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Published: Friday, 4/22/2005

NFL smarts measured in wins and losses

Utah quarterback Alex Smith scored a 40 out of 50 on the Wunderlic intelligence test. That's near-genius territory.

Smith graduated in two years with a degree in economics. While some juniors are still trying to decide on a major, Smith was already working on his master's.

Smith - arguably the smartest player in this year's NFL draft - could be the first player selected tomorrow.

The product of an offensive system first developed under coach Urban Meyer at Bowling Green, Smith's rise from obscurity to a soon-to-be millionaire has been astonishing.

Right now, however, his intelligence probably outweighs his football ability. As a quarterback, he's still a work in progress.

If Smith were studying to become an economist, he'd be a sure-fire

No. 1 draft pick. His brain power would guarantee success.

However, there's book smart, and then there's football smart (common sense). Most elite athletes are blessed with both qualities.

Smith is smarter than the average football player, but having a high I.Q. won't tell scouts if he'll man-up or shrink in the face of a fierce pass rush.

Smith's ability to become a productive NFL quarterback will determine his football intellect.

While football isn't rocket science, you can't be brain-dead and expect to play the game at the highest level.

Why settle for Jethro Bodine when Jed Clampett is available?

The ability to read, absorb, comprehend and communicate is critical.

Still, just because a football player may be lacking intellectually, doesn't mean he can't cut it on the field.

If a player can run a 4.4 40, bench press 225 pounds 10-15 times, welcomes physical contact and possesses the steely nerves of a matador, there's a place for him in the NFL.

In those cases, the best thing you can do is give that player the ball and point him toward the end zone.

Football is a performance-driven sport. Intelligence is respected, but performance is worshiped.

Take Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts. Manning set an NFL record with 49 touchdown passes last season.

Manning calls the game like a coach. He's super smart - knows the ins and outs of

every play. He's regarded as a great quarterback by his peers.

That said, Manning's no Tom Brady.

Manning was the No. 1 pick in the 1998 draft. Brady was the 199th pick in the 2000 draft.

While Manning strives to make the intelligent call, the perfect throw, on every play, Brady allows the game to come to him.

Manning works with his teammates. Brady bonds with his.

Brady head-butts his teammates before games. He's respected for being "one of the guys,'' a superstar who closes down the weight room and doesn't place himself above the team.

Plus, Brady wins. He's won three Super Bowls in four years, twice outplaying Manning in the postseason.

Boasting a sky-high Wunderlic score should make Smith a high pick in tomorrow's draft. But it doesn't guarantee automatic success. In the NFL, winning, not intelligence, determines greatness.



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