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Should we really care about draftees reading comprehension? OR how I came to understand the Wonderlic

Many people are on record as saying they think the Wonderlic is a waste of time at the combine and has nothing whatsoever to do with predicting the future success of a player. They may be right and I am not arguing for or against the testing, just using it as a common denominator since it is the same test for all players and is not subject to regional or institutional variations as using Grade Point Averages would be.

The NFL started using a new aptitude test last year at the combine in addition to the wonderlic to help determine football intelligence, a term used occasionally to describe players who have low reading comprehension abilities but do well in the league. Our own Morris Claiborne has been thus described as well as Ray Lewis who scored a 13 on the wonderlic and had some serious off field problems until he figured out he needed to change his circle of trust to coincide with having fame and fortune.

Aptitude test story here

"The assessment tool being introduced at the Combine is not intended to displace anything currently in use or substitute for other tests that are given either at the Combine or by the clubs themselves. Rather, this new test measures a wide range of competencies, including learning styles, motivation, decision-making skills, responding to pressure or unexpected stimuli, and core intellect. It was developed after detailed discussions with current and former league executives, including Ernie Accorsi, Thomas Dimitroff, John Elway, and Jerry Reese, and was reviewed by members of the general managers Advisory Committee."

The wonderlic has been part of player evaluation since former Dallas Cowboys' head coach Tom Landry introduced it to football in the 1970s, Landry was looking for a tool to calculate intelligence and draw a parallel between that and on field production.

I will list a few wonderlic scores here for comparison (Maximum score is 50).

Per the Wonderlic Corporation, a score of 10 is considered literate and 20 is average intelligence, the average for a recent college graduate is 24.

Most scores are as reported by ESPN.go.com / QB scores are from foxsports.com

Jason Garrett = 36
Tony Romo = 37
Kyle Orton = 28


Another former QB who is now coaching;
Jim Harbaugh = 26


The Current "Elite QBs:
Aaron Rodgers = 35
Tom Brady = 33
Peyton Manning = 28
Drew Brees = 28


Some Hall of Fame (or will be) Quarterbacks:
Steve Young = 33
Troy Aikman = 29
John Elway = 29
Brett Favre = 22
Dan Marino = 15
Terry Bradshaw = 15

Current QBs close to Romo's score:
Alex Smith = 40
Eli Manning = 39
Mathew Stafford = 38
Colin Kaepernick = 38
Andrew Luck = 37
Russell Wilson = 28 (Listed because he is the reigning SB winning QB)

Now as far as receivers go:
Calvin Johnson = 41
Michael Irvin = 28
Joey Galloway = 27
Miles Austin = 24
Dez Bryant = 16
Randy Moss = 12


Average scores by position in NFL, per Wikipedia:
Offensive Tackle = 26
Center = 25
Quarterback = 24
Guard = 23
Tight End = 22
Safety = 19
Linebacker = 19
Cornerback = 18
Wide Receiver = 17
Fullback = 17
Running back = 16

Wikipedia does not list 2 positions but I found some consensus for scores below:
DE = 19
DT = 17

Interested in where your profession falls?
Wonderlic Professions


On a showcase last year of Jimmy Johnson by FOX, he was on his boat telling Bill Belichick the story of when he was approached about acquiring Charles Haley. Jimmy was concerned, as Haley was "known" to be a troublemaker in the locker room. After someone in the 49ers organization told him that Haley was really smart, Jimmy said OK! He said if a player is smart I can reason with him, if I can reason with him I can get everything he has got and win with him. Jimmy went on to say that he had given Jason Garret the same advice about acquiring smart players.

So maybe the "Smart Football Player" advice from Jimmy Johnson is affecting our draft choices more than anyone outside the organization thinks. If we are looking for players more in tune with Jason Garrett maybe we draft the ones who have the best combination of talent, character, work ethic, AND intelligence available to us.

Also is interesting to compare the scores of the guys famous for OFF the field shenanigans ~Cough, Cough, PACMAN, VINCE! ahem BIGBEN!~ (Roethlisberger = 25 / VY = 6 then re-take = 16 / Adam Jones = 13).

