Kathy Kolbe is very proud of her father's accomplishments in developing cognitive testing in the 1930s and 40s. Eldon Wonderlic, who developed the Wonderlic test given to every football player attending the annual NFL Scouting Combine, has had his cognitive test used for far longer than other tests developed around that time.
But Kolbe says that's the problem with the test itself: Time and the cognitive testing field have made huge strides in the meantime. The Wonderlic, as a result, has become outdated, surpassed by much better cognitive testing tools. Innovative as it was for its time, it shouldn't be used today.
The NFL, though, continues to stick by the test it has deployed since the 1970s, even as evidence mounts that there's no correlation between high scores and on-field success. As Kolbe explains to CBS Sports, she developed her own test -- the Kolbe Index -- as an update to past cognitive testing tools used, and to better identify potential strengths in prospective employees -- in the NFL's case, football players.
Kolbe said that the biggest problem with her father's test is that there are inherent socioeconomic biases -- the test essentially measures how well you have been educated, not your intelligence or potential. That, and other factors, are why it has produced uneven results among NFL players.
Her own test, meanwhile, measures instinct and impulse -- two traits football players rely on. The question format is not right-or-wrong, and it minimizes biases of gender, age and race. She brought the test to the NFL hoping they would replace her father's Wonderlic with the updated Kolbe Index.
The response was not what she had hoped for.
"They told me they'd love for me to be a speaker at their Wives' Association meeting," Kolbe tells CBS Sports. "One of the most sexist things I've ever been told."
Instead, the Wonderlic continues to pass judgment without any pretense of accuracy. Dan Marino and Terry Bradshaw both scored terribly on the Wonderlic with reported scores of 15. Both are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame now. Marino ended his career as the all-time NFL passing yards leader. Bradshaw has four Super Bowl rings.
Meanwhile, as CBS Sports points out, players earning the 10 best Wonderlic scores ever -- among scores reported to the public, anyway -- have compiled a whopping one Pro Bowl appearance in all of their careers.
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert recorded one of the 10-best known scores ever. He was drafted by the Jaguars and flamed out terribly.
The Kolbe Index might have been a better predictor of success in all of those cases. But the NFL didn't want to know.
"My dad and my brother, because they're men, their business can be used with the players, but mine, which is more appropriate and useful, could only be used with the wives," Kolbe says. "They were really interested, but I was a woman."
Kolbe's tool hasn't been abandoned entirely -- sports organizations are embracing it, with the NBA's Phoenix Suns among those adopters. The test's ability to bring personality into the equation seems like it could help mitigate some of the chemistry problems and off-field disruptions that certain players seem more likely to cause, helping teams use past behavior and current dispositions to better predict the risk of future problems.
So far, though, the NFL has kept the door closed. But just because they continue to use the Wonderlic doesn't mean the results will get any more reliable.