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Football’s Wonderlic, the white bread of the NFL

Despite reports of white bread being bad for our digestive systems surfacing almost 40 years ago, it continued to fly off of the shelves and into the mouths of American consumers until very recently.

The Wonderlic test, given annually by the NFL to players entering the combine, is the NFL’s white bread. It has been proven faulty, most coaches pay zero attention to it, and it likely hurts a players’ ego more than helping a GM looking to fill a roster.


The test consists of 50 questions which players are allotted 12 minutes to complete. The questions are designed to test a player’s mental capacity and ability to process information.

On the surface, it may sound like a good idea; why not test athletes who will be getting million-dollar paychecks on their mental skills?

Because it does not matter. We do not test doctors, lawyers or scientists on their 40 yd. dash time,  their ability to memorize a playbook, tackle a colleague or catch zinging pigskins. Mental acuity is not what football players are getting paid for.

Not to belittle the academic accomplishments of many famous NFL-ers, but reviewing some of the most memorable Wonderlic results should add a little perspective to its absolute triviality.url

Ryan Fitzpatrick, quarterback of the Buffalo Bills scored 48 out of 50. His score ranks him third-highest in NFL history. He has had an average career as a quarterback, playing for two other teams before landing with the Bills. He led them to a 6-10 record last season – same as the NY Jets; make of that what you will.

In comparison, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning scored a 28 on the test. That score is still above average, but it is no 48. For anyone who lives under a rock and doesn’t know the caliber of quarterback that Manning is, he has been to the Pro Bowl every year following the season he was drafted (excluding 2011 for his injury); his 4 MVP awards are tops in the history of the league, he is 1 for 2 in Super Bowl appearances, and took the Broncos on a 13-3 regular season run after having extreme surgery on his neck.

In addition, we have Frank Gore, running back for the San Francisco 49ers. He scored a 6. Besides carrying his team to the NFC Championship last season and the Super Bowl this season, Gore has racked up almost 9,000 career rushing yards and 51 touchdowns. Gore’s highly superior NFL career cannot be compared to Fitzpatrick’s using any stretch of the imagination.

Based solely on their polar opposite scores on the Wonderlic however, Gore should not have even been drafted, and Fitzpatrick should have won 5 Super Bowls (he has never played in a postseason game).

So, the real question is why the Wonderlic has not been eliminated from the NFL’s diet. Just like white bread, it is bad for the digestive system, it holds no nutritional value and does more harm than good. If we are going to embarrass athletes whose academic prowess is subpar, then Nobel Prize hopefuls should start working on the cardio.


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