February 28, 2011

The ideal NFL IQ

From a 1998 Sports Illustrated article about veteran NFL coach Bill Parcells:
Another thing about a Parcells player: He can't be too dumb or too smart. Dumb players make dumb plays, and Parcells has no tolerance for those. But smart players question his motivational gimmicks and techniques, and Parcells doesn't brook too much questioning. "Bill treats players as if they've got an IQ of about 95," says one observer who has watched Parcells up close but who doesn't want to be identified in any other way. "You can't have a 70 IQ, and you can't have a 120. Of course, there are smart guys who figure it out and go the blue-collar, don't-question-me route, like [QB Phil] Simms." [QB Jeff] Hostetler, who is known as a smart guy, says, "I'd say that's an accurate perception."
 

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

We should have a Steve Sailer fan meet up sometime. Who would be down?

Armchair commentator said...

Seems about right. You'd want a leader to typically be 1.5-2SD higher than his team which should fall within a 1SD band itself.

Unusual characters with better social skills and mainstream public mask could get by with 3SD or slightly more if they know how to hide the intelligence, put it in perspective and hide it behind a lower IQ persona (eg Bill Clinton and GW Bush)

All just rules of thumb.

airtommy said...

On the other hand, Parcells turned out not to be the quite as great a coach as we all thought. Once Bill Belichik left, Parcells had very little playoff success while has Belichick famously thrived. Belichick was the secret brains of the operation.

Anonymous said...

Steve,

Any idea what Boomer Esiason's IQ might be? He is a confident guy, doesn't suffer fools , and doesn't seem one to have wanted a coach to be rah-rah.

Anonymous said...

Probably smarter players have longer careers and end up with enough brains left in their helmet to sensibly invest their football earnings and comfortably retire.

Wouldn't it be fun to give football players the Wonderlic test both at the beginning and the end of their careers.

Armchair commentator said...

My previous comment is for not particularly high-IQ demanding jobs (like most jobs).

For places like heart of Silicon Valley and Wall Street, the higher the IQ the better (as long as it doesn't deform their personality too much).

OneSTDV said...

But smart players question his motivational gimmicks and techniques

Yes and if they're real smart, they'll start questioning the existential/zero-sum nature of sports competition itself - and that's not very good.

Anonymous said...

I'll be Staubach is pretty smart.

He attended Annapolis back when it had a strictly no-nonsense engineering curriculum, and apparently he's been wildly successful in the business world since he retired from the Cowboys.

Whiskey said...

I'll see your Parcells (a total failure, really, at the Cowboys) and raise you a Bill Walsh.

Walsh wanted guys who were SMART. Guys who could in his words, know the value of executing perfectly. HIS QB was the cerebral Joe Montana. A man of limited physical skills, who could not throw the uber-long bomb, but could see the field, call an audible, and change that audible on the fly to a play he knew would work. Walsh won three Superbowls (and his coaches/players a fourth) to Parcells two.

As noted, the preference for "smart" players by Belichik has produced winning results: three Superbowl wins. Sean Payton's turn-around job in New Orleans ("smart" players like Brees vs. physical gifts), would tend to reinforce the notion that smart players can give you an edge, particularly at certain positions.

Unless a defense carries a team, the whole year, a "smart" QB tends to be the winner. Eli Manning seeing the open receivers in coverage during the winning drive against the Pats in the Superbowl stands to mind. A smart player knows that "perfect practice" makes perfect, witness Peyton Manning's habit of endlessly drilling with favored receivers to make certain patterns automatic. A smart defensive captain can also realize the offense is changing, and select the coverage on the fly. A smart player who can recognize patterns on the other side of the ball can sometimes be the difference between a winning play or a losing one.

Parcells wanted total control. Something generally not possible on the football field (too many variables). Smarter players within a system allow for scrimmage side recognition and adjustments on the fly. Something an average player won't give you.

Whiskey said...

Let me add, part of Mangini's failure in Cleveland was that he had mostly dumb to average players. This was also a problem on the Jets (and remains to this day). Mangini comes out of the Belichik system, requiring smart guys like Teddy Bruski or Tom Brady making adjustments on the fly. To things already practiced and set by the coaching staff, to be sure, but Belichik generally trusts his players to react on the line of scrimmage when they see something.

If a guy doesn't spend hours in the film room along with the weight room, and practice field, and cannot see things in film (tendencies, shows/gives/tells) then that system breaks down. A lot of coaches seem to prefer a more sure-fire way of winning -- assembling superior physical specimens who are faster, stronger, because its easier to quantify (40 times for example) and thus explain away losses: our key CB got hurt, we had the second string guy who was a tenth of a second slower, he got beat.

