Football is a warriors’ game. Fans love to watch because every game has one winner and one loser, there is no in-between.
Few have embodied that singularity more thoroughly than Joe Gibbs, the legendary coach of Washington Redskins. Gibbs was so passionate about winning that he famously slept in his office during football season, such was his dedication to game preparedness.
His multiple Super Bowl wins and lifetime game-winning average of 0.683 earned him a slot in pro football’s hall of fame and the allegiance of Redskins fans everywhere. Charley Casserly, noted NFL analyst for CBS and former general manager of the Redskins under Gibbs, calls him “arguably the greatest coach in the history of the league.”
Among the many facets to building a successful team is identifying up-and-coming talent and Gibbs’ scouts, like those of other NFL Teams, scoured the country’s football fields in search of the next best thing. But Gibbs was frustrated with the limitations of the traditional aptitude tests that were widely used, including the SATs, to measure the abilities of prospective players, which relies on reading and writing, skills that are of little or no use on the field in a game that is won or lost based on split-second decisions.
In 1984, Gibbs worked with vision specialist Harry Wachs and Ron Berger, optometrist from George Washington University to develop a new test that would be customized to the unique aptitude required for success in football. To design the test, Gibbs offered Wachs and Berger four of his best players, those he believed instinctively knew how to make the most of every football play, as baseline examples of the capabilities the test should identify.
The Wachs-Berger test they created assessed sight, coordination, motivation, and a player’s ability to keep cool under stress.
The Redskins recruiting benefited from the Wachs-Berger test because it measured a player’s ability to think during a battle whereas the traditional tests just measured the player’s ability to think only. Using the test, they won two Super Bowls in 1988 and 1992 under Coach Gibbs.
Gibbs was focused on one thing: winning football games. Gibbs didn’t need to know if a player was smart in general way. He embraced the Wachs-Berger tests because he believed it could assess whether or not a prospect was truly a football smart warrior.