The Combine; players put through multiple tests involving their athletic skills (40 yard sprint, bench press, position drills etc), social skills (interviews and meetings) and mental skills (interviews and Wonderlic).
Every year the football community waits on those athletic results to be released (of which they are live on television) and then debates the merits of them endlessly and adjusts the stock of the prospect on how they performed. Team sources tell journalists how they feel certain prospects did in interviews. But the Wonderlic is not released to the public, it's held as a secret. We hear every detail imaginable about these future players; their measured accurate weight and height, their measured accurate speed, agility and strength, details of their past, their personal life story and upbringing, and then finally exactly how much money they're getting paid.
All these things are openly talked about and available. But the Wonderlic attempts to remain secret. We are encouraged to judge every aspect of their physical traits but must not know their mental ones. Of course in the Internet age secrets are harder to keep than ever before and most scores leak out. Contrary to almost every other bit of player information the Wonderlic is then often dismissed; “the Wonderlic is irrelevent, their's no evidence to support it predicts future performance”. Or something of the like. But is that really true? If so, why does the Combine continue to prescribe the test?
The Wonderlic seems to be most interesting and controversial around the Quarterback position. It's considered probably the hardest position to play in all professional sports. It requires many skills, both athletic and mental, to be successful. So I'm going to ask and attempt to answer the question that nobody wants to ask or attempt to answer; Are there trends from the QB Wonderlic scores?
What I've found tells me that yes, there is a correlation between Wonderlic scores and NFL Quarterback success in the recent history that I looked at.
Being that the Wonderlic seems to be a somewhat controversial issue and some people seem to just “know” that it's “irrelevant” and react dismissively or angrily towards it, I'd like to make this first point abundantly clear so please understand the what I'm trying to say here: I'm not saying that anyone who scores high on a Wonderlic will perform well as an NFL QB. What I'm saying is that it is definitely more likely that NFL QB's who are very successful in the New Millennium Era (year 2000 onwards) will have scored high on the Wonderlic skill test.
Please understand that paragraph before posting so the thread is not riddled with irrelevant posts like “but Alex Smith scored 40” or “but Drew Henson scored 42”. I'm not saying a certain type of intelligence is the only measure of success, quite obviously it's football, they also need to be athletic, tough, have a strong work ethic, can handle multiple pressure's both on and off field etc. What I am saying is that in the multitude of skills QB's need to be successful intelligence is absolutely one and an important one at that. While the Wonderlic might not be the perfect test it does seem to show some interesting results that can't just be dismissed.
Now to directly address another “Wonderlic irrelevent” comment. Many people use the “Dan Marino scored a 15 and Terry Bradshaw got a 15 so the Wonderlic's irrelevent” line but I don't think it holds up to scrutiny.
Marino did that in 1983 and Bradshaw in 1970. The game has progressed since then. It's like saying “John Hannah was an All-Pro Offensive Guard in 1985 at 6'2” 260 pounds and is in the Hall of Fame so today's preference for 300+ pounders is irrelevant”.
Times change. The QB position is substantially more complicated than it was 25 or 40 years ago. What I'm looking at here is what I'll call New Millennium QB's. That is guys who are successful in the year 2000 and beyond. You could also call this the Peyton Manning era because I think Peyton's approach (his endless calls and bluffs at the line in an attempt to outsmart the defense) and his prolific success from this has raised the standards of what is expected from QB's today and in the future (although looking briefly at the 90's data it's clear that the trend started before 2000 I just don't have the time to go through it all).
Before we start looking at the results here's an important refresher if you need it: the Wonderlic is an IQ type test out of 50 and the average score for all football players is 20. Separately the QB's average 24 and that is also the average of miscellaneous participants of various non-football professions as well.
Let's look at the statistically best QB's from last year:
#1 Phillip Rivers – 30.
#2 Chad Pennington – 25.
#3 Kurt Warner – ??
#4 Drew Brees – 28.
#5 Peyton Manning – 28.
#6 Aaron Rodgers – 35.
#7 Matt Schaub – 28.
#8 Tony Romo – 37.
#9 Jeff Garcia – 30.
#10 Matt Cassell – ??
#11 Matt Ryan – 32.
That's the statistical top third of NFL QB's from the 2008 season. All of them have solid to very good Wonderlic scores. 100% of the scores listed are well above the average football score of 20 and above the QB average score of 24. Together they average 30.3, well above both averages.
If the Wonderlic test score doesn't matter then why are the QB's who are over the average QB score dominating the league and the ones who are significantly under the average score and successful are, at least this year, non existent?
Just for fun let's look at new millennium Superbowl winning QB's. Again, some guys numbers couldn't be found, I'll list them but obviously will not include them in the statistical summary.
New Millennium Super Bowl Winners:
Kurt Warner – ??
Trent Dilfer – 22.
Tom Brady – 33.
Brad Johnson – ??
Tom Brady – 33.
Tom Brady – 33.
Ben Roethlisberger – 25.
Peyton Manning – 28.
Eli Manning – 39.
Ben Roethlisberger – 25.
So out of the 8 scores of new millennium Superbowl winners only 1 below average Wonderlic QB (Dilfer) has won a Superbowl and he had one of the greatest defenses of All-Time at his back.
88% of the winning Superbowl QB's have been above average on the Wonderlic and the average winning QB Wonderlic score is 29.8.
