Will They Wildcat? … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs

Nothing gets taken out of context more quickly than football in May. Throw 80-plus bodies on the practice field in the spring sunshine and assumptions are made by those on the outside looking in.

The starting quarterback has a bad day throwing the ball, and suddenly he’s a bum. The team’s top receiver bobbles a few passes and he’s Mr. Butterfingers. A cornerback bites on a fake, gets beat deep and he can’t cover a soul.

The same holds true for what coaches do with the offense or defense. These spring football practices are a time to experiment, test and evaluate. There are coaches that will spend a week working on a certain package of plays or defenses and then never return to that page of the playbook during the season.

Much was made after the Chiefs OTA practice on Monday about the Chiefs running Wildcat plays on offense. For the most part, the calls had rookie RB/WR Dexter McCluster taking direct snaps from center. He threw a couple of passes, ran what looked like the veer-option, handed off on an end-around run by a wide receiver and several times took the snap and took off running.

OK, so we should assume that the Chiefs will be one of those teams throwing Wildcat-type plays into every game plan, right?

Wrong.

When asked by the media about the Wildcat plays being run in Monday’s session, head coach Todd Haley said: “We might have to take the cameras away now that we’re telling secrets. Some of it’s bluffs, some of it’s not.”

Haley went on to give a plausible coach-speak explanation of why the coaching staff was looking at the Wildcat during the practice:

“This is the time of year to kind of check out what each guys’ skills are. We have a number of guys on the team that have been involved in that type of offense before, so again, this is the time of year you check some of that out and see who can do what and see who is comfortable doing what and go from there.”

So where will the Chiefs go from here with the Wildcat? Is it bluff, or not?

My bet is bluff. First and foremost, if Haley and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis saw the Wildcat with McCluster as a big part of their offensive package in 2010 they would have never shown it during a practice where the media was able to watch. There are plenty of OTA sessions this spring where the Chiefs work without the prying eyes of the scribblers, yakkers and hairdos. Let’s remember the Parcellsian background of both the head coach and coordinator; for them to expose those plays in that practice wasn’t just an accident.

Second, the Wildcat is the most over-rated offensive innovation to come down the NFL pike in some time. The key for any offense to make these plays work is the element of surprise. Ask Mike Vrabel. He was on the field in Foxboro on September 21, 2008 at outside linebacker for the Patriots when they played Miami. The Dolphins did not invent the Wildcat, but they were the first NFL team to spring it on an opponent in a planned attack.

That came against New England and Vrabel and Miami was so effective they pulled off the upset victory.

“We didn’t know what was happening,” Vrabel said. “It was something that we as players and coaches were totally unprepared for. It caught us by surprise. We certainly hadn’t worked on it. They continued to hurt us during that game with those plays.

“The element of surprise was what made it effective. We were better the next time we saw it.”

Once the surprise element is gone, why is the Wildcat still successful? It’s either a running play or a passing play; it hasn’t revolutionized offense. Haley has said before it’s a matter of the talent participating in the Wildcat plays.

“You have some big time athletes that are handling the football and if they are confident enough to handle the football, that’s the key to it,” Haley said. “You have some big-time running backs – that’s not their thing. They’ve got to run the cadence, handle shot gun snaps, quick decisions.

“When you get a big-time athlete that is able to make multiple decisions and run the team, it’s a great challenge. There are two or three options generally on those plays, run, run to run and run to pass. There are formational issues. How do you cover the quarterback if he’s in there? There’s a lot to be figured out in a short period of time.”

Wildcat plays work when talented players are running them, just as talented players make all plays work. But as Haley pointed out, a player being asked to do something that he normally does not do has to be comfortable with the task or have experience getting it done. McCluster ran some Wildcat at Mississippi last year; otherwise there are no obvious wildcatters on the offensive roster at running back or even wide receiver.

The mere idea of the Wildcat can be as effective in messing with an opponent’s head as actually running the plays. It forces coordinators and defensive coaching staffs to devout prep time to the Wildcat and valuable practice snaps as well.

Do not discount the fact that it took all of about 24 hours for word that the Chiefs practiced the Wildcat during an OTA session to spread down the NFL grapevine. I guarantee word landed first on the desks of the defensive coordinators in Oakland, Denver and San Diego. Those teams will spend time in the weeks before their summer vacation projecting McCluster running the Wildcat.

They too will overreact to football in May.

GRAB THE LONG JOHNS, THE SUPER BOWL IS HEADED FOR THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY

As expected, the NFL owners voted Tuesday afternoon to award Super Bowl 48 in February 2014 to New Jersey/New York to be played at the new Meadowlands Stadium.

