Before Super Bowl XIII, Cowboys linebacker Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson proclaimed that Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw couldn't "spell 'cat' if you spotted him the 'c' and the 'a'."
Bradshaw had the last laugh, as he has had on anyone who dwells on his intelligence, or apparent lack thereof. Bradshaw threw four TD passes and won Super Bowl MVP honors as his Steelers outgunned Henderson's Cowboys, 35-31.
Bradshaw has since said of Henderson's comments, "It's football, not rocket science."
In Bradshaw's case, that might be a good thing. Henderson may have been onto something when picking on Bradshaw's intelligence. (Let's face it, nobody watches the Fox pregame show and mistakes Bradshaw for a MENSA candidate).
But, is Bradshaw correct when he counters that intelligence doesn't matter in football?
Enter the Wonderlic test – the intelligence test given to almost all draft eligible players. Through the years, the Wonderlic has provided plenty of fodder for pre-draft discussion – mostly resulting from an NFL-obsessed nation that clings to any offseason information like a 13-year-old boy clings to his mother's "missing" Victoria's Secret catalog.
But correlation between the Wonderlic and performance at the next level has been hard to achieve. In fact, we've found that depending upon this test of intelligence to predict future NFL success is not very smart.
In the absence of any non-labor NFL news or info, we've decided to scratch our itch by digging into the Wonderlic scores of some prominent quarterbacks over the years.
It doesn't take a genius ...
The aforementioned Bradshaw scored 16 out of 50 on the test, well below the average of 24 for an NFL quarterback. (Note: scores are not released by the league and are considered unofficial).
For the record, a score of 10 indicates that a person is literate – which means that Bradshaw could not only spell "cat" but could likely master several other three-, four- and even five-letter words. Hell, he was certainly brighter than you people.
Bradshaw is not the only successful NFL quarterback to bomb on the Wonderlic test. Hall of Fame quarterbacks Dan Marino and Jim Kelly each scored 15. Former NFL stars Steve McNair (15), Randall Cunningham (15) and Daunte Culpepper (18) each scored well below the NFL average for a quarterback.
Looking at it from a different point of view, many first-round busts scored very high on the Wonderlic test.
Alex Smith scored a 40 – a lofty score on the test sheet that stands in obvious inverse proportion to his poor statistical scores on the football field.
Other first-round quarterback busts who broke 30 include Matt Leinart (35), Joey Harrington (32), Patrick Ramsey (32), J.P. Losman (31), Rick Mirer (31) and David Klingler (30).
Rex Grossman (29), Kyle Boller (27), Kelly Stouffer (27) and Ryan Leaf (27) – the poster boy for first-round draft busts – all bombed in the NFL despite above-average intelligence, at least according to the Wonderlic. In the case of Leaf, its seems the test certainly fails to measure what they like to call emotional intelligence.
Bradshaw, with his 16 Wonderlic and four Super Bowl rings, can laugh heartily at all those scores.
Maybe there's something to it ... sometimes
On the other hand, in hindsight, some first-round busts could have been predicted by their low Wonderlic scores.
Jeff George (10) and Vince Young (15) were first-round busts with well below average Wonderlic scores. And, not to pile on, but most fans can identify a moment or two where each of these players did poor imitations of Stephen Hawking.
Heath Shuler got a 16 and famously flamed out in Washington.
Of course, Shuler is now a U.S. Congressman representing the 11th District in North Carolina. In an attempt to provide for others what he himself apparently does not have, he recently supported a budget allocating $47 billion to education.
Trent Dilfer (22) and Tim Couch (22) also scored below average on the Wonderlic.
High Wonderlic, low expectations
Another factor when analyzing the value of the Wonderlic is the scores for players who have outperformed expections based on where they were originally drafted.
The most common example is Tom Brady – a sixth-round pick who's become an NFL star and is widely considered the greatest "value" draft pick in history. He scored a 33 on the Wonderlic, well above average.
Another example is Tony Romo – completely ignored on draft day despite his lofty 37 on the test. He's had a very prolific, if as of yet unfulfilled, NFL career.
Brady and Romo also provide evidence that a great Wonderlic allows you to date wayyyyy out of your league. Brady is married to supermodel Gisele Bundchen, and Romo has dated Jessica Simpson and Carrie Underwood (even demonstrated a certain affinity for very public displays of affection along the way).
