NFL abandons the Wonderlic test

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.