INDIANAPOLIS, IN—After scoring a reported 6 on his first attempt at the Wonderlic intelligence test at last week's NFL combine, draft specialists have called into question whether University of Texas quarterback Vince Young possesses the intellectual vigor to be a successful quarterback in the NFL.
The Wonderlic, a 12-minute, 50-question exam that evaluates a player's ability to learn on the job and solve complex problems, has become the centerpiece of the NFL scouting combine's player-evaluation process, especially at the quarterback position. Many teams, such as the New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers, all but ignore arm strength, field vision, attitude, and leadership ability, electing to use a player's Wonderlic score as the sole basis for choosing a quarterback on Draft Day.
"We originally thought quite highly of Young, who ran a seemingly complicated offense at Texas," said Houston Texans general manager Charley Casserly. "He had all the tools needed to score well on a standardized test in this league. Vince's completion percentage got higher every year, he was good at picking up the blitzes, and his ability to organize an audible at the line of scrimmage was unequaled in college ball. But his inability to answer story problems, diagram sentences, and solve simple geometric equations makes us wonder if he's really as smart on the field as he's been playing."
Texans scouts observing the Wonderlic test said Young obviously struggled throughout, often fixating on his primary answer, "A," and never checking down to the other options on any given question unless pressured, when he would almost always throw it up to "all of the above." Moreover, Young's awkward mechanics during the exam drew criticism from onlookers, as he instinctually reverted to a sidearm-style delivery that often resulted in the incomplete filling-in of circles.
The Tennessee Titans, who have the third pick in the draft, had also been interested in drafting Young. Offensive coordinator Norm Chow, however, has confirmed that the interest has diminished in the wake of Young's low Wonderlic score.
"We have to consider Young based on the numbers he's put up," Chow said. "If Young's 6-for-50 completion rate on this series of assorted multiple-choice questions tells us that he's not a superior athlete, who are we to argue?"
Houston, the team with the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, had been considering replacing quarterback David Carr with popular hometown hero Young. However, for all his problems on the field, Carr scored a 24 on his Wonderlic before being taken first overall in the 2002 draft.
"Let's face it—trading an untested 6 for a known 24 is a recipe for disaster," Casserly said. "If Vince Young can't tell us how many 29-cent loaves of bread can be purchased with the $3.49 in his pocket, how can we expect him to understand the two-minute drill—let alone his own quarterback rating?"
Texans owner Bob McNair was even more emphatic.
"Vince is definitely the sexy choice here," said McNair, who is reluctant to draft another "Wonderlic bust" such as 14-point-scoring washout Dan Marino. "He's a Houston native, he can make all the throws, has a great ability to see down the field, and there's no denying he brought the NCAA championship back to the great state of Texas. But at this club, we have high intellectual standards. We believe that the fans in Houston deserve someone who can at least match his jersey number on a problem-solving test."
The Texans are not the only team shying away from the athletic, battle-tested Young following his unusually low score on the timed, multiple-choice test. Scouts and coaches from around the league could not say for certain how far Young's stock might yet plummet.
"We expected [Young] to score somewhere in the neighborhood of Vinny Testaverde, Ben Roethlisberger, or Brett Favre—instead, he tested more like a Randall Cunningham, Donovan McNabb, or Michael Vick," said a source within the Atlanta Falcons organization, who asked not to be identified. "At this juncture, we are uncomfortable saying this poor-testing quarterback can take us to the next level."
According to Casserly, many quarterbacks have struggled to adjust to the complicated offenses in the National Football League. He referred to the struggles of Chad Pennington, a Rhodes Scholar finalist at Marshall University who has underperformed in his six years in the NFL.
"The Jets couldn't get an actual Rhodes Scholar, and now they're paying the price for settling for a mere finalist," Casserly said. "We're glad that we can still avoid making that same mistake."