The Wildcat may or may not be a thing of the past in the new West Coast Offense. Remember, the front office did end up giving Joshua Cribbs a bigger contract prior to last season, so getting him more involved, assuming he is healthy, could remain a priority.
Pro Football Focus reviewed the usage of the Wildcat last year. There were four teams who used the Wildcat formation fairly often. In terms of effectiveness, those teams ranked in this order: (1) New York Jets, (2) Cleveland Browns, (3) Miami Dolphins, and the (4) Chicago Bears.
2. Josh Cribbs and the Cleveland Browns
Injuries to Josh Cribbs during the season limited the team’s ability to use the wildcat, but, when able, he produced more consistently and in a more varied fashion than Brown and that was enough to push him into second place on this list.
He had 16 runs for 59 yards which put him at 3.7 yards per carry – not an amazing number – but the team found additional success when Cribbs handed the ball off – including an 11 yard rushing touchdown by Chansi Stuckey against the Patriots. Cribbs also showed off his throwing skills, completing two of three passes for 19 yards.
Overall, the Jets were really the only team able to use the Wildcat effectively at such a high rate. PFF states that the usage of the Wildcat is on a downhill trend; there were 313 Wildcat snaps in 2009, but only 212 Wildcat snaps in 2010. They don't see that trend changing next season due to changes in the teams that use the formation often:
Ronnie Brown is a free agent, and with the drafting of Daniel Thomas it’s unclear if he will return to Miami and, if so, in what role. If he leaves in free agency, it could be to a team that just doesn’t use the wildcat. Brad Smith is also scheduled to be a free agent, and the not-yet-announced rules of free agency will decide if he is restricted or unrestricted. He hasn’t quite panned out as a receiver, and with the Jets’ offensive line, its not crazy to think someone else could succeed as their wildcat quarterback if he’s not available. In Cleveland, new Browns coach Pat Shurmer has made it sound like the Browns will use less of the formation rather than more, with Cribbs spending more time as a receiver.
The most effective way to use the Wildcat? For the gadget plays, maybe here and there, that catch your opponent off guard. I'm still hopeful that Cribbs can make this work at some point in his career, but I won't get too hung up over it if he can't.