The League

Anthony Stalter
National Blogger

Anthony Stalter

Senior Sports Editor for The Scores Report

Just a New/Old Formation

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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.

The Wildcat is used to catch a team off guard and to get the ball into the hands of a playmaker. Do teams run the flea flicker or the reverse every offensive series? How about a screen, draw or Hail Mary? There are over 20 formations that a team can use on game day - they're not going to rely on just one.

There are too many intelligent, defensive-minded coaches in the NFL for the Wildcat to work on more than a handful of plays throughout a game. Coaches like Bill Belichick are eventually going to catch up and limit the formation's effectiveness, just like former NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin used to limit what Michael Vick could do with his legs when Kiffin was in Tampa and Vick was in Atlanta.

At the end of the day, football is about three things: Playing good defense, having a balanced offensive attack and not turning the ball over. Teams that do those three things usually win.

The Wildcat certainly has its place in the NFL. Any time a team gets the opportunity to use the running skills of Ronnie Brown, DeAngelo Williams or Darren McFadden, it's usually a great idea. But don't expect the Wildcat to transform the game forever.

The bottom line is that it's just one formation and while it can be effective, teams are going to get more mileage out of the three aforementioned things than they are running the Wildcat every other play. Coaches know that, and it's why teams continue to use the formation sparingly.

By Anthony Stalter  |  September 30, 2009; 1:04 PM ET  | Category:  Miami Dolphins , Michael Vick , Philadelphia Eagles Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Wow...this article managed to make a boring topic interesting.
I'll look for the Wildcat on Sunday.

Posted by: KMac3000 | October 2, 2009 12:24 AM

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