Manziel aces Wonderlic, relatively speaking


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.

85 responses to “Manziel aces Wonderlic, relatively speaking

  1. Scoring high on a Wonderlic is only a good thing, and it’s unfortunate that there aren’t any QBs that can put up high scores because I think it’s important to have intelligence as a trait in a QB. And how well does the Wonderlic actually measure intelligence as it relates to being a good QB? Not very well I think most will agree, that’s why it wouldn’t hurt for a team to work out their own independent ideas of how to qualify intelligence in general versus positional intelligence for each prospect.

    None of the teams I think do much in that regard or make an effort to really try and hone in on the intelligence trait. I think they just make broad generalizations and focus on other criteria that they are more comfortable in trying to break down in a simple way. I just consider those that think that way as lazy and/or ignorant.

  2. The reason why it is “vague, at best” in relevance to football ability, is because it’s an intelligence test, not a football test. People want to point to Blaine Gabbert’s score (which was very high) and say the test is a joke because he’s a bad QB, but all his test score means is that he’s a smart guy. Of course, the Wonderlic has been critiqued outside the NFL too, just like any IQ type test.

  3. Ever heard of Cornell?

    Do you live under a rock? Ithaca is only one of the most beautiful places anywhere.

    It’s an ivy-league school, which is probably why Matthews scored a 40 on his test.

  4. The kid is doing everything he can do to impress teams. Houston will be taking him barring some kind of Romo trade.

  5. I don’t know what impact, if any, the wonderlic has on the field but I understand the basic premise…intellectual people tend to be more poised under pressure. They think calmly and clearly, which simple common sense tells you that a QB that possesses not only those qualities but also significant football talent, should turn into a damn fine starting QB…

    in theory.

  6. I’ve heard of Cornell. It’s where I wanted to go after high school.

  7. Skip Bayless believes Johnny should be awarded some kind of diploma for his exceptional Wonderlic score. He also believes Johnny should be selected 1, 2 and 3 in the upcoming draft.

  8. Wonderlic surely wouldn’t have anything to do with raw physical talent, however, IF this test has ANY relation to a player’s IQ score, then especially in the case of a QB, I can imagine the score could have some connection to the overall performance. The ability to assimilate complex play books and to quickly and accurately recognize sophisticated defensive formations would be a clear advantage, allowing the QB to react instantly in real time. There is a reason Vince Young cannot catch on with any team in the league even as a backup and surely it isn’t his physical skills. A backup MUST be just as skilled with the playbook as the starter, and he must also be able to accurately read defenses quickly as well. I believe VY had quite a poor Wonderlic score, did he not? A professional QB does not need to be first in scoring, however, it is hard to believe scores in single digits wouldn’t concern ANY team looking for a franchise QB. That defies common sense. His score COULDN’T hurt Johnny as he goes through the evaluation process.

  9. Here’s how “important” the Wonderlic test is: It only “matters” if a player’s score is dreadfully low.

    The value of the Wonderlic is somewhat equivalent to testing your co-workers on their speed in the 40.

  10. I agree with others here.

    The Wonderlic DOES mean a LOT!

    Kaepernick = 37
    Luck = 36
    N.Foles = 29
    R.Wilson = 28
    RG3 = 24
    C.Newton = 21 (lol)

  11. The wonderlic matters. It doesn’t guarantee success in the NFL, but neither do the 40 yard dash or the bench press. Still, all else being equal, it’s better to have a good score on those tests than a bad score.

  12. There have already been published studies that show the Wonderlic has NO statistically significant relationship with future NFL performance (Mirabile 2005, Lyons et al. 2009).

    Does Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 48 help him understand the simple concept of throwing to his team instead of the other? Does Blaine Gabbert’s 40 prevent him from crumbling under pressure? It just makes no sense that a bunch of word problems would be a predictor of NFL success on the field, and research proves there is no link between the two.

    Furthermore, it seems like there are a bunch of guys that don’t even bother to try and get a 6 or 7, or lower (looking at you Morris Claiborne, high 1st rd pick). There is no reason for anybody who is taking the test seriously and actually trying to get below 15. You only have 14.4 seconds per question, but any non-LD 5th grader who was told he was getting a dollar for each correct question could get 12 (one per minute). There is no incentive for good Wonderlic performance, teams don’t seem to factor it into draft day decisions, and no correlation with future career success. So why is it still administered at the combine? Is it to keep sports media members employed and busy?

  13. Of course the Wonderlic means something specially regarding a qb. Being astute and quick on their feet mentally definitely helps a qb. The only people who have a problem with it are the ones who couldn’t crack a 20 on it. Take Michael Vick or Vince Young for example, if they were smart enough to read a defense quickly they would be a great qb’s with their talent.

