Vince, you’re sure that’s your final answer?

Tests of varying sizes are common during a job interview. As bloggers, we were run through a series of complex drills all gauging our ability to eat and type while maintaining a slouched but stationary position. It was the most physically taxing test I’ve ever endured.

For football players, the path to the NFL is more difficult, but only slightly. While being measured at the combine these former campus superheroes are asked to sprint, lift, shuffle, and jump. And then they pull up a chair, take out their No. 2 pencil, and figure out how much four pads of paper will cost if one pad is priced at 21 cents.

Yes, the joys of having your intelligence measured by brain-testing questions during the Wonderlic test–a concept introduced by Paul Brown in the 1960′s–are either daunting or mundane. The 12-minute, 50 question test will be taken by draft prospects at the NFL combine over the coming days, and is intended to measure mental aptitude beyond football.

It’s not limited to just multiple choice either. The questions have answers that could be formulated easily enough if time wasn’t a factor, but that ticking clock is always menacing.

Vince Young promptly became the subject of ridicule after scoring horribly on his test in 2006, answering only six questions correctly. Shortly after Young’s debacle, ESPN showed a series of sample questions:

  • A train travels 20 feet in 1/5 second. At this same speed, how many feet will it travel in three seconds?
  • When rope is selling at $.10 a foot, how many feet can you buy for sixty cents?
  • In printing an article of 48,000 words, a printer decides to use two sizes of type. Using the larger type, a printed page contains 1,800 words. Using smaller type, a page contains 2,400 words. The article is allotted 21 full pages in a magazine. How many pages must be in smaller type?
  • Three individuals form a partnership and agree to divide the profits equally. X invests $9,000, Y invests $7,000, Z invests $4,000. If the profits are $4,800, how much less does X receive than if the profits were divided in proportion to the amount invested?
  • A boy is 17 years old and his sister is twice as old. When the boy is 23 years old, what will be the age of his sister?

The Wonderlic may be the only event at the combine putting a barometer to an athlete’s mental ability, but it’s still subject to the same criticisms in terms of its importance. The combine’s glamour events like the 40-yard dash and bench press have produced fickle results, revealing both hidden gems and fool’s gold. Sitting at a desk and answering skill testing questions should similarly be viewed with several grains of salt at the ready.

The test results are supposed to be kept hidden, but inevitably they leak every year. Predictably, the most common scores to creep out are from the position under the greatest microscope: quarterback.

Last year, Tim Tebow’s reported score of 22, Jimmy Clausen’s 23, and Colt McCoy’s 25 looked weak by comparison alongside Sam Bradford’s 36, even though a final mark of 24 is considered average for the position. But the list of notable high and low scores is littered with results that make the test’s accuracy nearly impossible to determine.

Brett Favre matched Tebow’s score of 22, and although it may have led to questionable cell phone usage later in life, the test didn’t impact his Hall of Fame career. No one’s looking back at Dan Marino’s 15 as the reason he didn’t win a Super Bowl, although it probably factored into his decision to leave the laces out. Percy Harvin’s dynamic skill set wasn’t restricted by his bottom-scraping score of 12, and he was named the Rookie of the Year in 2009.

On the flip side, Brady Quinn’s 29 has led to a prosperous career as a backup. The same can be said for Matt Leinart (35), and Drew Henson (42). Ryan Leaf, the NFL’s most infamous draft bust, excelled while pushing a pencil and finished his test with a 30. He continued to push a pencil for much of his brief career.

It’s entertaining to sit on our comfy couch as athletes worth millions of dollars crush each other and point to the Wonderlic as proof that we’re smarter and intellectually superior. In the end, the Wonderlic is a useful but still highly ineffective tool, and adds another layer to the spectacle of the combine.

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