- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 1, 2006

The quality of a person’s gray matter is an indeterminate element, as Texas quarterback Vince Young could attest after being waylaid by the challenges of the Wonderlic test employed by the NFL.

Young was smart enough to lead the Longhorns to the national championship but human enough to leave the NFL personnel gurus aghast by the prospect of a quarterback who could not spell cat if you spotted him the first two letters, as it was once said of Terry Bradshaw.

Intelligence in a sports venue is distinct from intelligence in a classroom.

The best athletes cannot practice or even imagine what they might improvise in the jaws of the opposition.

Michael Jordan moved the ball from his right hand to his left at the rim before completing the endlessly shown maneuver in the NBA Finals in 1991. This jaw-dropping moment would not be found in any sensible book touting the fundamentals of the game and certainly would not be revealed in one of the questions on the Wonderlic test.

There are a lot of correct ways to play a game, as history is forever revealing.

Athletes, by the nature of their pursuit, communicate best with their bodies, and the best of the best are often able to make something out of nothing. That sometimes means the best have the capacity to slip through a small opening that would constitute a bad decision if the less gifted attempted the same move.

The mental acuity of a quarterback is no small matter to an NFL team looking to enhance its quality of life. But that is almost impossible to measure on paper.

Brett Favre has fashioned a Hall of Fame career out of a staggering number of seemingly bad decisions, only he had the arm strength to go mostly unpunished until last season. He could throw into double coverage because of the velocity of his passes, although the game’s conventional wisdom rightly considers that to be a big no-no.

The question of Young’s brain-cell count — the subject of round-the-clock discussion at the moment — has a dubious quality to it. The hyperventilating nervous Nellies of the 24/7 media din reduce routine hiccups to parody form, in this case Young being sent to the corner of the room to wear a dunce cap.

Even Young’s erroneously reported score of six on the 50-question, 12-minute test has been upgraded to 16, which is said to be a passing mark in the manner of a D-plus.

By comparison, a 16 is all Dan Marino could manage in 1983, and you could say his career turned out a shade better than all right.

Being able to process gobs of information while on the run is essential to a quarterback. In that context, when last viewed by a national television audience, Young passed the test with stunning conviction, as Texas defeated USC in the Rose Bowl.

Intelligence comes with innumerable definitions, depending on what society values in the ever-malleable marketplace.

The book-minded with multiple graduate degrees are inevitably perturbed by the high cost of employing a jeans-wearing contractor who knows how to use a spirit level. Those are possibly two intelligent sorts engaged in antithetical endeavors.

The so-called blue state/red state divide is rooted in part in the so-called intellectual enlightenment of those who live in urban areas. The irony is lost on the blue hued on a number of levels. Being smug and arrogant is never smart, as Marcus Vick learned anew in his various interviews at the NFL combine.

Quality quarterbacks come in all shapes and sizes, regardless of the NFL’s understandable obsession with the 6-foot-4, strong-armed prototype.

Doug Flutie met few of the NFL’s requisite criteria, which he eventually mocked after completing his exile stint in Canada.

The rise or fall of quarterbacks in the NFL is a many variable thing, interminably vexing, and fraught with exceptions.

Young’s NFL trajectory, up or down, is likely to be shaped by a zillion factors, a modest test score the least of it.

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