In fact all the multiple Superbowl winning Quarterbacks since 1990 have been well above the football average and clearly above the statistical average QB.
Troy Aikman, 3 Superbowls – 29.
Tom Brady, 3 Superbowls – 33.
John Elway, 2 Superbowls – 29.
Ben Roethlisberger, 2 Superbowls – 25.
Every single important statistical QB category I've looked at in recent history shows that the vast majority of successful Quarterbacks score well above the football average of 20 and also above the Quarterback average of 24. Again, if the Wonderlic test is meaningless then why is the list of successful NFL Quarterbacks in the new millennium era who scored low on the Wonderlic so very small. Where are the new millennium era low scoring Wonderlic Superbowl winning QB's? I can't find a single one of them.
Even if we take out all personal value judgments on a Quarterbacks play and just look at every NFL Quarterback who started the majority of the 2008 season, regardless of whether myself or anyone else thinks they're good, average or bad, the average Wonderlic score is well above the football average of 20 and above the QB average of 24.
#1 Phillip Rivers, 105.5 – 30.
#2 Chad Pennington, 97.4 – 25.
#3 Kurt Warner, 96.9 – ??
#4 Drew Brees, 96.2 – 28.
#5 Peyton Manning, 95.0 – 28.
#6 Aaron Rodgers, 93.8 – 35.
#7 Matt Schaub, 92.7 – 28.
#8 Tony Romo, 91.4 – 37.
#9 Jeff Garcia, 90.2 – 30.
#10 Matt Cassell, 89.4 – ??
#11 Matt Ryan, 87.7 – 32.
#12 Shaun Hill, 87.5 – 25.
#13 Seneca Wallace, 87.0 – 14.
#14 Eli Manning, 86.4 – 39.
#15 Donavon McNabb, 86.4 – 14.
#16 Jay Cutler, 86.0 – 26.
#17 Trent Edwards, 85.4 – 28.
#18 Jake Delhomme, 84.7 - ??
#19 Jason Campbell, 84.3 – 23.
#20 David Garrard, 81.7 – 14.
#21 Brett Farve, 81.0 – 22.
#22 Joe Flacco, 80.3 – 30.
#23 Kerry Collins, 80.2 – 30.
#24 Ben Roethlisberger 80.1 – 25.
#25 Kyle Orton 79.6 – 26.
#26 JaMarcus Russell 77.1 – 24.
#27 Tyler Thigpen 76.0 – 21.
#28 Gus Frerrotte 73.7 – ??
#29 Dan Orlovsky 72.6 – 26.
#30 Marc Bulger 71.4 – 29.
#31 Ryan Pitzpatrick 70.0 – 38.
#32 Derek Anderson 66.5 – 19.
The entire NFL starting QB average of 2008 was 26.6.
If there was evidence (and there might be I haven't looked it up) that, on average, every starting NFL RB (that is, a Runningback who's had success) on average timed faster than the average time of all college RB's (that is, Runningbacks who may or may not have had success) doing the 40 yard dash, most would say that's a clear indication that the speed measured by the Forty yard dash is a useful tool in measuring that important factor (a RB's speed) in relation to NFL success.
The NFL starting QB average of 26.6 is well above the football player average of 20 and above the QB average of 24. So the average of every starting NFL QB is a higher score than the average score of all college QB's taking the Wonderlic test. To me, that's a clear indication that the mental skill that the Wonderlic measures is a useful tool in measuring that important factor (a QB's intelligence or mental capacity) in relation to NFL success. When we're measuring the top tier of successful QB's in the league the correlation is even higher.
In conclusion; I'm not suggesting that a QB should be drafted solely on his Wonderlic score. The same way I wouldn't suggest drafting a RB solely on his Forty yard dash time. But measuring a RB's speed is very important as they make the jump from College to the much faster NFL game. In the same way, measuring a QB's mental skill is very important as they make the jump from College to the much more complicated, technical and challenging NFL game.
The Forty yard dash; not every Runningback who runs fast is going to be a success, but the most successful Runningback's are often the faster runners (2008 NFL Top 10 averages a very good Forty of 4.42).
A. Peterson 4.37, M. Turner 4.49, D. Williams 4.45, C. Portis 4.42, T. Jones 4.45, S. Slaton 4.45, M. Forte 4.44, C. Johnson 4.24, R. Grant 4.43, L. Tomlinson 4.46.
The Wonderic test; not every Quarterback who scores high on the Wonderlic is going to be a success, but the most successful Quarterback's often have the higher scores (2008 NFL Top 10 average a very good score of 30.1).
Phillip Rivers 30, Chad Pennington 25, Kurt Warner ??, Drew Brees 28, Peyton Manning 28, Aaron Rodgers 35, Matt Schaub 28, Tony Romo 37, Jeff Garcia 30, Matt Cassell ??
Do it yourselves in the thread; make a list of who you think are the Top 5 QB's currently in the NFL.
My Top 5 QB's would be;
Tom Brady – 33.
Peyton Manning – 28.
Drew Brees – 28.
Tony Romo – 37.
Phillip Rivers – 30.
They average a very high 31.2. Other people's lists may vary but I don't think anyones Top 5 will come in under the Quarterback average of 24.
It seems quite clear that the Wonderlic mental skill test is not at all irrelevant and in fact might be currently more prevalent than ever.
Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.