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Posted at 11:15 AM ET, 02/05/2012

Tom Brady vs. Eli Manning: Who’s smarter?

Even NFL teams use a standardized test to assess whether athletes are smart enough to draft.


New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throws during practice on Thursday in Indianapolis. (Mark Humphrey)
And given that today is the Super Bowl pitting the New York Giants against the New England Patriots, did Pats quarterback Tom Brady or Giants quarterback Eli Manning score higher?

The assessment is called the Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test and has been in use by NFL teams for decades. The version of the Wonderlic — named after its founder, Eldon Wonderlic —
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning looks to pass during the second quarter of a game against the New York Jets, in East Rutherford, N.J. in December. (Bill Kostroun - AP)
used in the NFL is a 12-minute test with 50 questions that progressively get more challenging and are designed to assess how people solve problems and learn.

Thousands of companies and educators use one of the various forms of the Wonderlic, including student opinion surveys and personality tests. There’s even more than one version of the cognitive ability test.

So who in football scores highest on the Wonderlic? You might think it would be the quarterbacks, given that the position requires instantaneous decision making and fast analysis of changing conditions. But they don’t.

Before we go any further, let’s stipulate that a single test — much less a 12-minute one with 50 questions — can’t really tell us about someone’s intelligence. (It is said, for example, that Chad Pennington, a finalist for a Rhodes Scholarship who played for the Jets and the Dolphins, scored a 25. The highest possible score is a 50, meaning every question was accurately answered in 12 minutes. A score of 20 is considered average intelligence.)

According to The New Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football , by Paul Zimmerman, here are average scores for different positions on a football team, starting with the highest: offensive tackle – 26; center – 25; quarterback – 24; guard – 23; tight end – 22; safety – 19; linebacker – 19; cornerback – 18; wide receiver – 17; fullback – 17.

The player famously known for getting a perfect score was Pat McInally, who attended Harvard University and played for the Cincinnati Bengals.

He was quoted on rivals.com as saying this about the Wonderlic — and high stakes standardized test lovers should take note. Said McInally:

“It really did seem like an easy test at the time. One of the reasons I did so well is because I didn’t think it mattered. So I think I didn’t feel any pressure at all. It was more of a lark, and that’s when you do your best.”

He also has been quoted as saying he thought some teams were afraid to draft him because they thought someone so smart would fight with coaches.

At the blog Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks, you can see some Wonderlic scores for NFL players as well as SAT scores and an analysis of what it all means (clue: not much).

As for Manning vs. Brady: that blog reported that Brady, who attended the University of Michigan, scored a 33, and Manning, who attended the University of Mississippi, scored a 39. Manning’s brother, Peyton, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback, scored a 28.

Here are sample questions on the Classic Cognitive Ability Test, and sample questions on the Contemporary Cognitive Ability Test.

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By  |  11:15 AM ET, 02/05/2012

 
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