One of the few things I’ve learned over the 15-plus years of running this website is that it’s wrong to make light of low Wonderlic scores, for a variety of reasons summarized below. On Thursday, a case of ESPN-on-ESPN crime emerged over the issue of Wonderlic shaming.
After Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (who routinely reports Wonderlic scores with no scrutiny or criticism) leaked running back numbers from the 50-question test, ESPN’s Darren Rovell compared the 11 generated by Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook to a variety of professions.
Via Ryan Phillips of TheBigLead.com, ESPN’s Bomani Jones reacted bluntly: “Wonderlic shaming is wrong, man. Stop it.”
Here’s why it’s wrong. First, the NFL does a horrible job of securing the results of what should be a confidential process. (I’ve argued for several years that the kids should refuse to submit to it because of the league’s inability to keep the numbers under wraps.) Second, the test is irrelevant to football ability; the league continues to administer it only because of the old-school desire for apples-to-apples comparisons for the sake of having apples-to-apples comparisons. Third, some of the players don’t even realize that they’ll be taking the test, have done little or no preparation for it, and have no idea that someone will be leaking the results to the media, allowing others to pass judgment on something that they surely regard as a low-priority aspect of the high-stress, low-sleep excursion to Indianapolis for the Scouting Combine.
We stopped reporting on Wonderlic scores several years ago, one of the rare occasions in which we received fair criticism, we considered it carefully, and we changed the way we do things. Others would be wise to do the same.