Can Marketing Statistics Improve Your NFL Team?

Crosstabs is a popular statistical analysis in marketing research because it helps us see relationships between variables. It is a great way to see patterns in data that can lead to actionable marketing insights.

Since 1960 the NFL has rated its passers against a fixed performance standard called a passer rating. It is based on percentage of completions per attempt, average yards gained per attempt, percentage of touchdown passes per attempt and percentage of interceptions per attempt. The bottom is .000, the average is 1.000 and the maximum in any category is 2.375. The point rating is often converted into a scale of 100. In rare cases, it is possible for a passer to surpass a 100 rating – Steve Young’s 1994 season earned him a rating of 112.8. How do you ensure your home team gets a quarterback with a high passer rating?

Drafting and investing in a NFL Quarterback is big decision and long term investment for a team. That is why team owners, coaches and recruiters try to collect as much information as they can. Since 1968 the NFL has used the Wonderlic test (an IQ test) to measure the intelligence of would-be draftees. The Wonderlic test is scored from 0-50 points, and consists of fifty mathematic, language, and spatial problem questions asked in twelve minutes. A score of 24 is seen as average.

The Wonderlic test was in the news this last spring when Heisman Trophy winner and two time national championship winner Tim Tebow was reported as having a below average score of 22. The former Florida quarterback wowed evaluators on the field at the combine, but was seen as poor in his problem-solving abilities. Other quarterback prospects Sam Bradford of Oklahoma (36), Colt McCoy of Texas (25) and Jimmy Clausen of Notre Dame (23) all scored higher than Tebow. Is this a real test of Tebow’s potential? According to reports, he graduated with a 3.66 GPA majoring in family, youth and community services.

Does the Wonderlic test accurately predict quarterback performance? That is the question I would like answered with a crosstab analysis. To do this you would gather Wonderlic Test scores and career average NFL quarterback ratings for the last 40 years and see if there’s a positive linear relationship between a quarter back’s Wonderilc Test and their actually performance on the field over the course of their career. What NFL teams could learn from this is whether or not they are using an accurate gauge to make this important decision.

The reason this is important is because there have been document cases of run-of-the-mill NFL quarterbacks with high Wonderlic numbers such as Alex Smith (40) and Matt Leinart (35). While Pro Football Hall of Famers Dan Marino and Jim Kelly (both 15) and an established star like Donovan McNabb (14) have excelled on the field despite low Wonderlic numbers. Could this marketing research technique help improve our team?