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Miami has given this great country of ours so much. Want to experience Cuban culture without violating a travel ban? Pack your bags for Miami my friend. Maybe you’d like to kill someone while driving drunk and not be bothered by serving some pesky, extended jail sentence? Grab those car keys all you Donte Stallworth wanna-be’s, Miami is your type of town.
Despite these qualities (if you can call them that), there are a few blemishes on Miami’s otherwise stellar list of contributions to American culture. They were, and continue to be a main port for illegal smuggling, namely cocaine. It’s also the city that inspired Will Smith to make that god awful song that’s featured in nearly every bar mitzvah and wedding. But being a forgiving person, I’m willing to overlook Miami’s transgressions, except for one—the Wildcat offense.
Ever since the Dolphins laid a 38-13 whuppin’ on the Pats in Week 3 of last season, thanks mostly to a formation that directly snapped the ball to running back Ronnie Brown, the NFL has had Wildcat fever, which is a lot like swine flu only much more annoying. Now it seems to be a physical impossibility to utter the words Miami and Dolphins without including “Wildcat.” Kind of like Minka, Kelly and “hot” or Buffalo Bills, fans and “suicidal.”
Listen, I get its appeal. It looks different. It’s fun. It throws a wrinkle in defensive planning. It’s a rare occurrence when an NFL coach allows an African-American to touch the ball before a white guy does. I don’t agree with Wildcat basher and ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski who thinks the Wildcat is a gimmick (though I will agree with him that those glasses he wears look pretty sharp). The Wildcat has a place in the NFL and can occasionally be effective.
My problem with the Wildcat is the monster it’s created. This is the NFL, the league that is second only to 13-year-old girls in adopting the latest fad and subsequently beating it to death. It gives coaches an easy way to come across as progressive and as a master strategist. Since the Dolphins first prominently featured the formation last year, teams such as Kansas City, Cleveland, St. Louis, Minnesota, San Francisco, Buffalo, Dallas, Atlanta and Cincinnati have all experimented with the Wildcat. Out of those teams, do you know how many won a playoff game last season? That’s right, none. Good sleuth work.
Even Ricky Williams, one of the Wildcat’s founding fathers, has openly admitted that the Wildcat isn’t as potent as it once was, saying that it must be adapted for it to survive. This interestingly enough is the most insightful piece of information Mr. Williams has leaked to the press since “Ricky Williams’ Top Techniques for Cleaning Your Bong” was featured in High Times magazine a few years back.
When Ricky Williams, a guy who without the Wildcat offense would probably be in Borneo selling seashell necklaces, begins to question the Wildcat’s effectiveness, you’d think we start to doubt it’s validity as a way to win a championship. When any team that relied heavily on the formations fails to make the playoffs or advance beyond the first round, those doubts should be confirmed.
But the Wildcat remains a main topic of discussion. Why? It’s because NFL football is only played two days a week and analysts, the media and the “blogosphere” need something to talk about for the remaining five. It’s because football, like baseball, has a lot of dead time between plays and announcers can’t just sit there silently, though many of us would prefer that they would. Therefore, we had to suffer through the Pats Week 5 loss to the Broncos while Phil Simms and Jim Nantz repeatedly gushed over Denver’s “Wild Horses” formation (Haha, get it because a Bronco is a wild horse?). It was bad enough to make me seriously consider turning off the game and hop on a plane to Denver to find the two CBS announcers and punch them in the face for ruining the Pats game for me before the first quarter had even ended. I kid you not—you can check my browser history from October 11 and see a search on Expedia for flights between Logan and Denver for that very day. That’s how infuriating this whole Wildcat craze has become.
Here’s all you really need to know about Miami’s vaunted Wildcat offense when it rolls into Gillette this Sunday. In a Week 7 loss to the Saints, Miami ran the Wildcat on 13 plays and only gained 30 yards (an underwhelming 2.3 yards/play). A week later against the Jets they gained only 6 yards from the Wildcat. Not too scary huh? Even less frightening when you consider the Saints defense ranks 15th in the league, and the Jets are 11th. It not only gives me reason to believe that Belichick and his 4th ranked defense will be able to handle the Dolphins this Sunday, it gives me hope I won’t have to listen to this incessant Wildcat talk much longer. If not, Foxborough is just a short drive for me, and I have few qualms with punching Greg Gumbel and Dan Deirdorf in the face.