Report: NFL abandons the Wonderlic test

Harvard graduate and former Bengals punter/receiver Pat McInally is on the football field at Brethr
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Ding dong the Wonderlic is dead.

In a memo distributed to all NFL teams on Wednesday, a copy of which was obtained by Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press, the league explained that the 50-question test of general intelligence will be eliminated from the pre-draft process.

Long a source of controversy given the irrelevance of the scores and other factors that make the outcomes unreliable (including whether the players care about the test or even realized they’d be taking it), the NFL continued to implement the test as part of the obsession with having apples-to-apples data points over the various years of draft classes.

Obtaining and reporting low scores became a cottage industry for sports media. We used to seek out those numbers, aggressively. Eventually, we realized that they aren’t reliable — and that it’s unfair to use low scores as the basis for ridiculing the intelligence of the players who took the test. In recent years, we completely refrained from publishing specific scores for specific players.

At one point, agents obtained the various versions of the test and gave them to their clients, allowing them to have the best possible preparation for the exam. Scouts shrugged at the perception/reality of cheating. As one scout told PFT years ago, if the players can memorize the multiple versions of the Wonderlic and repeat the answers when called upon to do so, they can memorize a playbook. And that’s all that matters.

Then there’s the other end of the spectrum. Doing too well on the test. Former NFL punter Pat McInally (pictured) got the only 50 in the history of the pre-draft Wonderlic process. Some coaches may feel threatened by having players in the locker room who are smarter than the Phys Ed majors that end up scratching out Xs and Os for a living.

“Coaches and front-office guys don’t like extremes one way or the other, but particularly not on the high side,” McInally said in 2006, explaining that he believes the perfect score hurt his draft stock. “I think they think guys who are intelligent will challenge authority too much.”

Hopefully, the abandonment of the Wonderlic at the league level means that teams won’t be able to implement the test during individual visits with players. If not, most teams will be tempted to continue to use the test, making the broader decision to abandon it largely meaningless.

The Wonderlic test is meaningless to football. It always has been. With extensive access to prospects in the weeks preceding the draft, there are other ways to determine whether a player possesses the basic intelligence needed to function in the NFL, without giving them some hokey test that says nothing about football skills and abilities — and that all too often is used to embarrass them, especially since the NFL continuously has failed to preserve the confidentiality of the results.

48 responses to “Report: NFL abandons the Wonderlic test

  1. It’s about time. It was a stupid test to begin with. For once the NFL did something right.

  2. Long overdue to get rid of these types of tests across the spectrum. Private industry uses them as well, and it’s a ridiculous and possibly even a discriminatory practice. How many great candidates have lost out on job opportunities because they don’t match up to what Caliper says they should be?

  3. The wonderlic is just a relic being the reason it is going away.

    There are more advaced screenings these days such as the Harrison or DISC that evaluate personality traits in a much deeper sense that major employers now use.

  4. I agree, what is the point? Did you see Jalen Hurts’ letter to Snyder? It was written like a seasoned lawyer. No need to test these guys anymore.

  5. I have taken the wonderlic myself a couple of times – for jobs, and also as part of the Mensa application process. (I got in).

    What I can tell you about the test is – if the average general population score is 20. someone between 10-20 is below average in intelligence. But someone who scores under 10 most likely has a learning disability, and the score is not related to intelligence.

    There is value in the test, but as one data point to consider – and not the be all or end all.

  6. “Coaches and front-office guys don’t like extremes one way or the other, but particularly not on the high side,” McInally said in 2006, explaining that he believes the perfect score hurt his draft stock. “I think they think guys who are intelligent will challenge authority too much.”

    ********

    This is rubbish. You think a coach cares if, in this case, a friggin punter scored “too high” on the Wonderlic?

    The entire Combine should be scrapped for all the good it does. But killing off Wonderlic is just another example of dumbing down of our society.

  7. I would imagine smart teams will still run their version of it when interviewing prospects, as it’s a big factor in if a team drafts someone or not, at least for smart teams it is.

