New combine test designed to measure football IQs

jperson@charlotteobserver.comFebruary 20, 2013 

Most NFL draft prospects probably thought their days of test-taking were over.

As the first prospects descend on Indianapolis on Thursday for the start of the scouting combine, they will be asked to take not one, but two tests aimed at measuring their intelligence and aptitude.

But creators of a new measuring stick called the NFL Player Assessment Test believe for the first time they have a tool that will give teams an idea of a player’s football IQ in addition to his book smarts.

The PAT – so called because it is designed to be one of the final scouting tools the way a point-after-touchdown caps a scoring play – will help scouts and general managers see what type of learning and motivational styles best fit a player.

“This should be the last part of the process,” said Cyrus Mehri, the Washington, D.C., attorney who came up with the PAT. “Collect all your other data and at the end look at this and see if there’s a confluence or a divergence with all your other scouting information.”

For years the league has relied on the Wonderlic, developed in the 1930s to measure the intelligence of job applicants. Many wondered whether the exam – with questions such as, “Which months have 31 days?” – was relevant from a football standpoint.

Critics also claimed the Wonderlic, like other standardized tests, was biased against test-takers from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Mehri, in a telephone interview Wednesday, said the PAT “is not based on prior knowledge. This has breadth and depth to it.”

Mehri approached the league three years ago about creating an assessment tool. Several teams already were using their own supplementary test to the Wonderlic.

Mehri teamed with industrial psychology expert Henry Goldstein to create the PAT, an hourlong, computerized test with more than 100 questions – 95 percent of them multiple-choice. Mehri wanted a test with “football-related dimensions” that would, among things, attempt to predict a player’s mental toughness.

Mehri first shared the concept with former New York Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi, then met with seven former and current general managers last fall to determine what should be included on the test.

“It was fascinating. It was so different than what I expected,” Mehri said. “Every single one of them had a very distinct philosophy and it was like seven roads to the same (goal).”

Accorsi, who consulted on the Panthers’ recent general manager search, said the Wonderlic was in use when he started working in the NFL in 1970.

“The Wonderlic hasn’t changed. There’s been variations of it, but it’s essentially the same,” Accorsi said. “I think it’s served us well. It’s part of the puzzle, but it’s been a valuable tool for us.”

Accorsi said Denver’s John Elway was among the GMs who signed off on the PAT as a 1-year pilot program.

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