Some call the 2008 Miami Dolphins season “magical”. Others say that season was born on the shoulders of Chad Pennington. I call it “mystical” garbage. In 2008 the NFL saw for the first time, a package that would define a season and destroy a franchises hope at a much needed turnaround. Instead, the Miami Dolphins leaned heavily on the “Wild Cat” into the 2009 and 2010 seasons eventually sending the franchise back to square one.
From 2008 to 2012. Joe Philbin stands on the sideline for the Dolphins replacing Tony Sparano who despite ridding himself of the Dan Henning “Wild Cat” infatuation was unable to turn it around in his final season that saw no WC package. Philbin is installing a new “WC” package. The West Coast offense. In Dolphins fans minds the old Wild Cat still burns. It conjures memories of Ronnie Brown running wild against New England but it also screams wasted draft picks on the likes of Pat White and the failure of Chad Henne to find any rhythm at all.
In Miami, the Wild Cat is dead. That is not however the case around the NFL.
Teams across the NFL have tried to mimic the success the Dolphins had with the formation in 2008. This year, two more teams are going to try and see if they can find similar positive gains with it. In New York, the Jets are installing a “Tebow Wild Cat” package. It’s highly likely that they will use against the Dolphins who found success using it against them.
Tim Tebow is a good candidate to run the formation but to be honest, his passing ability is only slightly better than that of Ronnie Brown. Tebow’s ability to make plays and run the ball will most assuredly allow the Jets to run the formation with more than just simple draws that most NFL teams found a way to stop. Tebow will give the Jets a semi-legit QB to run the formation but the question is do they keep Mark Sanchez in the game or simply put Tebow in his place?
The Jets are also planning to use Tebow extensively in the “Red-Zone” this season and putting two and two together it’s very likely that the Jets version of the WC will indeed surface inside the 20. The question really is going to be can Tebow keep defenses honest with his arm. The success of the WC will now rely on Tebow’s ability to throw the ball out of that formation with success. If he fails to do that, teams will not pay more attention to the passing attack. Still, it has to be noted that the Jets will likely find early success using the Tebow Wild Cat but the question will be can they maintain that all season long after teams realize how to stop Tim Tebow?
The Wild Cat isn’t relegated to the New York Jets. Rumors surfaced at the start of training camps that the Dallas Cowboys were considering a variation of the formation to run as well. DeMarco Murray would be the likely star in the Ronnie Brown role if in fact the “Boyz” decided to use during games. Further out west, the San Diego Chargers are also implementing a 2012 version of the Wild Cat. The featured back is a well known name in Miami circles.
Ronnie Brown was signed by the Chargers this off-season and is being featured in the Chargers version of the WC. Earlier this week, Charger QB Phillip Rivers said it was fun to line up outside as a WR and that the formation will add an element to an offense. An offense that many see as having a lack of firepower. Something that seems to be a staple when the formation surfaces.
The Chargers lost starting WR Vincent Jackson to free agency and will now rely on former Saint WR Robert Meacham and seven year veteran Malcom Floyd to catch passes from Rivers. Antonio Gates is also no longer the wrecking force he was a short three years ago, wearing down and injury prone of late. It’s only natural that a team that will rely on the legs of Ryan Mathews, a somewhat disappointment last season, is turning to a gimmick to ignite some excitement into an offense.
The Jets are the likely winners in this year installment of the Wild Cat. They have an offensive coordinator in Tony Sparano who knows first hand how and when to use it and a QB/TE/WR type who can pass the ball albeit somewhat inconsistently but is a play-maker with his legs. It seems however that time does in fact erase the memory. Two years removed from the Miami Dolphins offense, the WC is once again being reborn or at the very least being re-imagined.
The success that it will find will almost assuredly be as short lived as in Miami.