So if being a RKG applies to both on and OFF the field behavior then maybe this factors in as well. After all smart people occasionally do stupid things, BUT it is better to side with the odds.

Back to the subject of JG draft picks, let us start with the first 4 picks in 2013 and work back:
Travis Frederick = 34
Gavin Escobar = 28
Terrance Williams = Cannot Find
JJ Wilcox = 15

In 2012 we drafted a famous Low score:
Morris Claiborne = 4
Claiborne admitted that he blew the test off after deciding it had nothing to do with football, answering only 10-12 of the 50 questions, and he only got 4 of those right.

Quote from our man MO:


I came to the combine for football. I looked at the test, and wasn’t any questions about football. I didn’t see no point in the test. I’m not in school anymore. I didn’t complete it

This score and quote could mean nothing at all for our guy, or it could be perceived as a lack of dedication to anything he decides is not important to him, perhaps going to class or taking exams at LSU were not important to him. It can also reflect the hypocrisy of the student/athlete system at some of our Division I football factories Universities.
The story linked here discusses how the hallowed halls of higher education could be to blame

Corner back is largely a read and react position but knowing where your teammates will be in each coverage and deciphering opponent's tendencies on film are important. Since MO represents our #1 and #2 picks for 2012, I hope the light turns on mentally and physically for him this year!

Our next 2 picks in 2012 are off the google radar:
Tyrone Crawford = cannot find
Kyle Wilber = cannot find

2011 Draft:
Tyron Smith = 34
Bruce Carter = 20
Demarco Murray = cannot find


2010 Draft:
Dez Bryant = 16
Sean Lee = 27
AOA = not invited to Combine


AND Some 2014 Draft prospects we may be interested in:

Ra'Shede Hageman, a defensive tackle out of Minnesota, scored a 13.
Jimmy Garoppolo, quarterback out Eastern Illinois, scored a 24.
Fighting Irish offensive lineman Zack Martin scored a 21.

In the past two years there were six quarterbacks in their 1st or 2nd NFL year who led their teams to the playoffs. They have averaged a 31.6 on the Wonderlic with a high score of 38 (Kaepernick) and a low of 24 (RGIII).

The average score of Super Bowl winning quarterbacks presently playing in the NFL is 30.7
Link to detailed discussion of QBs - QBs and the Wonderlic Here

Now, how is all this related to Jason Garret and the RKG?
More importantly to the team AND us, the fanatical base, is how does this us help WIN?

I believe that the communication between Romo and his WRs and between Garret and his assistant coaches/players will improve as both the players and coaches become "HIS" guys. There are a lot of conversations about coaches - leaders in all walks of life for that matter - needing to be able to communicate with superiors, peers, and subordinates effectively to have real success. This is very difficult when they "see" things at a far different rate.

And if smarter guys get in less trouble off the field and realize the need for working harder in practice, the weight room, and in the film room, then should this subject not be a bigger factor than it is often given credit for?
Also if you have a smart coach, and a smart QB, it makes sense that the team will have an easier time "getting on the same page" if all positions are smarter?

A couple of leadership links to flesh out this point are written by the Clemmergroup. They are a leadership development organization that provides books and seminars on group dynamics and well, the development of leaders.

One I feel fits our recent team dynamic is linked here - When fast and Smart leaders can leave their teams behind

I think this is a lot of the problem between Romo and the receivers on the field, especially in WR option routes or scrambles. I also think this disparity in speed of good decision making leads to the often cited poor game management by Garret.
Remember the "Freezing his own kicker" game? Joe DeCamillis yelled for the Timeout and Garret listens to the coordinator whose team is on the field at that time. As a leader Jason took the heat for the call even though he did not see anything wrong. Could this have been him giving subordinates too much credit for being as on the ball as he is, or Jason believing they saw something he missed?

These types of instant decisions and judgment calls will get better with Garret having people around him he can better communicate with and trust in their judgement without hesitation. This will come by surrounding himself with people who think like he does, either by learning and truly understanding how he thinks or those that naturally have the same - ready for it? - process.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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