Whether the formation started in a high school in Seattle, Washington, at a college in Kansas or Arkansas or at the pro level with the Carolina Panthers, the Wildcat formation is the new way to succeed in the NFL. Now being popularized all across the NFL, which most people thought started in Miami in 2008 with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, the Wildcat formation is being used, tweaked and popularized all over the NFL and is confusing blitz schemes and defenses all over the nation.
In 1998 NFC Championship game, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Chris Chandler lined up as a wide receiver, while their wide receiver Tim Dwight lined up behind center, took a direct snap and ran for 20 yards down the field. That is thought to be the first time a Wildcat type offense was attempted at the NFL level. But the Wildcat formation was really born in Fayetteville, Arkansas in 2006 behind the wizardry of Gus Malzahn and David Lee, who were both offensive coordinators for the Arkansas Razorbacks. With the explosive running combination of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, the University of Arkansas implemented a type of formation called the “WildHog” that would forever change the way the game was played.
Also in 2006, the Carolina Panthers, when their starting quarterback Jake Delhomme went down with an injury, turned to the Wildcat formation with running back DeAnglo Williams for the first 12 plays of their opening drive in that game. The offensive coordinator for the Panthers at the time was a man named Dan Henning, who later became the offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins as well as David Lee, who became the quarterbacks coach for the Dolphins and both helped develop the current format of the Wildcat.
Beginning in the 3rd game of the regular season in 2008, the Miami Dolphins started using the formation that would forever link the running back taking a direct snap to the teal and orange. Let me reiterate something very important, this is just the beginning for the Wildcat; I believe ten years down the road, NFL fans will look back and see that these few offensive coordinators were the pioneers for a new way to play and win in the NFL. Just like how Sammy Baugh was one of the first to use the shotgun formation, and then quarterbacks like Joe Namath and Roger Staubach would use to perfection years later, the Wildcat formation will be a centered piece of knowledge that will be passed along, tweaked and perfected for years to come.
Whether it is the Falcons version of the Wildcat, the Dirty Bird, the Eagles version, the Wild Bird, the Cowboys version, the Razorback, the Broncos adaptation, the Wild Horse, or even the Bills’ Wild Bill, this formation is making an humungous splash all over the world of football and is something that needs to be paid attention to.
When the Dolphins play the Falcons in week 3 and the Broncos play the Chiefs in week 10 this season, for your own good, sit down and watch the most innovative, Pop Warner-like offensive schemes the NFL has ever seen and just try to imagine who will be the next Gus Malzahn or Dan Henning to change the way the game is played.