And as expected, the vote has opened the door for a host of other cold-weather cities without domed stadiums to make noise about getting the championship game. New England owner Robert Kraft, Philadelphia owner Jeffrey Lurie, Washington owner Daniel Snyder and Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh all think their cities and stadiums should be next.

It took four votes for the 32 owners to decide on the Meadowlands, as the cold-weather site could not attract 24 votes to make selection automatic. Other bidders were Tampa/St. Petersburg and South Florida (Miami/Ft. Lauderdale.) After two votes, South Florida was eliminated. A third vote couldn’t produce 24 votes, so from there it went to a simple majority. No vote total was announced by the league, but New Jersey/New York got at least 17 votes to get the bid.

One other item from the league meetings in suburban Dallas: owners did not vote on extending the new rules for overtime in the playoffs to the regular season as well. There was discussion about the rule, but apparently a significant number of teams want to see how it works out in the post-season before making it the law of the land for every game.

SPEAKING OF THE MEADOWLANDS, HERE’S A JERSEY BOY THAT LIVES IN K.C.

Bruce Jankowski spent two seasons with the Chiefs, after a very good college career with Ohio State. Hank Stram drafted him in the 10th-round of the 1971 NFL Draft. The New Jersey native played in nine games with two starts in 1971-72. He caught two passes for 24 yards.

Jankowski went on and played in the World Football League in 1974 down in Shreveport. That’s when he hung up the spikes and went on to live the rest of his life. It wasn’t back in New Jersey; he fell in love with Kansas City, living here, raising his family and now retired and living in Leawood.

The Bergen Record newspaper ran a story with Jankowski this week. Here’s the link. It’s worth the read.

NFL PERSONNEL FILE/TUESDAY, MAY 25

  • BRONCOS – signed 7th–round draft choice LB/DE Jammie Kirlew out of Indiana.
  • CHARGERS – S Kevin Ellison was arrested in San Diego and discovered with 100 Vicodin pain killers in his vehicle. The 6th-round choice in ’09 out of Southern Cal faces criminal charges of possession of a controlled substance. He was released on $10,000 bail.
  • EAGLES – released P Durant Brooks, a 6th-round draft choice of the Redskins in ’08 out of Georgia Tech. He also spent time with the Packers.
  • JAGUARS – newly acquired G Justin Smiley passed his physical on Tuesday, completing a Monday trade with the Dolphins for a conditional 7th-round choice in the 2011 NFL Draft – he also agreed to a re-structured contract; released first-year RB Allen Patrick, who was on the Jacksonville practice squad last year.
  • PATRIOTS – signed 3rd-round draft choice WR Taylor Price to 4-year contract for $2,494,000 million, with a $704,600 signing bonus.
  • SAINTS – former WR Joe Horn will be inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame this year – originally a draft choice of the Chiefs in 1995, Horn spent seven years in New Orleans, earning four trips to the Pro Bowl; undrafted rookie free agent Harry Coleman was arrested last weekend in New Orleans on a simple battery charge.
  • STEELERS – NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday that he would have a ruling on the status of suspended Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger “within the next week.” Roethlisberger was forced to undergo psychological evaluation before he can return to the team and take part in off-season work.
  • TITANS – released WR/KR Mark Jones, who was coming off surgery on a nerve in his neck, as well as a hamstring pull – he signed with Tennessee as a UFA in ’09.

20 Responses to “Will They Wildcat? … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • May 26, 2010  - KC_Guy says:

    Anyone remember the Mark Bradley pass to Tyler Thigpen for a TD? Great play design, great sell by Thigpen, great execution, big reward.

    But you can only do that once in a while …


  • May 26, 2010  - JohnFromFairfax says:

    I’m guessing the Chiefs brass figures every article written about the wildcat is one less about whatever dumb thing Bowe decides to say next. It’ll be good to get past the “silly season” and to training camp where the concentration is actually real preparation and jobs are decided. P. S, Anybody know when Big Ben’s next sorority kegger is being held?


  • May 26, 2010  - The Morning Fix | Arrowhead Addict | A Kansas City Chiefs blog says:

    [...] Will They Wildcat? … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs-BobGretz.com [...]


  • May 26, 2010  - JohnNdallas says:

    I could not agree more with this statement from Bob!

    “Second, the Wildcat is the most over-rated offensive innovation to come down the NFL pike in some time.”

    Thank You Mr. Gretz.


  • May 26, 2010  - arrowhead1978 says:

    Yea well it might be over-rated, but if you can’t stop it then your going to lose. The Dolphins have already proven that, especially when they dismantled the Jets defense last year with it.

