Wildcat In The NFL: Here To Stay Or Doomed To Fail?

Patrick Cwiklinski@@patcwiklinskiCorrespondent IAugust 20, 2009

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 21: Ronnie Brown #23 of he Miami Dolphins throws a touchdown pass in the third quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on September 21, 2008 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

During the Michael Vick press conference that introduced the troubled NFL superstar as the newest member of the Philadelphia Eagles, current Eagles starting quarterback Donovan McNabb had some interesting words when the topic of Vick and the recently popularized Wildcat offense at the NFL-level was brought up.

"It was something that came out last year with some teams starting to do it, but I don't think it will last that long."

McNabb did, however, admit that the Wildcat worked in college but it seems according to him, as it stands in the NFL, its effectiveness will only deteriorate.

Tell that to the Miami Dolphins.

The Wildcat became the Dolphins bread and butter last season as they took the AFC East division title by surprise because this was the same team that a mere year earlier had been the laughing stock of the entire league after going 1-15.

Miami's Wildcat was mostly the brainchild of Dolphins quarterback coach David Lee, who had run the same formation as an offensive coordinator for the Arkansas Razorbacks in 2007.

Lee also was also named "Innovator of the Year" in 2008 by Sporting News for introducing the Wildcat to the NFL.

The Dolphins began to integrate the Wildcat in the third game of the 2008 season, and they found immediate success with it after thumping the New England Patriots 38-18. In the victory, they used the formation against the Patriots on six plays—producing five touchdowns.

After their upset over the Patriots, Miami also began to garner a great deal of publicity for their use of the Wildcat that began with lining up either running back, Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams, in the shotgun formation—with the option of handing off, running, or throwing.

In the weeks that would follow, the Dolphins would continue to rely heavily on the Wildcat and it paid off, as they would eventually finish the season with a 11-5 record and make the playoffs for the first time since 2001.

But the big question that still remains is: can the Wildcat stand the test of time?

Given the evidence, it's safe to say that the Wildcat has so far only really worked in the NFL with the Dolphins. And though other teams have since began instituting it as a part of their own playbooks, there has still yet to be another team that has used the formation with such a favorable outcome.

Many teams have also claimed that the Wildcat takes an inordinate amount of time to prepare for and requires that not every offense is built to accommodate such a play.

One of the saving graces that came with the Wildcat was the fact that no one had really seen it in action at the NFL level. This gave the Dolphins the element of surprise, as teams didn't anticipate the Wildcat and in turn, they were able to win their fair share of games by getting the jump on them. 

That, in turn, could ultimately be the Wildcat's downfall.

It became evident that by the time playoffs came around, teams had already began to catch onto the offensive scheme and were better prepared for it.

The best example of this was when the Baltimore Ravens knocked out the Dolphins in the first round of the playoffs. They did so with relative ease after spending time to find ways to contain the Wildcat.

So will it last?

At this point, it's rather difficult to say. On one hand, it's going to be a stretch for teams to start incorporating it next season simply because of the awareness that has been raised as a result of how much the Dolphins ran it.

However, there is a possibility that the new generation of college players coming into the NFL will be more versatile and perhaps already have experience running the Wildcat, giving them the necessary edge to keep the play alive and well.

Pat White anyone?

Whatever the answer is, it's bound to be an exciting journey to get to the answer to the perplexing question that has become the Wildcat.