Word on the street is that Cordarrelle Patterson didn't do very well on his Wonderlic test while at the Combine this year. That's too bad of course, because if you score poorly on the Wonderlic everybody in American is eventually going to hear about it. But apparently, there's something worse than public humiliation at stake. Apparently, if you stink up the Wonderlic, your football intelligence is also questioned. And once that starts to happen, people not only talk, but they also begin to doubt your capacity to "learn the game."
There's no doubt that NFL football is a complex game. Every play is a choreography of players with individual and collective responsibilities. Players need to know their assignments but also need to be able to adjust on the fly to changing on-field circumstances. And perhaps worst of all, each team is constantly trying to confuse the other. It's not hard to figure out why coaching staffs would value football players who have the ability to figure things out quickly. And so, as one of the assessments given to potential NFL players, players are expected to take the Wonderlic test. Doing well is thought to be a good thing. Doing poorly is thought to diminish a candidate's attractiveness to teams with draft needs.
So with this as a backdrop, I went to the trusty Internet to see what the Wonderlic was all about. And lo and behold, I was actually able to take a sample Wonderlic test (or at least a portion thereof). I set the kitchen timer and then proceeded to answer as many questions as possible. I didn't have a pen and paper on hand, so I found some of the multiplication questions to be a bit of a challenge, but in the end, I persevered if not prevailed. The truth is that I'm not sure exactly how well I did, because my memory is sh*t, and by the time I saw the answer key, I couldn't remember what some of my answers were (e.g. was the answer really 1284?). Still, when in doubt I like to assume the best the case scenario... I'm pretty sure I aced it. And if I were 22 years old, were 6'2" and 225 and could run a 4.4 I'd be set.
Does the Wonderlic really measure much that translates to the football world? I truly don't know, but I seriously doubt it. Here are some sample questions I was given:
1. Which is the 9th month of the year? October, January, June, September or May.
2. Which number is the smallest number? 7, .8, 31, .33, or 2
3. The hours of daylight and darkness in September is closest to the hours of daylight and darkness in which other month? June, March, May or October
4. A boy is 17 years old and his sister is twice as old. When the boy is 23 years old, what will be the age of his sister?
5. Three individuals form a partnership and agree to divide the profits equally. X invests $9,000, Y invests $7,000, Z invests $4,000. If the profits are $4,800, how much less does X receive than if the profits were divided in proportion to the amount invested?
I could see all sorts of talented NFL prospects not being all that great at algebra. If they don't know algebra, does that limit their potential effectiveness in the NFL? If a player hasn't been told how the earth revolves around the sun and the meaning of the spring and fall equinox, does that indicate that the same player will confuse Xs with Os?
If teams are worried about a potential player's ability to memorize a playbook wouldn't they be better served testing how good a player is at memorizing the order of a deck of cards in 10 minutes. If they are worried about a player's ability to recognize patterns, wouldn't a better test involve duplicating a Monet with watercolor paints or reading a New York City subway map. And to measure how a player uses logic to address changing and potentially stressful circumstances, couldn't they just hand him a bucket filled with gasoline and a bucket filled with water and then set his locker on fire to see what he does?
Honestly, all other things being exactly equal between two players, I admit that I'd draft the player with the higher Wonderlic score, because, frankly, why not? However, I really can't imagine passing up on a top-tier talent just because they flunked a Wonderlic. Why the NFL even uses the test is beyond me. It's a data point, but so is having a driver's license. Does it really matter once the ball is snapped? After seeing the questions, I seriously doubt that the Wonderlic is any indicator at all of football intelligence. That's my two cents anyway.