Last year at this time, we officially exited the Wonderlic business. But every time we think we’re out, they pull us back in.
We continue to be out of the business of trying to discover Wonderlic scores. The test continues to have vague, at best, relevance to football ability; players approach the test with such a varying degree of care and preparation and attention that the double-digit result doesn’t really tell us anything.
But we continue to be intrigued by how the numbers get out. The NFL claims to regard data like the Wonderlic score as confidential, but the media company owned by the NFL reported earlier today that Johnny Manziel scored a 32 on the exam.
Albert Breer of NFL Media obtained Manziel’s score along with several other quarterback marks. Blake Bortles got a 28. Teddy Bridgewater scored a 20. And while Manziel has been touted by some as racking up the highest score of the incoming quarterback class, Jeff Matthews of Cornell (ever heard of it?) cracked open a 40.
The numbers are what they are, their meaning unknown and their impact on the football field unknowable. Does answering a question correctly in a classroom setting make a player more likely to remember the plays in his playbook? Does it make him more likely to remember the playbook when being chased by large men who intend to do him harm while simultaneously trying to determine whether the running back picked up the blitz and whether the primary receiver has gotten open and if not then the secondary receiver and if not then — by the way, where in the hell is the strong safety? — the tertiary receiver?
The ability to remain calm in the eye of a storm and then to deliver the ball through the eye of a needle represent talents more physical and emotional than intellectual. So what does it mean to score well or otherwise on the Wonderlic?
Ultimately, who the hell knows?
From a media standpoint, the question of whether Wonderlic scores should be obtained and reported remains almost as murky as their meaning. When the numbers are disseminated by the media company the league owns, the league risks being perceived as inconsistent or hypocritical. One on hand, the information must be handled with care. On the other hand, the league’s media wing can’t be competitive if it isn’t competing for the same type of information that other media companies are chasing.
Regardless, NFL Media is the NFL. And in 2012, Commissioner Roger Goodell warned that “significant discipline” will be imposed on any team that leaks the scores. While Goodell has no jurisdiction over outside reporters who obtain the information, he essentially signs the checks of the employees of NFL Media. Would it be right for Goodell to demand to know how a league employee got the information? Would it be wrong for the reporter to tell him?
It’s a multi-layered dilemma. A complex conundrum. A blended issue of journalism, ethical, and business considerations that could make for a good essay question to cap off the Wonderlic process.