Tags: Dolphins, NFL, Patriots, Ronnie Brown, Wildcat
I am sick and tired of hearing about the WILDCAT offense in the NFL. The idea of a direct snap offense has its roots in the beginnings of football when there was no forward pass. The quarterback as we know him today rarely handed the ball off, and instead merely ran right or left. Why people are flipping out because the Dolphins routed the Patriots once and still are talking about draft picks as possibly being able to run such an offense is beyond me. Today’s NFL requires passing. Very few running backs are great throwers, nor quarterbacks great runners. An example from the previous post, Michael Vick, is surely a formidable runner and athlete, but his ability to pass was unrefined. Players who relied on their legs more than their arms in college rarely succeed in the pro game. The collective speed is far greater than anything seen on a college field. The necessary accuracy for passing is also significantly higher.
Why does this mean the Wildcat doesn’t work? Bringing in a running back to take a snap for one play is intended to confuse a defense. It loses its efficacy as the defense becomes accustomed to seeing it and adjusts accordingly. This neccesitates the offense running a variety of plays out of the formation. This means that the running back will either be expected to pass downfield, or execute some kind of double pass with another player on the field. Multiple exchanges mean an increase in the likelihood of fumbles. For the way that most NFL coaches play the game as one of field position this is hardly the most desirable option for an offense. Trick plays will always have their place, but the options from a Wildcat are limited by the fact that it is still a conventional formation(in the sense that little changes in the alignment excepting for a different player taking the snap) and the element of surprise is predicated on a one-man play action.
Proper play-action execution is difficult even with hours and hours of practicing. The idea is to freeze defenses long enough to create an opportunity on a pass route that would be negated by superior speed, defensive alignment, or limitations of a quarterback. This is in addition to slowing the defensive line and buying the quarterback more time to complete a pass. Some NFL players are terrible at the fake. Awful. Now place someone in the backfield who more than likely averages less than one throw per NFL GAME, tell him to run the play-action by himself(convincingly) and then throw the ball downfield. The odds of a successful play given this litany of mitigating factors calls the principle into question.
Of course the counterpoint is that if the system is so flawed, why did it work against one of the greatest teams of the era? The New England Patriots are no longer collectively as fast as they once were. I will concede that they infuse new talent regularly, but the soul of defense was established veterans who, despite their savvy, are a step slower. This means that any play fake, no matter how anemic, is guaranteed to buy AT LEAST as much time as one against a team who reads the play correctly and reacts accordingly. Additionally, 5 plays from one offense NEVER win a football game. This is in much the same way that ONE play never does. There are, on average 60-70 plays per offense per game. This is not including special teams. On any one play touchdowns can be scored. Just because Ronnie Brown ran for a touchdown from the Wildcat doesn’t mean the task wasn’t also easily accomplished from another formation, much in the same way that one of his touchdown passes could have been thrown by someone else. The receiver could have dropped the ball, he could have missed the target, the defense could have made a play. The point is that in any one game it is IMPOSSIBLE to point to one thing being the difference. There is never just one thing. Winning a football game is not letting the little things add up to more points for the other team. It is NOT about one play or one formation. The Patriots, with one of the league’s most potent offenses, could have matched the scoring, the Dolphins could have fumbled before the endzone, etc. etc.
I could continue, but I feel as though it is berating the same point over and over again. You can disagree with me, but you’re wrong. The New England Patriots lost that game. The Wildcat did not win it, the Dolphins one it. Last time I checked the Wildcat was not a team. The Patriots would be excused for not being prepared on the first play, but everytime after that the play succeeded the credit was due not to the Wildcat, but to the Patriots defensive ineptitude. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.