    I hope the chiefs would have an offense that is capable of running the wildcat at some point, not that I want the chiefs to be a wildcat team, but it would be nice to be that talented and be able to block that well for it to work and if that’s the case, then they should be able to run a normal offense consistently…


  • May 26, 2010  - Mad Chief says:

    I agree. The “Wildcat” can be effective sometimes, if used properly. It can throw off the opposing D…keep them guessing. But, you have to execute it. You have to make a play, or you just look bad. Anyone remember when they tried it with LJ at the beginning of last year? That was downright embarassing.

    But, like Bob said…it’s either going to be a run or a pass. It’s still football. It’s just giving the other team a different look.. something else to think about and plan for.

    All that said…with McCluster? I doubt if the Chiefs are bluffing. I think we’ll see it.


  • May 26, 2010  - el cid says:

    Traditionally, NFL teams have shown all kind of odd alignments and plays, at least until the season starts. This was just to give opponents something to think about when planning. If, repeat IF, it works some odd plays will be used during the season but for the most part, they just sit in the play book forgotten. I know the “wild cat” (actually the “wild hog”) is the “in” thing right now but without a solid team to operate it, not to practical. Doubt the Chiefs are good enough on offense to put a lot of faith in a gimmick style play.


  • May 26, 2010  - DonW says:

    An interesting look at the intricacies of pro football today (and probably college football to some extent). The direction and mis-direction that go into today’s game brings to mind military campaigns, remember Patton’s Ghost Army prior to the D-Day?, and spy novels.

    I’ve just started Brian Billick’s “More Than a Game” and it looks to be a good read. With that in mind, does anyone know of any books written by former head coaches or GM’s about, or extensively including the campaigns of deception and misdirection that make up a part of today’s game on draft day, May OTA’s, training camp and even during the season?

    Bob, as always, thanks for your perspective, insight and hard work.


  • May 26, 2010  - Mad Chief says:

    el cid says:
    “Doubt the Chiefs are good enough on offense to put a lot of faith in a gimmick style play.”

    Hard to say. Depends on if we can get better blocking this year. (And that’s still a big “if”.) But, if Jones and Charles can give us a badass running attack? Just imagine Charles and Jones in the backfield, with McCluster taking the snap. Could be interesting.


  • May 26, 2010  - el cid says:

    Isn’t it the point of the wild cat to confuse the defense and spring players loose? If you are not about to regularily run and pass with consistancy, wouldn’t the defense have wildcat in mind when the qb doesn’t line up under center? The wildcat is really effective if the defense does not respond before the ball is snapped. Depend on the wild cat and you better be really good at it or you may get killed.


  • May 26, 2010  - Justin Foote says:

    I can see McCluster or Charles taking the snap with the other and Cassel or Croyle in the backfield. Can either run the option or toss it back for a long bomb. There are quite a few choices that can be made here.


  • May 26, 2010  - arrowhead1978 says:

    Yea but the wildcat really only works when you can run the ball effectively from the formation. You wont get many passing opportunities if you dont get the safeties to come down trying to stop the run.


  • May 26, 2010  - sdchief says:

    really believe you MAY see a BIT of wildcat but I think it was a pure bluff…let the media and those that dont FOLLOW th e chiefs believe that mccluster is a running back option when hes really more the slot guy

    shock the chargers…please


  • May 26, 2010  - Stiv says:

    I don’t quite get why people insist on bringing up Brokie Croyle, he isn’t going to play unless Cassel is injured.


  • May 26, 2010  - colby says:

    I think they drafted McCluster with the idea of using him in a wide variety of “gimmick” plays. The Wildcat is a part of that thought process. I think we’ll see him in the Wildcat, on reverses and screens, in the slot, and any other type of odd play that Haley and Weis dream up to keep defenses on their toes. The only question I have is whether McCluster has more runs or catches this season.


  • May 26, 2010  - Justin Foote says:

    Stiv:

    Brokie Croyle as you like to call him has a hell of a lot better arm than Cassel. Croyle can make all of the throws with no problem where Cassel struggles with the deep ball.


  • May 26, 2010  - Justin Foote says:

    Also Croyle handles the pressure better than Cassel.


  • May 26, 2010  - J Lloyd says:

    The team is lucky to have Croyle , QB is where the $$ are , all he needs to do is put on 20 lb’s of mussel and hit rout’s .
    Someone need’s to work Cory Greenwood , wide receiver , not special teams , what a find !!!
    40 INCH vertical –4.5– 40 , 235 lbs 6-3″ , and no FEAR of hard HIT’s , LOVES CONTACT !!!!!!
    I bet he is one of those type of guys that if the ball is in the air , HE WILL WIN .
    Take the best saftey’s in the world and he’ll tear em apart . What a find —–


  • May 27, 2010  - Danny W says:

    J Loyd
    Good idea on Corey Greenwood the guy has Tony Gonzo numbers for heaven sakes. I agree with you on Brodie Croyle too.




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