Does doing well on the Wonderlic make you the most popular guy in the class?

The AJC has an interactive sample of the Wonderlic test.  The Wonderlic is used to test mental aptitude of NFL rookies at the combine.  The rookies are given 12 minutes to answer 50 questions designed to test reasoning, recongition, semi-simple math and logic.  Some are relatively easy, some are relatively hard.  Of course, there is much debate over the importance of a high or low score.  While the Wonderlic isn’t an accurate predictor of ability, as a GM, I’d probably want my QB to score at least above the median.

A high score is no guarantee of success.  For example, Ryan Leaf scored just one point lower than Peyton Manning.  They both scored in the mid to upper 20s, which is relatively well.  Also, Dan Marino and Terry Bradshaw both scored relatively low.  Putting aside any obvious jokes about being able to see why on NFL TV broadcasts, both Marino and  Bradshaw illustrate the folly of over reliance on the Wonderlic as an indicator of success as a QB.

Notable High Scores:
Drew Henson 42
Alex Smith 40
Eli Manning 39
Tony Romo 37
Drew Bledsoe 36
Matt Leinart 35
Kellen Clemens 35
Tom Brady 33
John Beck 30
Philip Rivers 30
Brady Quinn 29
Drew Brees 28
Peyton Manning 28
Ryan Leaf 27
Ben Roethlisberger 25

Notable Low Scores:
Tarvaris Jackson 19
Derek Anderson 19
Vince Young 16
Dan Marino 15
Terry Bradshaw 15
Donovan McNabb 14
David Garrard 14
Kordell Stewart 13
Marcus Vick 11
Jeff George 10

(h/t FanIQ)

There are a couple of surprises on there, but one that really stands out is Jeff George.  I am told by folks that knew him during his college days say he was incredibly smart, but didn’t like tests.  Or studying.  Or applying himself.  Or uppity head coaches.  At some point, you have to think he was just trying to do poorly, but his play indicated a certain aptitude for making poor decisions and dumb plays.

No, Reggie Ball DID score higher.

Yes, Reggie Ball DID score higher.

I guess if you have a prodigious talent, one that could be a difference maker, you have to take the Wonderlic into account as you design your playbook.  Of course, part the approach has to be how coach-able a player is and that player’s work ethic.  For a great example, think of Marino or McNabb.  For an example of the other end, think of Ryan Leaf.

In the end, the Wonderlic is only part of the equation.   I would much rather have a Vince Young as my quarter back than Drew Henson, but only if I were willing to use my playbook to my advantage and leverage the talent with a playbook that is easy to learn, use and implement.  That is not to say Vince Young or any other quarterback on the ‘lower’ list can’t handle a difficult playbook (David Garrard is a great example of a QB succeeding in a sophisticated read oriented offense).  That he does so is both a testament to his character/work ethic and coaches that know how to coach.  Said another way, great coaches get the most out of their players and can elevate a mediocre talent to another level (or a great talent to All-Pro limits, think Drew Brees in New Orleans), so coaching has to be part of the equation, regardless of the talent level (or Wonderlic score) of your QB.

Any surprises or thoughts?


16 Responses to “Does doing well on the Wonderlic make you the most popular guy in the class?”

  1. February 22, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    I don’t know if the wonderlic is guarantee of how you are going to do in the NFL but I noticed that Jeff George led the league in being sacked twice and finished in the top 10 at least 5 times. I think it may say more about your quick or slow decision making ability than anything else.

    Georgia Bulldog TE Ben Watson scored a 41 on his wonderlic. Its easy to forget that before arriving at Georgia he had already completed a finance degree or was close to completing a degree from Duke.

  2. February 22, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    OK, those are pretty easy, but 50 in 12 minutes could be a challenge. What it has to do with playing in the NFL? Not a clue. Maybe it’s to make sure they can read at all.

  3. February 22, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    The highest score ever was by some halfback from Harvard who scored a perfect and he didn’t make any team. Word has it the closer you are to the ball the higher you score on the test. QBs and offensive lineman tend to score high while WRs and corner score the lowest.

    Jeff George seemed to be completely incapable of adapting to anything that was not his strength. Anything outside of the Run and Shoot, he fall flat on his face.

  4. February 23, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    I also heard George rode a bicycle to his driver’s test.

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A Georgia Dawg in the Mid-West alone with his thoughts.

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