By Dick Platt
Corsicana Daily Sun
Did you hear the one about Texas A&M’s “Johnny Football” Manziel testing better than all the other quarterbacks in this year’s NFL Scouting Combine? No, this is not the start of an Aggie joke. He actually scored higher on the Wonderlic Test than his two closest rivals in the coming NFL draft — Blake Bortles of Central Florida and Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville.
According to Mr. Wikipedia, the Wonderlic Test is “...used to assess the aptitude of prospective employees for learning and problem-solving in a range of occupations...It consists of 50 multiple choice questions to be answered in 12 minutes...Wonderlic, Inc. claims a score of 20 is intended to indicate average intelligence... a score of at least 10 points suggests a person is literate.”
In the 1970s, Tom Landry (you remember him don’t you, Ron Morgan?) was the first to use the test during the drafting process to help predict player performance and it is still used as one form of pre-draft assessment during the annual NFL Combine extravaganza.
Just so you know, Johnny Football scored 32 on the test while Bortles scored 28 and Bridgewater scored 20. I looked up the scores of some other well-known current NFL quarterbacks and here are a few in ascending order: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks - 24; Peyton Manning, Denver Donkos - 28; Aaron Rogers, Green Bay Packers - 35; Tony Romo (help me out here, Ron) - 37; Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions - 38; Colin Kaepernick, S.F. 49’ers - 38; Eli Manning, N.Y. Giants - 39 (take that Big Brother!); Alex Smith, K.C. Chiefs - 40; and Ryan Fitzpatrick, Houston Texans - 48. Fitzpatrick is a career backup QB who has kicked around several NFL teams and I mention him only because he completed the Wonderlic in a record- setting nine minutes.
There have been studies after studies about the worth of this test as it pertains to NFL football players. One study by McDonald Mirabile found there was no significant connection between a quarterback’s score and his career success, passer rating, and his subsequent salary. For example, in the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft, there were five quarterbacks selected. Donovan McNabb scored the lowest with a measly 14 score but he was the only one of the five to go on to a lengthy and successful NFL career.
Also, please note that the two lowest scorers on my list above were in this year’s Super Bowl. I don’t think either one of them lacks fame or fortune. George McInally, punter and wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, is the only player to have scored a 50 on this test. He was not drafted until the fifth round of the 1975 draft and he speculates, “...coaches and front-office guys don’t like extremes one way or the other, but particularly not on the high side. I think they think guys who are intelligent will challenge authority too much.”
Mike Florio, a sportswriter for “Profootballtalk.com” agrees that scoring too high on the test can be a deterrent. “Scoring too high can be as much of a problem as scoring too low.
Football coaches want to command the locker room. Being smarter than the individual players makes that easier. Having a guy in the locker room who may be smarter than every member of the coaching staff can be viewed as a problem — or at a minimum as a threat to the egos of the men who hope to be able when necessary to outsmart the players, especially when trying to manipulate them.”
The highest score by a quarterback this year is that of Jeff Mathews, of Cornell University with a 40. I guarantee you that he will not go high in the draft this year — not because he scored high on the test, but because he went to Cornell. Cornell has produced 34 Marshall Scholars, 29 Rhodes Scholars, and 41 Nobel Laureates but nobody from Cornell makes it in pro football.
Like other standardized tests, the Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test requires open responses to questions that become increasingly more difficult as the test progresses. One example I found that would be at the easy end of the scale went like this: “When a rope is selling for 20 cents per two feet, how many feet can you buy for 30 dollars?” Remember, Ron, you are on the clock and no fair using scrap paper and pencil for calculations.
Here are a couple questions I would put in the test especially for football players:
Easy current events: Which of the following Super Bowls is the most recent? (a) XXIV;
(b) XXXV; (c) XLIV; or (d) XXXI.
Medium logic: Which applies to having a loaded gun in your airport luggage? (a) Extremely ill-advised; (b) Incredibly stupid; (c) Recipe for incarceration; or (d) All of the above.
Here’s my favorite, it’s a hard science question: If a centipede a pint, and a millipede a quart, how much could a precipice?
Dick Platt is a Daily Sun columnist. His column appears on Tuesdays. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org