Long-time Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber echoed on Wednesday something many have said since LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne’s score on the Wonderlic test surfaced on Tuesday: The 50-question general intelligence test is irrelevant to on-field ability.
“I don’t think it’s a factor,” Barber tells NFL.com. “I don’t think it really translates into the football IQ . . . I wouldn’t pay much attention to it.”
So why then does the NFL continue to administer the test? Former Cowboys and Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson said Tuesday via Twitter that “90% of my misses were because I took a chance on marginal intelligence.”
Others, like Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta, believe it’s not a major factor. “We do look at it. Obviously, the body of work . . . the tape, how the guy plays is the most important thing,” DeCosta told NFL.com.
Still, the time perhaps has come for the NFL to come up with a different way to assess intelligence. The Wonderlic test assesses vocabulary skills, reading comprehension, math skills, and spatial relationships. The fact that the test creates an apples-to-apples number that, when that number is either really high or really low, finds its way into the media (just like supposedly pending steroids appeals and other confidential information) means that the time has come for the NFL to come up with a better, more secure way to define and to determine intelligence.
Until that happens, the onus continues to fall on the agent to prepare clients for the test, to ensure that the clients will take the test as seriously as the 40-yard dash, and to take action when there is reason to believe that a player may generate an incredibly low score. If, as in Claiborne’s case, the player has a learning disability, the agent needs to be proactive, raising the issue with the NFL, seeking an accommodation, and ultimately instructing the client not to take the test.
Instead, agent Bus Cook apparently had no idea that Claiborne has a learning disability. It suggests that Cook undertook no effort to prepare Claiborne for the Wonderlic test.
And that shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Cook had an indirect hand in the representation of the last high-profile single-digit Wonderlic score, Vince Young, who initially generated a six on the Wonderlic six years ago.
But while the agents need to take steps to prepare and, if necessary, protect their clients from the Wonderlic test, the agents shouldn’t have to. The NFL should realize that the Wonderlic has become more trouble than it’s ever been worth, and the league (or maybe the teams) should come up with a non-standardized method for spotting players who truly have, as Jimmy Johnson described it, marginal intelligence.