Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Wildcat vs Run N' Shoot


When the Miami Dolphins cut QB Pat White on Saturday to complete their 53-man roster, I never understood the logic behind drafting the former West Virginia signal caller in the second round, 44th pick overall, in the 2009 NFL Draft.

Miami had Chad Pennington and drafted Chad Henne from the Michigan Wolverines in the second round, 57th overall, of the 2008 NFL Draft.

How do you draft a player to perform in a gimmick offensive scheme, to run in "The Wildcat" or the Dolphins version of a spread offense?

In 2008, the Dolphins implemented "The Wildcat" in the third game of the season to perfection by scoring four touchdowns (three rushing, one passing) in a 38-13 road upset over the New England Patriots. This formation caught the Patriots off guard and running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams executed it to perfection.

Dolphins Offensive Coordinator Dan Henning is one of the best offensive minds in the business. He's currently entering his 31st season as a coach in the NFL. Therefore, there isn't anything that he hasn't seen which surprises him.

What puzzles me about the White pick is Miami probably had other potential needs and they blew a high selection to add to their gimmick. I have the utmost of respect for Bill Parcells, but he stubbed his toe on this selection.

Although their gimmick was good enough to earn them an 11-5 season in 2008, the opposition had time to adjust to it and as a result, they prepared for it in 2009. The Dolphins, with a tougher schedule and "The Wildcat" had a "Bullseye" on them as they regressed to 7-9 in 2009.

Now White is gone.

A second round pick is gold!

Teams don't have to pay them as much as a first round pick from a signing bonus and salary standpoint. They also have chips on their shoulder because they're angry that they were passed on by every team once especially after being highly touted.

Second round picks salaries increase when they either out perform their contracts or when it expires. This is how Super Bowls are won.

NFL executives, personnel directors, scouts, coaches, etc... can't afford to make these errors.

In 1979, the San Francisco 49'ers drafted a quarterback out of Notre Dame in the third round, 82nd overall, by the name of Joe Montana. All Montana did was win four Super Bowls. He was a three-time Super Bowl MVP.

So what lies ahead for White?

I wouldn't be surprised to see him land with the New England Patriots. For some reason, since "The Wildcat" beat the Patriots, Patriots Coach Bill Bellichick may want to utilize this gimmick in his offense. Bellichick used a gimmick with Doug Flutie kicking a field goal by "Drop Kicking" the ball. This is the same franchise that once used a "Snow Plow" to defeat the Dolphins.

If White doesn't land with the Patriots, there is always Flutie's old stomping grounds, the Canadian Football League. Nobody said Flutie could play in the NFL so all he did with his strong arm and 5-10, 180 pound frame "North Of The Border" was win three Grey Cup Championships before he returned to the NFL. Flutie utilized the wide field and 55-yard line to his advantage giving him more room to roam than a gazelle.

White can use that to his advantage and return to the NFL a better and more polished player because the CFL is ideal for an athletic quarterback.

I'll never forget back in the 1990's another gimmick offense consisted of the "Run N' Shoot" which used one running back and two-four receivers. This is where a flexible offense adjusts on the fly and the quarterback has to read and react to the defenses coverages in an improvised manner than with other offensive schemes.

Back in the USFL Days, former Miami Hurricanes QB Jim Kelly ran it for the Houston Gamblers under Jack Pardee, Mouse Davis and June Jones. It was great for a league with a smaller talent base but the Gamblers never won a USFL Championship with it. It was exciting for the fans that attended games at the Houston Astrodome.

When former Detroit Lions Coach Wayne Fontes hired Davis and Jones, they installed the "Run N' Shoot offense, then proceeded to draft 1989 Heisman Trophy Winner Andre Ware from the University of Houston in the first round, seventh pick overall. Ware ran the same offense in college but he was a bust in the NFL.

What led to Ware's downfall in the NFL was he held out during training camp and missed most of the preseason due to not signing his rookie contract immediately. Thus he fell behind and experienced a lost season.

In the NFL, the game is faster, players are bigger & stronger and with the lack of a running game, ball control, the Lions defense was wearing down by not being able to kill the clock, thus it gave the opposition more opportunities to score. That would happen with any NFL team, and these days, you'll find teams stocking up and adding more depth at running back. It's hard to win shootouts in the NFL.

The "Run N' Shoot" in college was much different than in the pros.

The reason Kelly had a successful NFL career is before he was involved in the "Run N' Shoot" he learned his craft from the "Pro Passing Attack Offense" under former Hurricanes Coach & current Florida Atlantic Owls boss Howard Schnellenberger.

Therefore, Kelly was able to adapt to the Buffalo Bills offense when he was surrounded with good runners and receivers. This enabled him to lead his team to four consecutive Super Bowls under Coach Marv Levy, which led them both to the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.

While I have nothing against gimmicks, trick plays or creative offensive schemes, my point is don't base your draft around them especially when you have depth at one position, plus have other needs to fill.

When I was covering the Miami Dolphins in 1983, before a Monday Night Game at the Orange Bowl, I once asked OJ Simpson what was more exciting, a good running or passing game. Simpson, who was a color analyst for ABC responded by saying, "whatever one is successful is more exciting."

How true.

For those that don't know, Simpson was the first running back to rush for 2000 yards in a season when he amassed 2003 in 1973 during a 14-game schedule.

Say what you want about Simpson's personal life but when he was on the football field, he was a great player that was electrifying and fun to watch which is why he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall Of Fame.

I still think "The Wildcat" will be like the "Run N' Shoot because it will be an offense that will dissolve over time or be De-emphasized in favor of the more conventional, two back, two-three receiver sets which will be even altered more as two tight-ends are inserted.

"The Wildcat" will remind me of "Disco" because it has it's time and place. Disco was a fad.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at and his blog can be seen on

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