018||Ferguson, 2020||Average|
|Object||Carew, 2018||Ferguson, 2020||Average|
|A hockey stick||13||13||13|
|An empty paper towel tube||11||12||11.5|
|A Tide Pod||9||11||10|
|A hardback book||5||9||7|
|A frozen ham||7||4||5.5|
|A Hot Pocket||6||5||5.5|
|A bowling ball||3||8||5.5|
Looking for more in the “specialists rank objects by how hard they’d be to do football things with” department?
Please see the other installment in this series: punters ranking objects by how far they could punt them.