  14. Vontaze burfict can barely tie his shoes and he starts at middle linebacker on a playoff team so general knowledge is not that important.

  15. Geno Smith scored a 9 but his agent told him he should have scored a 30. So he scored a 30.

  16. The test is nice but it is no indicator of elite quarterback potential. Peyton Manning got a 28 as did Drew Brees. Ryan Fitzpatrick scored much higher than both of them but makes horrible decisions during critical game situations. There is a significant difference between high intellect and Football IQ when the pocket is collapsing around you. Ryan Fitzpatrick can make all the throws but clearly his mind goes blank when he’s facing in game pressure. Oh and Kaepernick got a 37 and we see the questionable decisions he’s making on and off the field….

  17. Eli Manning: 39

    2X Super Bowl winner
    2X Super Bowl MVP
    Both Super Bowls beat the great B Belichick’s defense in the last 2 minutes to lead game winning touchdown drives
    Holds the record for 4th Quarter TD passes.

    Yes, the Wonderlic means a lot.

  18. The way this football fan views the Wonderlic test (along with all the other skills) is just a part of the entire package for determining whether or not to draft someone later in the draft.

    The first few rounds, I doubt it matters. Watch tape from the year before, get a physical, and if speed is where it should be and draft the guy you think will make your team better.

    I don’t know why I typed this; seems like no comments ever stay posted from me, for some reason

  19. its like 2 ufc fighters taking a wonderlic test. its pointless. not gonna help you from getting your face caved in.

  20. Some people are football smart and the wonderlic doesn’t mean anything. But for someone like Vince young and his score was a huge red flag and deservedly so.

  21. I doubt if the test asks pertinent questions such as: What is the hypotenuse of a right triangle? Really Manziel is so full of himself he’ll take anything to heighten his status.

  22. To “ace” a test means to get a perfect score (he did not). “Relatively speaking” would mean he got the highest score among those taking the test, or quarterbacks taking the test (he did neither).

  23. Former Dollphin LB Channing Crowder also scored a 32. Dan Marino scored a 15. So this matters… how??? It’s not worth a blog post at this point IMHO.

  24. Seems pointless to debate the quality of the test in assessing anything without actually knowing:
    • the questions/types of questions
    • whether there’s any manner of cultural bias
    • how it’s scored: perhaps it’s not a linear score, so 32 might be better than 80% of 40.
    • how the results correlate to actual NFL performance.

    It’s kinda silly to suggest that a Manziel 38 is predictive of his ability to decipher defenses and/0r react better under pressure than Bridgewater’s 20. Since, they’ve both been required to play under similar ‘pressures’ through college, and they’re ranked pretty similarly up to this point. The NFL is, certainly, a ‘next step’ league, but if a kid is successful in college with a 20, perhaps that test score isn’t relevant, or perhaps it’s not relevant in his particular instance.

    Cam Newton’s 21 wasn’t predictive of his relative success. And Eli Manning’s 39 certainly seems like a mistake — i’ve always thought he had the look of someone a bit dim…. There are probably kids with Asperger’s who could score 40s, but couldn’t turn that into effective cognitive processing in terms of football awareness.

  25. “The only egghead who ever played great was Steve Young” – if you’re young, you can be forgiven.

    Dr. Frank Ryan

  26. I will buy the ammo and the arms to shut the strategy expert up ,,, what a pretentious clown

  27. djshnooks says: Apr 11, 2014 7:01 PM

    Ever heard of Cornell?

    Do you live under a rock? Ithaca is only one of the most beautiful places anywhere.

    It’s an ivy-league school, which is probably why Matthews scored a 40 on his test.
    Sarcasm…ever heard of it?

  28. If you dont think the wonderlic is relevant to being a qb and being able to process information quickly and grasp complex playbooks well, wellll…you probably would score single digits on the test. The test is very simple, look up any of the countless samples online. It’s basic common sense and logic. If a qb scores below a 20 on it I’d never risk it. A qb doesn’t need to know what 6 times 6 is to play qb either, but if he doesn’t know what 6 times 6 is at age 22 then he’s borderline handicapped and it’s a huge red flag.

  29. Has anyone ever actually taken the Wonderlic. It’s relatively easy. Then again, maybe I’m just that brilliant. Yeah, that’s probably it.

    Or Cam Newton is stupid.

    Or both.

  30. Has anyone ever looked at the professions that the scores are measured against? Before you laugh or become amazed,you should check it out.

  31. I’m not sure it means anything either. But, I’m convinced that guys that are on the dumber end of the scale rarely make good NFL quarterbacks. But, that doesn’t mean guys on the smarter end always do make good ones.
    If I was drafting a quarterback, I’d lean toward the smart guys. Everything else being equal.

