This week, the Raider Nation has been plagued with stories about Terrelle Pryor and his Wonderlic score. The minute news broke that the Raiders had chosen Pryor in the NFL supplemental draft, Raiders fans braced themselves for the inevitable onslaught of trash talk from ESPN talking heads. Surely enough, within the first twenty-four hours, all of the usual draft related insults hurled at Al Davis were reborn with Pryor as the topic. "The Raiders reach once again with Pryor pick." "Davis stays true to form, ignores flaws in favor of speed." "Raiders choose another questionable quarterback prospect."
Thus, when rumors started to come out that Pryor's Wonderlic score was a measly 7, it is no surprise that the vultures started to circle for their favorite meal. It was time once again to bash the Raiders and make jokes about their poor draft choices, some going so far as to compare Pryor to the biggest bust in NFL history, Jamarcus Russell. However, as more and more stories about Pryor and his Wonderlic score emerged, two things became abundantly clear.
First, the overflow of stories about Pryor's Wonderlic score showed the tendency of sports writers today to jump on a story, even with a faulty factual basis, so that they can make the claim that they talked about it first. We see this trend everywhere in sports today as blogs and twitter have made being the first to break sports news an even more heated competition resulting in writers toying with the boundaries of truth in favor of getting their name on a story first.
Second, it goes to show just how inconsequential the Wonderlic is. All of the reports regarding Pryor's supposed score of 7 on the Wonderlic were centered around how that score meant he would not be a quality starting quarterback in the NFL. One person went so far as to claim that the score explained why Pryor made bad decisions on AND off the field in college. However, the Wonderlic really is not a good test of whether someone will succeed in the NFL.
In dealing with the first topic, let's take a look at how the story developed. First, it came out that Pryor had gotten a ridiculously low score of 7 on the Wonderlic. Then, not long after that, Pryor posted a tweet stating that his score on the Wonderlic was actually a 22. Soon after, stories emerged that Pryor had taken the test a second time and received a score of 21.
Now, at this point, it appeared that Pryor had in fact scored a 7 on his first Wonderlic, with the only remaining question being whether he scored a 21 or a 22 on his retake. But, not surprisingly, another story emerged soon after, in which Pittsburgh Steelers General Manager, Kevin Colbert, denied that Pryor had ever scored a 7 on his first Wonderlic test.
Of all the stories to come out regarding Pryor's Wonderlic score, the story about Steelers GM Colbert holds the most weight. First of all, Colbert is the one who administered both tests to Pryor, so he has first hand knowledge about the tests rather than relying on an unnamed source for his statements. Second, as the story linked above noted, Colbert needed to get permission from the NFL to make the comments he made. For some reason, I doubt the NFL would have allowed Colbert to make comments that were not grounded in reality. Finally, unlike the reporters trying to break a story, Colbert had absolutely no self serving interest in making those statements. Pryor was not drafted by the Steelers and it did Colbert no good to defend Pryor. Thus, it would appear that Colbert's only interest in making the statement was to ensure that the truth be revealed.
This brings me to my second point. In all of the bluster over whether or not Pryor really scored a 7 on the Wonderlic score, an incredibly relevant question was often over looked: Who cares?
Scouts have been trying to find ways to adequately predict a college quarterback's chances of success in the NFL for years now, and guess what, they still can't tell you with any degree of certainty that a college quarterback will be able to make the transition to the NFL. Guys like Tim Couch, Rick Mirer and Ryan Leaf were all thought to be as close to guaranteed picks as one could come in the NFL draft. And as history shows, every one of them failed miserably to live up to that billing.
The fact of the matter is, we still have no clue how to tell if a quarterback is going to be successful in the NFL. It is the reason that so many teams are constantly looking for their franchise quarterback without success. The NFL is littered with back up quarterbacks once thought to be the next great star. Their stories of failure prove that if a combination of factors cannot be used to adequately determine whether a quarterback will be successful in the NFL, a Wonderlic score certainly cannot give actual insight into whether or not a player will succeed.
Need more proof? Lets take a quick look at some Wonderlic scores that have proven the test to be as random as winning lottery numbers.
Some of the better scores in NFL history for quarterbacks:
Drew Henson 42
Alex Smith 40
Charlie Frye 38
Some of the worst scores in NFL history for quarterbacks:
Michael Vick 20
Dan Marino 16
Terry Bradshaw 15
By the way people were talking about Pryor with regards to his Wonderlic score, you'd swear that Donovan McNabb's score means he was one of the worst quarterbacks in NFL history. The fact of the matter is, the Wonderlic score is about as accurate in determining a quarterback's chances of succeeding in the NFL as the magic 8-ball is at picking winning lottery numbers (its not very accurate, trust me, I've tried).
As far as I am concerned, there is no way of telling whether Pryor will be successful in the NFL until we see him play in the NFL. Even then, it could take a few years to determine just how good or bad he will be.