Coming off a 1-15 season in 2007, the Miami Dolphins were looking for a way to rebound in 2008. They found that spark against the New England Patriots on September 21st, with the unveiling of the Wildcat formation. Using the play six times against the Patriots, the Dolphins scored four rushing and one passing touchdown, on their way to a 38-13 upset win.
The formation used running back Ronnie Brown in a shotgun formation, with fellow running back Ricky Williams spread out wide. The offensive line would be unbalanced, with two tackles on one side of the center, and Williams coming in motion on a jet sweep before the snap. Once the ball was in Brown's hands, he could either hand the ball to Williams, throw the ball to a receiver or tight end, or keep it and run it himself. The success of the formation in the Dolphins' 2008 campaign, in which the team averaged over seven-yards per Wildcat play, led the Dolphins to their first playoff appearance since 2001, an 11-5 record, and the AFC East division title.
Since the Dolphins' success with the formation, it has spread across the NFL, with most teams having some variation of the idea in their playbook. While it has never returned to the dominating concept it was in 2008, the Wildcat could be looking to have a revitalized 2012 season in New York.
The New York Jets hired former Miami head coach, Tony Sparano, as their offensive coordinator this offseason. Sparano, along with then offensive coordinator Dan Henning and quarterbacks coach David Lee, masterminded the Dolphins' success with the Wildcat in 2008. Now, with the Jets, he looks to add a new dynamic to the formation - quarterback Tim Tebow.
As ESPN.com reported, Sparano spoke about the Wildcat earlier this week:
"With Ricky (Williams) and Ronnie (Brown), the reason that we had to do it in Miami at that time was those were really our two best players at that point, and part of the philosophy was to get the two best players on the field at the same time. And in doing so, we created some matchup problems that way. I think the difference (with Williams and Brown) is there was very little element of pass involved in that, where obviously with Tim, that's a different element. So if we decide to go down that road, the element of being able to throw the football out of that brings a complete different dynamic into the picture here."
Tebow's presence on the Jets does add a dynamic that the Dolphins never had when Sparano was in Miami. However, the question is, will Tebow's dynamic be enough to revive a stagnant wildcat? Or, will the 1-20 plays a game the Jets plan to use Tebow, simply ruin any momentum starting quarterback Mark Sanchez has?