We know Brady's a good-looking dude ....we get it. But Gisele is one of the three hottest women on the planet, at least if the money people are willing to pay to see her in her panties is any indication. Is Brady one of the three hottest guys on the planet?
No ... and, isn't that all that matters in a relationship? Isn't that why we all wake our wives up at the crack of dawn and make them do P90X while we eat our waffles?
In any case, to attack this topic, we looked at current or very recent NFL starters who were not picked in the first round.
Matt Schaub (31), Matt Hasselbeck (29) and Mark Bulger (29) all scored well above average on the Wonderlic - and each has gone on to have a level of success beyond their draft-day expectations.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is an interesting case, if only because he went to Harvard, a fact which it seems everybody must mention everytime his name comes up – including us, apparently. Well, he's rumored to have scored anywhere between a 38 and a perfect 50 on the test, with 48 being the most commonly reported score. He, too, has succeeded in the NFL beyond expectations. He's not a star, of course. But he is a seventh-round pick who's lasted six NFL seasons and has been a starting quarterback for most of the past three years.
Imagine if any of these guys ran for the Congressional seat in the 11th district in North Carolina.
David Garrard is an exception to many trends: he has outperformed his original draft status despite scoring only a 14 on the Wonderlic.
We have no scores available for Jake Delhomme, Kurt Warner or Matt Cassel – three more players who succeeded well beyond draft-day expectations.
Other recent players who can be considered to have overachieved to some degree include J.T. O'Sullivan (35), Sage Rosenfels (32), Josh McCown (30) and Chris Weinke (29). All scored well above average on the Wonderlic.
Derek Anderson and A.J. Feeley have also outplayed their draft statuses despite identical 19s on their Wonderlics.
And, let's not forget that a player doesn't have to become a star to outperform his draft status....players picked after the fourth or fifth round are usually out of the league with a couple of years.
So that's a whole lot of NFL quarterbacks in recent years who had the smarts, as measured by the Wonderlic, to outlast guys who were more highly thought of physically.
But smarts are not everything, as the Bradshaw example proved.
Consider that, among players with available data, only seven scored 40 or better on the Wonderlic: Darrell Hackney (40), Alex Smith (40), Bruce Eugene (41), Drew Henson (42), Jason Maas (43) and Fitzpatrick (48) – not exactly Canton material.
A brief discussion about the term "student athlete"
The lowest Wonderlic score among quarterbacks with available data was University of North Carolina product Oscar Davenport who scored a 6 in 1999.
This is the same University of North Carolina that ranks 30th in US News and World Report's latest ratings of national universities. UNC stands fifth among all public universities, behind Cal, UCLA, Virginia and Michigan.
Remember when we mentioned that a Wonderlic score of 10 was considered literate? Shouldn't someone who attends the nation's fifth-best public university be smarter than the team's Gatorade bucket?
Davenport is not alone in embarrassing his school's alleged academic standards. Here's a look at some other players who made a mockery of their schools' well-regarded academics departments. These are the Wonderlic scores of players at universities that are currently ranked in the US News and World Report Top 50.
- Vince Evans (Wonderlic score of 8); USC (Ranked 23rd in US News)
- Jeff George (10); Illinois (47)
- Brock Berlin (13); Miami (49)
- Vince Young (15); Texas (45)
- Jim Sorgi (15); Wisconsin (45)
- Jim Kelly (15); Miami (49)
- Elvis Grbac (16); Michigan (29)
- Aaron Brooks (17); Virginia (25)
- Vinny Testaverde (17); Miami (49) - seems like we're seeing a trend among QBs from the U.
- Jarius Jackson (18); Notre Dame (19)
- Joe Hamilton (18); Georgia Tech (35)
Hey, at least Randall Cunningham went to a party school (UNLV).
Other Notes About The Wonderlic
Speaking of academic reputation, among schools that had at least four players analyzed, Stanford products did the best with an average score of 31.5.
These schools round out the top 10: Oregon (28.6), Michigan (28), BYU (27), Virginia and Ohio State (both 26.5), Washington (26.4), Notre Dame (25.25), USC (24.6) and LSU (24.5).
The three schools with the lowest average Wonderlic score were Tennessee (18.8), Miami (18.2) and Kansas State (17).
Bottom line: the Wonderlic makes for a nice conversation piece. But like everything involved with the draft, it's a very inexact science with little bearing on future NFL success.