Or, life in an extremely complex offense.
In a move that even most Texans fans don’t care about (or know about), the team has released WR Andy Jones. A second-year pro out of Jacksonville U., he’s played one regular-season snap in his career (no catches).
This post is not about Andy Jones. I’m sure he’s a nice guy and I wish him all the best, both in his NFL career and after. This post is about playing wideout in what is evidently the most demanding offensive scheme in the league.
Let’s talk about learning speed. As most football fans know, potential draftees take the Wonderlic Test at the scouting combine. It’s a “quick IQ test” that dates back to 1936; the Navy used it as part of their pilot trainee selection process in World War II. The modern version’s actual questions are a trade secret, of course, but “the types of questions that have appeared in the oldest versions of the Wonderlic test include: analogies, analysis of geometric figures, arithmetic, direction following, disarranged sentences, judgment, logic, proverb matching, similarities, and word definitions.” You can take unofficial practice versions of it here and here.
But don’t bother, because the Wonderlic is pretty much worthless as a predictor of NFL success. Whatever it does measure, it’s not NFL-specific learning speed, which, after physical talent, seems to be the #1 requirement for success. Consider that in the best case scenario, a team’s players have a few weeks to learn this year’s basic playbook (the “installation” phase of the preseason that starts with Organized Team Activities (OTAs) in late spring). Specific playbooks, of course, change from game to game, meaning that even a guy who knows the basics will have to learn a lot of new material in a week (or, for those @#$@# Thursday night games, three days). And those are just the whiteboard plays — each player is expected to do many hours of film study on all his possible matchups. I’m pretty sure Arnav Sharma would ace the Wonderlic, but even he’d have a tough time learning that much, that fast.
Again, that’s the best-case scenario. What chance did poor Andy Jones have? He got signed, handed a playbook, and trotted out onto the field, all within a week. And when you throw in Bill O’Brien’s legendarily complex offense….
Wide receivers shouldn’t have to be MENSA members to play this game. If you need some kind of certified supergenius to run your scheme — and the best you’ve done, statistically, is Ryan Fitzpatrick (Wonderlic score: 49) — then the scheme’s the problem. Dumb it down, Bill.