Browns NFL combine question: “How many things can you do with a paper clip?”

Browns fans at Bengals Game Yesterday

Move over, Wonderlic, the Cleveland Browns are looking to replace you. While countless NFL prospects will soon fill out (if they haven’t already) the multiple choice exam full of brain-bending questions ranging from simple math to shapes and sentence structure, the Browns have decided to get all philosophical. In a piece which discussed the team’s quest for San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh, NFL.com’s Mike Silver drops some science on that of the Browns at this weekend’s NFL Combine.

It is a metal fastener, and a metaphor, and — in the eyes of one proud franchise searching for employees and answers at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine — a highly relevant and potentially revelatory topic of conversation.

I’m talking about the essential office supply known as the paper clip, and I’m doing so because it became a somewhat surprising prop in the 15-minute interview sessions conducted over the weekend at the Crowne Plaza hotel. At least two prospects, and likely a whole lot more, were shown the diminutive double-looped device during their meetings with officials from one team and were then asked, “How many different things can you think of that you can do with a paper clip?”

Presumably, “holding pieces of paper together” was considered a gimme. And I’m fairly certain that none of the potential draftees went with the reply I’d personally prefer … Here’s one: I can straighten it out and stick it right through my eardrums, so that I don’t have to hear another one of these brilliantly constructed, esoteric queries.

We’ve previously revealed some truly ridiculous questions at combines past, including one concerning Gerald McCoy’s preferred undergarments and another about whether Toby Gerhart felt “entitled” as a white running back. And we can now add the Paper Clip Puzzler to the list.

Rather than ponder the possible utility of such an exercise, I’d like to ask a question of my own: Which team’s brain trust do you suppose was responsible for this cunning gem?

Ladies and gentlemen, YOUR Cleveland Browns.

I know: It’s utterly shocking. The organization that took hot mess to a new level on the eve of Black Monday before running a scattered and sloppy coaching search and then deep-sixing the CEO and general manager who ran it is seemingly on an intellectual level that its 31 competitors can’t possibly comprehend.

Tragically, however, the wasting of interviewees’ time was not the Browns’ most memorable embarrassment of the past few days.

Silver pulls no punches, referring to the Browns as being “funnier than a certain trio of slapstick-loving short-film icons,” and made sure to reiterate that a lot of people around the league are laughing at them, not with them.

The creative thinking involved with the Browns and the NFL Combine reportedly didn’t stop with metaphorical and physical uses of paper clips, however, as ESPN.com Browns blogger Pat McManamon reports that Arkansas center Travis Swanson was asked what he could do with a brick. McManamon also points out that there have been studies done on both the brick and the paper clip, and rightfully admits that there are some positives, albeit quirky ones, to come out of asking players questions they are not anticipating.

How this translates to running, blocking, throwing or catching—well, that remains to be seen.

  • vespo09

    +1 for the Seattle/San Fran remark. Feedback loops are a pain when you’re in a negative one, and a blessing when you’re in a positive one.

  • Toddyus


  • humboldt

    “You have a paper clip and a ball bearing and must use both to subdue Richie Incognito in a locker room setting. Discuss 3 potential strategies”

  • Garry_Owen

    I like it!

  • mgbode

    deep groove or angular contact ball bearings?


    Show off.


    It looks like you’re trying to read a defense. Can I help?