NFL Copycats: Adoption of the Wildcat Is Only Domesticating the Offense

Angel Navedo@NamedAngelSenior Writer IJune 9, 2009

MIAMI - OCTOBER 05:  Running back Ronnie Brown #23 of the Miami Dolphins takes a direct snap while taking on the San Diego Chargers at Dolphin Stadium on October 5, 2008 in Miami, Florida. The Dolphins defeated the Chargers 17-10.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

I'm sorry, I-formation, but we no longer have anything in common. Don't take it so hard. We had some great times, right? But, you know — the thrill is gone.

The element of surprise is critical to developing a healthy offensive relationship in the NFL, and the base packages that once dictated the pace of the game are no longer doing the trick.

Then this slick, smooth, and — dare I say — wild cat steps onto the field and completely captivates the league.

The Wildcat offense emerged as every team's latest method of trickery after the Miami Dolphins used it to perfection in 2008 against the New England Patriots.

You find the recipe to topple a giant and watch it become the latest flavor of the month. It's only natural for every other team to want to employ their own variation going forward.

If Lightning Strikes Twice...

The Oakland Raiders stand out immediately as a team with enough speed to make the offense work. Al Davis' commitment to making the fastest team in the league looks like the best attempt at creating a dangerous Wildcat team.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

With three running backs on the roster — and the addition of Darrius Heyward-Bey — a Raiders' Wildcat offense would only need to find open space.

Second-year running back Darren McFadden proved he could take snaps in college, making him the ideal candidate to lead the formation. Set him up next to Michael Bush with Heyward-Bey threatening a reverse, and the only thing Oakland needs is a strong push in the trenches.

Aside from the Raiders, the Minnesota Vikings stand out after drafting former Florida Gators receiver Percy Harvin for the versatility he displayed in college.

However, his usefulness in the formation is predicated on his ability to establish himself as a legitimate receiving threat. Otherwise his presence on the field will only be associated with some form of Wildcat trickery.

With Adrian Peterson being a one-man wrecking crew, running the Wildcat might be a step back for the Vikings offense.

Then again, this is the same team that's courting a retired Brett Favre.

How the Wildcat is Stopping Itself

With the Dallas Cowboys developing the Razorback — an even edgier variation of the Wildcat offense — it's abundantly clear that the NFL's latest bright idea is en route to being driven directly into the ground.

New attempts at the offense will only succeed in rendering a creative formation completely useless. Thinking logically: The more common the formation becomes, the less impressive the results will ultimately be.

The writing is already on the wall for the Wildcat. The death of the formation is imminent.

With most offensive coordinators having no flair and completely abandoning the concept of creativity, the Wildcat is being beaten into submission as they concoct their own cheap imitations.

PETA has yet to provide a statement.

Miami's success with the formation has everyone fooled.

While the Wildcat was effective for the Dolphins, the formation is most useful for teams with weaknesses they're hoping to mask.

Teams without strong offensive lines or game-changing receiving options rely heavily upon their speed at running back to make the offense work. It takes a unique blend of strengths and weaknesses to run a believable Wildcat.

The fact that Dolphins running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams are big, strong guys who can take a hit and still take off also helps.

Nonetheless, giving defenses more film on the Wildcat and all its iterations is only increasing familiarity with the formation. The element of surprise means nothing if a linebacker isn't stunned by seeing a quarterback split wide.

With more coordinators looking to utilize it, more defenses have opportunities to practice against it.

The success of the Wildcat is largely predicated on the ability to catch a defense completely off guard. But if a defense is prepared at the sight of the formation, then the offense has already been neutralized.

Defensive coordinators can develop audible packages with altered assignments to neutralize any mismatches, and linebackers can instantly blitz to disrupt the blocking schemes that make the offense work.

There are a multitude of shifts and motions that can add more variety to the Wildcat, so the chances of the formation disappearing overnight are none.

But at some point, an offense is going to have to line up and play straight football, and if they can't, their Wildcat illusion is going to lose its prestige sooner than expected.