  32. Means jack, whos considered the smartest qb in the game? Peyton manning. He scored 28. You can google wonderlic test amd take it for free.

  33. Blowing the test off is an excuse dumb people use for low scores. If someone blows off the test, it shows that someone is not serious. Some teams value the test. While not as high as on field performance. For someone to blow it off shows teams that the player is lazy, not serious or stupid. A low test score could mean a player is just dumb. A dumb player a certain positions like qb or o-line must know the playbook. Qb’s call audibles at the line and if they don’t know the play, that possession could be doomed. Traditionally defensive players are not as smart. You can throw a player a mlb and say attack or at cb just cover that guy. Or de just get the qb. You can’t say on offense to a receiver run anywhere and get open. A low score as a qb throws up red flags. Low score qb’s are never seen as career backups. Backups need to know a different playbook every year. Most are playing on one year deals and go from team to team. Joey Harrington hung around for 10 years while awful and Vince young not long. Most qb’s who score low rarely start quick in the nfl and struggle with the playbook. McNabb scores low and it took awhile for hi to start and be successful in phily. He also ha the same coach and playbook through this career. And after he left philly, he struggled badly with two different teams. Marino also scored low but he had the privilege of the same head coach most of his career. Were as Jamarcus Russell had three coaches in three years and was out of the league. So to say it doesn’t matter is just plain ignorant

  34. Best explanation I’ve heard is that it’s not to show how smart a guy is but to determine which guys are morons. Seems like many QBs who did poorly (<15) turned out to be major busts.

  35. Since when is “aces” the Wonderlic a 32? Basically its a 64 on a test…..try passing a course with that score.

  36. Blaine”the great”Gabbert got a 42 and look how well he’s done. They should have to answer each question in 3 sec with an big angry dude(that can run a 4.5 40)chasing him. If he gets caught in the 3 sec the answer is wrong regardless

  37. I’m just going to go ahead and opine that if I’m a coach, I feel better about the guy who scored higher when comparing relatively similar talents. So yes, it matters.

  38. The Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test (formerly known as the Wonderlic Personnel Test (WPT)) is a popular group intelligence test used to assess the aptitude of prospective employees for learning and problem-solving in a range of occupations.

    So what’s so complicated about that? Either you have it or you don’t. The questions aren’t really hard, but it’s a timed test which can cause some to panic. It is NOT common to answer all questions.

    Personally have had a lot of experience with it both taking and the companies I have worked for using it to evaluate potential new hires.

  39. I’m amazed McNair scored a 15. While in college I was friends with his tutors son. When McNair was at Alcorn st. I asked him why did he go to Alcorn he obviously had talent to go to a bigger schools and I was a fan. The issue was that he had an issue like dexter Manley, not drugs the other one. So it made sense that he attended the schools that he did

  40. It’s not important how well you do, only how badly. A very bad score is often (but not always) a sign that a QB won’t do well in the NFL. It’s like every other measurable. They all have to be weighed together.

  41. Remember though I don’t care what Marion’s score was he probably has the strongest arm that the NFL has ever seen and maybe will ever see? Not to mention his accuracy. And I’m not a Fins fan just saying.

  42. Its ridiculous that the NFL is trying to have its own journalism branch.

    Its fine if they want to have a semi-independent media branch – but the media employees should be subject to rules protecting player privacy – unlike real journalists.

  43. It always makes me wonder how a purported college student cannot score at least a 30 on the Wonderlic. I’ve had to take it on several occasions and if you can’t get a 30 I have to question whether that person has actually really taken college level courses and passed any tests.

  44. A great score on the Wonderlic doesn’t mean the player will be great. A poor score, however, is often indicative of potential problems that can show up on the field, be it lack preparation, lack of intellectual capacity, inability to perform under pressure, lack of maturity, etc. See Vince Young, for example.

  45. Why would anyone think a test which tries to measure intelligence would be predictive how good the test-taker’s memory is (for the purpose of memorizing a playbook)? It’s not a memorization test.

  46. Why does this matter? There have been plenty of football players that did bad on that test, but made great football players.

  47. For Pete’s sake, there are hard data and published studies that show there is no link between Wonderlic scores and future NFL performace (Mirabile 2005, Lyons et al. 2009). The intellectual laziness and scientific illiteracy of people commenting on the Wonderlic’s relevancy and correlation to football performance without having bothered to do just a few minutes of research is astounding. I’m just wondering if I have been expecting too much from the bulk of PFT commenters. Why would you type something when you have no idea what you are talking about? I think that is what O’Reilly would call “bloviating.”

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