Anonymous said...

"I'll be Staubach is pretty smart" = "I'll bet Staubach is pretty smart".

Anonymous said...

Whiskey,

I noticed you put "smart" in scare quotes--hopefully for the right reason.

Joe Montana had something(s), whatever it/they were, that made him a great NFL qb, but I can assure you that "smarts" as we usually use that word, is a poor choice for the quality he had.

I am not suggesting Joe is dumb, but he is not "smart" either.

I think you can play a game long enough that, if you have certain emotional/mental characteristics and good/great coaching (Walsh), and good-to-great players around you, you can be great in the NFL and "smart," as we normally think of such a quality, is not one of them.
If we could actually identify what those characteristics are, we'd be great scouts.

Joe had one trait that many qbs don't have--an aversion to panicking.

Anonymous said...

"We should have a Steve Sailer fan meet up sometime. Who would be down?"

Oooh, great idea. Let's start a Facebook page for Sailer fans. Then we can all be harassed and unemployed for the rest of our lives.

Kylie said...

"We should have a Steve Sailer fan meet up sometime. Who would be down?"

Not even my closest friend whom I've known and trusted for 40 years knows I post here.

On the other hand, Steve Sailer not only knows my email address but my real name and address.

Whatever that signifies.

JW Ogden said...

I am surprised that you have not posted about Kevin Love. He is a 6'10" USA born and raised white guy leading the NBA in rebounds while scoring over 20 points a game. He is probably the best white basketball player in the world today. IMO he does it by always struggling and striving for position. His father played in teh NBA also.

Truth said...

"I am not suggesting Joe is dumb, but he is not "smart" either."

There is a constant goal on this site to conflate verbal facillity with intelligence. It is only a factor in intelligence. Ask a mechanical engineer to speak to you about what he does someday, chances are, he won't come off like Joel Osteen. I have to struggle through it at work all of the time.

Joe Montana used to talk like he had a thick fog between his mouth and his brain, but you cannot learn to read NFL defenses without being above average intelligence.

Truth said...

"Not even my closest friend whom I've known and trusted for 40 years knows I post here."

Ha ha, my two best friends and my girlfriend know...and my intern at work. They think I'm crazy.

Anonymous said...

I am interested in the fact that pro golfers seem such a dumb bunch. I'm not suggesting they are NBA-stupid, but in relative terms. My weekend partners and I like to think we are too intelligent to ever 'play real good', as they say. Smart people seem prone to nerves, overthinking and what we call 'choking'.
Gilbert Pinfold.

Steve Sailer said...

Current PGA stars give excruciatingly boring interviews. Old PGA stars give great interviews.

Mac O'Grady won a couple of times on Tour in the 1980s, but gave the most fascinating interviews about his fears and dreams on the course. Despite his superb ball-strking ability, he was considered way too artistic and high strung to be a success on Tour.

Anonymous said...

"I am interested in the fact that pro golfers seem such a dumb bunch."

In the old days, when Lee Trevino gave an interview which revealed a dark side, one that contrasted mightily with the image of the Merry Mex, only readers of Golf Digest and Golf would have learned of it.

Today, clips/quotes from the interview would hit the homepages of millions in a second. An image could be destroyed in an instant.

Today's golfers have even more to lose: they know one slip of the tongue or one unscrupulous writer can see to it he never gets an endorsement.

Thus, you get dull.

Anonymous said...

Truth, you said,

"Joe Montana used to talk like he had a thick fog between his mouth and his brain, but you cannot learn to read NFL defenses without being above average intelligence"

in response to my saying,

"I am not suggesting Joe is dumb, but he is not smart either."

Umm, we're pretty close to agreeing, I'd say. Joe is average in "g". Trust me. Can say no more.

Anonymous said...

I crunched the numbers for the NFL'
s starting quarterbacks and here are the stats (based on Wonderlic scores):

Mean Quarterback IQ: 116.5
Median Quarterback IQ: 116

Mean White QB IQ: 119.5
Median White QB IQ: 117

Mean Black QB IQ: 88.6
Median Black QB IQ: 88

If we take the medians, whites exceed blacks by 28 IQ points. Almost 2 standard deviations. For means, it's about the same.

That's about twice the white-black gap of 14 IQ points (Charles Murray). I think the test has to be coachable and whites must be studying more, on top of having an advantage on g. Or perhaps learning the Wonderlic material isn't so hard if you have a mean IQ above a certain threshold, which whites exceed much more often than blacks. I sincerely doubt there could be a 2 SD gap between white and blacks QBs. No way.

Anonymous said...