    If you can’t process basic information quickly, you won’t be playing on certain teams.

    Huge advantage for the teams that get it and want smart, instinctive players who aren’t selfish and a huge disadvantage to the overall group scheme on the field.

  8. Bill Belichek, who values intelligence for his players, put a lot of emphasis on the Wunderlick test. Is it the definitive proof of one’s intelligence? Of course not, but someone who gets a 30 on the test will be smarter than someone who gets a 10. The 40 yard dash is not definitive proof of who can play and who can’t, but it’s helpful knowing how fast someone run in the 40. All 4.3 forty runners are not good wide receivers, but very few 4.8 players are good wide receivers. All 40+ Wunderlick scorers are good QBs, but no sub 10 scorers are good QBs.

  9. Jags need to use wonderlic scores for next coaching hire. And cross check against TMZ scores.

  10. It seems odd that the NFL is concerned with everything which is measurable physically but somehow makes intelligence the one thing they refuse to measure when they could.

    I suspect this move will prove to be short sighted.

  11. If “intelligence” mattered, the NFL would be chockablock with Ivy Leaguers. Gimme a guy with football IQ who can run like the wind.

  12. Not sure if the test is good or not but I do believe you need to measure or you cannot improve. Some form of measurement (testing) should be done – as long as it works for the team you are building. Just my opinion.

  13. Aren’t the league offices privy to the draft candidates’ GPAs? That’s not a measure of player intelligence by any means. Just a measure of a player’s willingness to put work into things they’d rather not put work into in order to have the privilege of playing football. That’s more important than any IQ test, here.

  14. Meanwhile, every campus’ George Constanza-like player who’s already arranged for someone smarter than them to take the test for them: “Oh, I disagree! This is the best tool we have for *measuring* a player’s intelligence.”

  15. agree, what is the point? Did you see Jalen Hurts’ letter to Snyder? It was written like a seasoned lawyer. No need to test these guys anymore

    —–

    Um, because it was written by a lawyer, LOL

  16. jg2040 says:
    January 5, 2022 at 11:22 am
    Bill Belichek, who values intelligence for his players, put a lot of emphasis on the Wunderlick test. Is it the definitive proof of one’s intelligence? Of course not, but someone who gets a 30 on the test will be smarter than someone who gets a 10. The 40 yard dash is not definitive proof of who can play and who can’t, but it’s helpful knowing how fast someone run in the 40. All 4.3 forty runners are not good wide receivers, but very few 4.8 players are good wide receivers. All 40+ Wunderlick scorers are good QBs, but no sub 10 scorers are good QBs.

    10 0 Rate This

    ————————

    You could also argue that this YET AGAIN targets the Pats to cheat them. It’s kind of odd such tests would be removed when it’s part of the process in terms of fully analyzing a prospect.

    It doesn’t mean if you score a 35 you’re a better player, but certain positions need this and everything needs to be weighed, outside of just the overrated Combine results.

    The Combine can be seen as a 1 day test as is the Wonderlic. Let teams weigh everything as they see fit. Nothing is ever 100% foolproof anyway.

  17. Bout time. Absolutely, no correlation between the test score and how go or bad a QB will be. Dan Marino, 13. Your favorite QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick, 48. It’s football people, not wolrd chess.

  18. It doesn’t take much intelligence to run back and forth with an inflated animal skin, nor to tackle someone doing that.

    Save the Wonderlic test for the rocket scientists. This is football.

  19. Not applicable to this job and shouldn’t be given. There is no one way to measure intelligence. I score in the 160s in IQ tests and that just means I am great at picking out patterns (hence being a software engineer). I have scored high on the Wonderlic for the same reason. I can’t spell or write though.

  20. Who cares if a player knows how long it’ll take a train to get from Chicago to Los Angeles traveling 27 mph…

  21. The problem is that it’s not really an “intelligence” test. It is a knowledge test.
    So a participant is clearly goint to struggle of they took very little math and rarely read or wrote anything in college.

