The Wildcat: Just a new/old formation

The Washington Post asked me to participate in their NFL blog “The League” for the 2009 season. Below is a recent post I wrote for the site about whether or not the Wildcat is here to stay.

In a day and age of video games and fantasy football, it’s no wonder that a single formation can start a new craze.

The Wildcat is just a variation on the single-wing formation, yet based on the buzz it has received since last season, one would think that it’s the eighth wonder of the world. (The formation is actually one of the things featured in the new version of Madden.)

The idea behind the Wildcat is to play 11 on 11 football instead of 10 on 11, which occurs when the quarterback hands the ball off to his running back and then stands idle behind the play. It’s just one small advantage for the offense, which is why it has been effective at every level.

But this idea that the Wildcat is going to revolutionize the way NFL coordinators implement their offensive game plans is absurd. Most teams (including the Dolphins) use the formation in less than nine percent of their snaps on game day, which is a telltale sign that teams aren’t going to suddenly ditch the use of a drop back passer to line their running back up at quarterback on the majority of their plays.

Those that say the Wildcat is a gimmick or that it doesn’t have a place in the NFL haven’t been paying attention. It forces defenses to spend time throughout the week in practice specifically game planning against it and also adds the element of surprise on game day.

That said, football isn’t about one player, one coach or one formation. The Wildcat can be an effective tool, but there’s a reason why teams only use it sparingly: It’s just one formation in a NFL playbook.

To read the entire article, click here.

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Are the Dolphins bringing the spread offense to the NFL?

According to a report by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Dolphins are trying to revolutionize pro football by bringing the spread offense to the NFL, most notably by using Pat White, whom the team drafted in the second round of last weekend’s draft.

“For the 30 minutes it takes to put in a Wildcat play it takes a defense a day to figure it out and work on how to stop it,” former Miami Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson told WQAM radio last week.

White’s ability to not just scramble, but throw the ball with range and accuracy, will allow offensive coordinator Dan Henning and quarterback coach David Lee to add even more elements to the Wildcat offense. Lee brought the gimmicky formation with him from Arkansas.

Upon White’s selection by the Dolphins, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden predicted the spread offense was “officially in the National Football League,” and described White as “a Wildcat that can throw the football. He’s an electric guy.”

There’s a very simple explanation as to why more pro teams don’t use the spread offense like college teams do, and that’s because defenses are too fast in the NFL. Many teams had success using the “Wildcat” formation last year (especially the Dolphins), but don’t think for a minute that defensive coordinators haven’t been working on ways to shut it down.

When Michael Vick first came into the league, many people thought he would revolutionize the quarterback position forever. And while he did have a lot of success in certain offenses (i.e. Greg Knapp’s triple-spread option), defensive coordinators like Monte Kiffin found ways to stop him. Defenses eventually catch up.

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