I think any really cerebal person would probably realize that, statisically speaking, sports are not a good bet. Even for the most talented athletes, there's a very low chance of being drafted. There is, unfortunately, a high chance of sustaining life long injuries that seriously screw with you for the rest of your life.

I know a lot of talented guys that played HS or college ball and will spend the rest of their lives hobbled by horrible injuries. They also, if stats are to be believed, will have a much shortened life expectancy. You don't see those guys on Sport Center or in the Draft.

I love football. Don't get me wrong, but I would never encourage a kid to take up the sport. Too damn brutal.

The average NFL career is something like 4 years. What kind of occupation kicks you out when you hit 27? A slaughter house.

I personally have done quite a bit of amateur sports and training, and even that has a lot of wear and tear on my body. I don't think human beings were designed for the rigor of professional sports.

Christopher Paul said...

I wonder what accounts for Ms. Portman's depressingly impressive (?) show of intelligence.

10,000 hours of practice, no doubt.

Anonymous said...

Truth said,

"Joe Montana used to talk like he had a thick fog between his mouth and his brain, but you cannot learn to read NFL defenses without being above average intelligence."

Truth, I said I wasn't suggesting Joe was dumb, but that he wasn't smart and I stick to that. Translated=average.

It seems you are sure that an NFL Qb mwhowho reads defenses is 110+.

I give you Terry Bradshaw. And yes, he did learn to read defenses and no, I don't believe he is above average in IQ. Marino isn't better than average either. Scads of them fall into the average category, which is no sin.

Anonymous said...

Truth, I put up the second response to your JM comment because I didn't think the first went through.

Anonymous said...

“I am surprised that you have not posted about Kevin Love. He is a 6'10" USA born and raised white guy leading the NBA in rebounds while scoring over 20 points a game.”

You mean the 6’7.75” USA born and raised white guy? ( http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/kevin-love-1062/links/ ) Steve posted about him recently here: http://isteve.blogspot.com/2010/11/love.html

“That's about twice the white-black gap of 14 IQ points (Charles Murray).”

You mean the 1.1 S.D. (16.5 point) white-black gap?

“I think the test has to be coachable and whites must be studying more, on top of having an advantage on g. Or perhaps learning the Wonderlic material isn't so hard if you have a mean IQ above a certain threshold, which whites exceed much more often than blacks. I sincerely doubt there could be a 2 SD gap between white and blacks QBs. No way.”

Do black QBs have a 2 SD athleticism gap in their favor? There is more than one way to have success (at least to a certain point) as an NFL QB. You can be a running QB and win with your legs or a precision passer that picks apart defenses with your mind and hand-eye coordination. Some (e.g., Steve Young, Aaron Rogers) can do both. Perhaps most white QBs reach the NFL based on a different skill set than most black QBs do?

Truth said...

"I give you Terry Bradshaw. And yes, he did learn to read defenses and no, I don't believe he is above average in IQ."

The game was much, much simpler when Bradshaw played, defenses played base and rarely blitzed, almost all players played 3 downs, there were no specialists, and the playbooks were the size of magazines.

With that said, Bradshaw has managed to remain relevant in the public eye for 30 years after his career has ended. That has to say something about his intellect.

Marino, I think people underestimate him because of his goofy Pittsburgh accent.

Anonymous said...

No, blacks do not have a 2 SD advantage in athleticism. That'd imply that the average black was more athletic than almost 98 percent of whites. Sounds too high to me.

Besides, you can only run the ball so much. Blacks have to have some similarites to the white Quarterbacking style to succeed. People like Michael Vick or McNabb run a lot, but they can throw decently too (McNabb not so much these days) and read a defense. If they're competing with a 2 SD disadvantage in IQ, they'll suck at everything except running on every down.

It strikes me as awfully unlikely that someone like Matt Leinart or Tony Romo could be all that smart anyway. Somebody would've noticed.

Anonymous said...

"No, blacks do not have a 2 SD advantage in athleticism. That'd imply that the average black was more athletic than almost 98 percent of whites. Sounds too high to me."

Read more carefully. I didn't say "blacks", I said black QBs. I'm not talking about differences in the general population, but the possibility that QBs of the two different races tend to make the NFL by being selected for different criteria. If one group is making it on brains and the other on athleticism, these selected trait values will be more exceptional within their respective target groups. Hence the possibility that most blacks who make QB are there because they're super athletic and most whites because they're smart (and have a good arm).

"Besides, you can only run the ball so much. Blacks have to have some similarites to the white Quarterbacking style to succeed. People like Michael Vick or McNabb run a lot, but they can throw decently too (McNabb not so much these days) and read a defense. If they're competing with a 2 SD disadvantage in IQ, they'll suck at everything except running on every down."