  22. You mean the rest that accurately predicted that Vince Young and Jamarcus Russell weren’t smart enough to be NFL QB’s? I’m not sure I would call it irrelevant.

  23. That test was given to measure a player’s intellect and ability to process information. There is LOTS to process when learning an NFL playbook, and then applying it to games. Frankly, I wonder how or if some of these guys actually got a college degree.

  24. Look at some of the worst guys to ever suit up (off the field crimes etc) and look over their scores. I think knowing critical thinking and intelligence is very important when giving a person millions of dollars.

  25. kayes says:
    January 5, 2022 at 12:02 pm
    If Wonderlic scores were so useful in football, Fitzpatrick would be the GOAT.

    1 1 Rate This
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    Fitzpatrick’s intelligence and ability to quickly learn and process new offensive systems are the reason he had a longer NFL career than Vince Young, Jake Locker, et al. What, did you think it was his size and arm strength?

  26. In other words dumbing things down for NFL players got it. Also linemen and special teams players usually score pretty high on Wonderlic tests because they need to memorize formations, blocks, and particular assignments that they have. Although some players like Dan Marino are an exception to the intelligence rule most players that are smarter play better that’s just a fact.

  27. We must think of them as super smart… No matter their ability, or inability, to speak in complete sentences. Instead of the wonderlic, how about we just post their GPA? There surely couldn’t be a reason to hide grades for a guy getting to go to college for free. I’m sure colleges would support the guys, that they’re letting play on the field, by sharing how smart their students are at their institutions.

  28. While this editorial declares the test meaningless to football, there must be a reason the experts in the area of football have used it for so long. It is more likely that the NFL is getting rid of it for some of the author reasons mentioned above, and not the utility aspect – this theory fails the smell test. It will be interesting to see what NFL teams come up with as a replacement.

  29. Okay lets say there are ten fairly under intellegent men (to be kind). The test does nothing to make them smarter or less intellegent. You are what you are regardless of the test. However, if certain Gm’s prefer smarter to less smarter it may be due to learning playbooks, running routes, being told something once and getting it.
    I once saw a d back get called three times in a row for grabbing the guys jersey. I thought what an idiot. I was right on he was actually an idiot. Some Gm/s say not on my team pal.

  30. Mac Jones is a proof that intelligence matters. He is not gifted physically and everyone told us the Patriots successes were all because of Brady. Yet here is Mac Jones in the playoffs as a rookie.

  31. All 40+ Wunderlick scorers are good QBs, but no sub 10 scorers are good QBs.

    Please don’t ever take the logic portion of the Wonderlic test, for the sake of those grading it.

  32. patsfan1818 says:
    January 5, 2022 at 12:19 pm

    In other words dumbing things down for NFL players got it. Also linemen and special teams players usually score pretty high on Wonderlic tests because they need to memorize formations, blocks, and particular assignments that they have. Although some players like Dan Marino are an exception to the intelligence rule most players that are smarter play better that’s just a fact.
    _______________________________________

    You guys are saying things that the data does not support. Marino, exception? Bradshaw’s 16. Is that an exception too? 40+ make the best QBs? Nassib, Henson, Gabbert…you like that?

  33. since intelligence and decision making is key in this line of work, i’m curious how qb’s will be tested – or do they get a pass, and we end up with even more draft busts because they were graded solely on athletic ability in college.

  34. What’s with all the consternation of removing the Wonderlic? Why do some here want it to stick around so badly? It certainly hasn’t prevented miss after miss in the draft by every single team-yes, that definitely includes Belicek. A relatively short interview with the right questions will give you a better indication if an athlete has the type of smarts you need to play football, certainly not the questions on the Wonderlic.

  35. What difference does it make? Grades. Laughable people want to use grades? These guys were college elite athletes..grades some of them didnt even do that coursework. Do it dont do it , does not matter one way or another IMO.

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