Minneapolis Star Tribune – Apr 23, 2006 – Mark Craig – Are NFL teams doing all they can to develop accurate pyschological profiles on prospective draft picks? Not really, says sports psychologist Dr. John F. Murray.
Dr. John F. Murray, a sport performance and clinical psychologist who has consulted many professional sports teams and players, said he believes the NFL can do a better job developing psychological profiles on prospective draft picks.
“The NFL is extremely organized and thorough with the best coaches and trainers,” said Murray, who is based in Palm Beach, Fla. “The last frontier for [the NFL] is to develop the mental part of a person’s profile with sports psychologists as part of the team. You have to be able to assess to improve. Coaches are great in dealing with players, but they are not sports psychologists.”
NFL teams rely on psychological testing to varying degrees when evaluating draft prospects. Some just don’t believe in them. Others swear by them. Colts President Bill Polian credits the Missouri-based Troutwine & Associates psychological consulting firm for helping the Colts pick Peyton Manning instead of Ryan Leaf with the No. 1 pick in the 1998 draft. Manning is a potential Hall of Famer while Leaf, the No. 2 pick in 1998, is one of the biggest busts in the history of the draft.
Troutwine & Associates has developed psychological profiles for about 20 teams over the past 20 years. Most teams share the services of psychological consulting firms.
“Psychological testing is no different than the 40-yard dash; it’s a piece of the puzzle,” said Falcons General Manager Rich McKay, whose team is in a group of 14 that share the same consulting firm. “It’s not a base corp element. All you’re trying to do is make sure there isn’t an issue there.”
Some psychological tests include off-the-wall questions designed to elicit answers that might only be interpreted accurately by a trained psychologist.
“You’re assessing a person’s mental makeup,” Murray said. “There may be a question that you know as a psychologist that winners will answer a certain way 90 percent of the time. You’re looking for habits, how people deal with adversity, confidence level, are they a team player or will they be a cancer? Their intensity level.”
The New York Giants administer psychological testing. But Ernie Accorsi, their senior vice president and general manager, said he doesn’t put any value in the off-the-wall questions.
“I know psychologists love those questions, but I’m more worried about whether a guy can go out on the edge and get to the passer,” Accorsi said. “I remember when I was given a psychological test for one job. It said ‘Would you ever kill an animal?’ Well, a rattlesnake ready to bite my son, yeah. But I wouldn’t touch a puppy. So what does that mean?”
Murray and Accorsi do agree that a player’s past is more important than how he answers a question.
“I’m just a believer that the past indicates future,” Accorsi said. “People revert for the most part.”
Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.