Ever consider that being a running threat may open up the passing game and make it easier for the QB. (E.g., teams are afraid to blitz or overpursue out of fear of getting burned; pulling a man out of coverage to "spy" the QB opens up the passing game)?

Anonymous said...

Terry Bradshaw had a strong arm and Hall of Fame receivers, running backs and linemen.

He didn't need a measurable IQ.

Brutus

Bonus Gift said...

On average professional athletes probably are below average in g (world class athletes in general, especially in the purely physical realm). Most of the Wonderlic scores are leaked for a reason (e.g., to enhance someone's stock, or the reverse). Therefore, I wouldn't put much credence in the few scores that are leaked to calculate a representative median or average. And, yes, as one commenter pointed out, it is entirely possible that black QBs make it to the NFL, on average, via a significantly different skill set than white QBs (obviously less g and more pure linear running strength). Finally, yes, JM is average to below average in g, but was clearly a good QB. In short, it may be helpful to be high in g, but without certain physical traits and other mental traits it may be useless (also, the offensive scheme and opposing defensive schemes matter; e.g., under certain defensive schemes a low g might be very bad, but under another it might not be as important).

Anonymous said...

"The game was much, much simpler when Bradshaw played, defenses played base and rarely blitzed, almost all players played 3 downs, there were no specialists, and the playbooks were the size of magazines."

Hey, Truth, somehow I knew you were going to say that.

Sorry, but the game as Joe played it is hardly what it is today so your argument works more against you than for you.

Man-to- man was still used extensively by most teams much, if not most of the time druing Joe's days except on third and long, and the zone packages were hardly what they have evolved into today.


Walsh's offense was predicated on the quick hitting short passes to backs (and the niners had backs who could catch) and quick slants to Jerry Rice. The long ball (well, that term is relative when you speak about Walsh and his long-ball receiver, Taylor, and his so-so armed qb Montana) was a 25-30 yarder that often went for tds or long yardage because of the speed of the WR.)

Joe did not have to read defenses as he would have to today. No way. Walsh's quick-hitting, short passes frustrated the blitzes sent Montana's way, but the blitz packages that NFL qbs see today bear no relation to what we say back in the day. The combos of who comes and who stays put look nothing like yesteryear. (BTW, I still think Joe would have been good against those combos because of his feet and the short passing plans.)

All that being said, my point is that Joe was average in IQ; my point is not that he wouldn't have been a success in today's NFL.

He was a competitor, ticked off at himeself if he lost, something missing in many of the players today. With a really good coach, yes, he'd still be a qb I'd want on my team--and a really good coach would, like Walsh, use his strengths rather than forcing him into a system that required a big arm and the long ball.

You don't have to have a higher than average IQ to have Joe's competitive fire, his quick feet (dang, the number of times he picked up yardage just running outside the pocket and then down the sidelines for a first down) and the accuracy to hit short slants, backs, and your tight end.

His frail frame belied tremendous athletic ability, quickness being among the most important.

Anonymous said...

"With that said, Bradshaw has managed to remain relevant in the public eye for 30 years after his career has ended. That has to say something about his intellect."

No, it really doesn't.

A good agent, some coaching--still doesn't mean anyone who can achieve that is *above average* IQ.

Anonymous said...

"[Montana's] frail frame belied tremendous athletic ability, quickness being among the most important."

Agreed. I remember reading somewhere years ago that Montana was a 6'8" high-jumper in high school. He also received offers to play D-I basketball (point guard) from colleges. People often forget the athleticism aspect of his game.

Truth said...

"I really don't know how smart Bradshaw and Marino were. I would assume that they are smarter than average by what they did (very well) for a living.

There is a definite trend towards ridicule amongst middle class, overeducated whites towards four groups of white people:

1) Blonde females
2) East Coast Sicilians
2) Country bumpkins
4) Dem-Dees-Dose Steel town guys

Bradshaw, in my opinion, goes to great lengths to play up the "well-i'll-be-a-goose-fried-in-chicken-fat thing, because that's his career at this point. I think he's probably above average smart, but he comes from a small town in Louisiana in the 60's, what do you want him to talk like.

Jay Cutler on the other hand went to an excellent university, and is reputed to be a near genius, yet he can't figure out why the fans don't want to see him laughing and telling jokes on the sideline of a playoff game after an injury.

Anonymous said...

"Jay Cutler on the other hand went to an excellent university, and is reputed to be a near genius, yet he can't figure out why the fans don't want to see him laughing and telling jokes on the sideline of a playoff game after an injury."

Cutler:

1)He doesn't give a damn about being liked (many people don't)
or
2) He does care, but his character is such that he is prone to self-pity and he has impulse control problems


Lots of very smart people don't give a damn about others liking them.