Tonight's Phinsider Hump Day Flashback was probably a dead giveaway for most just due to the photo that I posted. This photo is of course of former Miami Dolphins starting running back Ronnie Brown and the now famous “Wildcat” game vs the New England Patriots. It has been almost 12 years since that game took place and to this day, due to that game and Miami’s success with it during the 2008 season many NFL teams have some form of it as part of their playbook under various names. This game also sticks out for many Dolphins fans because we have rarely seen the New England Patriots under the helm of Bill Belichick (and their entire team for that matter) look so frustrated and seem so bewildered by what was happening while also have zero answers for it, even after half time adjustments.
The year was 2008 and the Dolphins were coming off a disaster of a season having won a single game the entire season. Then Miami Dolphins owner, the late Wayne Huizenga, hired former NFL head coach Bill Parcells as the teams Executive Vice President of Football Operations. Surly they could have made that title shorter but maybe they needed to make Parcells feel “fancy” as he had just turned down a similar offer from the Atlanta Falcons. At the time Jeff Ireland (I can hear the grumbling from here) remained the teams general manager.
Miami then went out and hired the now late Tony Sparano as the teams head coach while also bringing in the former Arkansas offensive coordinator David Lee as the teams new quarterbacks coach. Lee was already well known for running his offense, the Wildcat at Arkansas as he had two stellar college running backs in Felix Jones and Darren McFadden. Miami, also having gone through several quarterbacks since the departure of Dan Marino signed former Jets QB Chad Pennington in the off-season. Despite the signing of Pennigton, Miami still hoped to build their offense around their two staring running backs Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown who also stood out as the teams two best offensive weapons at the time.
Miami started out the 2008 campaign looking much like the Dolphins of 2007, dropping their first two games. First losing to the New York Jets at home 14 to 20 before dropping their second game of the season in a blow out away game to the Arizona Cardinals 10 to 31. Prior to the two losses, taking what quarterback coach David Lee had brought with him from Arkansas the team had begun to install portions of his wildcat offense into what they were already running. As the story goes it failed miserably in preseason practices and for the most part in the regular season practices up to that point. Most of the offensive players at the time were just not buying into it. Ricky Williams has said looking back “In training camp one day, Lee put it on the board. Most of us looked at each other and said, ‘We’re not doing this high school s***.’”
The Patriots were coming into week three on a much higher note than Miami at the time, riding a 21 game regular season win streak. The line for the game against Miami was 12.5 points which given the blowout that Miami had just suffered and the team not looking any better than the 2007 Dolphins, was a bet that most of us would have easily taken at the time. But what neither Vegas or the Patriots or their fans for that fact knew was that Miami was about to break out something that no one expected or had seen, especially from this beleaguered Dolphins team.
What was unleashed was Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, sharing the backfired, sometimes at the same time, executing Lee’s offensive additions to the playbook to perfection and in the end making the New England Patriots look both out of sorts and silly as Miami went on to not only win the game but hand New England something that they were not used to, a blow out loss at home.
Most of the Wildcat plays that day were run with Ronnie Brown in the shotgun position. Most of the plays also featured Ricky Williams, who at that time could still look as good as he ever had running the ball, coming in motion toward Brown. With just 6 plays from this formation Miami was able to gain 118 yards and score four of it’s touchdowns that day. Miami ran portions of the Wildcat offense for most of the 2008 season before it slowly vanished from the offense in 2009 as NFL defenses started to catch up to the new craze. All of a sudden it seemed as if every NFL team had some form of the Wildcat offense installed if only a play or two. The longer term legacy of that game is that it became the basis for a lot of the still current NFL trends such as read option running attacks and run pass options that many teams have incorporated as the new style of running quarterbacks has entered the league.
I could go on and describe the entire game in detail to you but I will leave you with this video and you can see it in all it’s glory for yourself.
If anyone is interested in the actual box-score from that game you can see it HERE!