Why Is the N.F.L. Suddenly Ga-Ga About the “Wildcat”?
Earlier this season, the Miami Dolphins went to a “wildcat” formation, wherein the snap goes to a running back and the quarterback is in the slot. This creates new opportunities for the offense and chaos for the defense.
After the Dolphins shocked the world by beating the Patriots behind a five-touchdown performance by wildcat back Ronnie Brown (four rushing, one throwing), the entire league was suddenly boning up on the formation. Offenses tinkered with it; defenses were obsessed with stopping it.
Where did the wildcat craze come from?
Mike Tomlin, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach, has an interesting answer. From an interview on the Steelers’ website:
What has made it in vogue in the N.F.L. this year is that Arkansas did it, and they did it with Darren McFadden. Everybody watched tape of McFadden and Felix Jones leading up to the draft. Arkansas didn’t have a mobile quarterback, they had a passer, so they put McFadden back there. People in this league saw that if you don’t have a mobile quarterback you can still attack people in this way, by putting the back back there and splitting the quarterback out. I think it all stems back from everybody watching Arkansas tape in preparation for the draft.
I don’t follow college football, but I am guessing this is hardly the first college wrinkle that the N.F.L. has imported lately. I’d appreciate it if you college fans could tell us about some other notables. (One possibility, though slim: Penn State head coach Joe Paterno is coaching from a skybox because of an injury, and just yesterday opined: “I’m not sure that’s not the best place for a head coach. … I have a better view of the game from up there than I ever do on the sidelines.”
I am traveling this weekend to Pittsburgh for my annual father-son Steelers game. They play the Giants; both teams are 5-1; it should be a good game.