Wildcat? Not for the Eskimos please.

Football is a copy-cat game, where teams see something that works for one team, and then try and use it for themselves. Case in point, the Wildcat offense. The Miami Dolphins shocked the league in 2008 by introducing this high-school gimmicky system. They beat the New England Patriots with it, and suddenly, every other team is looking to add it to their playbook. The Wildcat has now migrated north to the CFL and its been speculated that the Edmonton Eskimos will use second year quarterback Jared Zabransky in some type of sub-package where Wildcat plays will be run. There are just a few issues with that.

First of all, besides the Miami Dolphins, what other team has had success running the Wildcat consistently? The answer is no one.  Yes, teams have had a few plays that worked out, but the Dolphins are the only team that have executed consistently over a period of time. The Dolphins are successful using this offensive scheme because they have specific personnel that can execute the plays and a coaching staff that knows how and when to use it. Don’t believe me. Take a look at what should be the ultimate weapon in the Wildcat, Michael Vick, and the lack of success that the Philadelphia Eagles had with this concept. Why? When Vick was on the field, opposing defenses almost always knew what was coming at them.

Second, who is best person to be taking a snap from center? That’s right, your number one quarterback. As soon as you take the ball out of the hands of your best player, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage. Ricky Ray is one of the most dangerous passer in the CFL, and with the talent that the Eskimos have at receiver this season, taking the ball out of Ray’s hands and putting it into the hands or either Arkee Whitlock or Calvin McCarty decreases the ability of the Eskimos to get the ball into the hands of their receivers.

Third point. The collective bargaining agreement used by the CFL limits the work day to four and a half hours. They also do not have the luxury of mini-camps, either voluntary or mandatory, that NFL teams can use to work on plays that won’t be used that often. If a team in the CFL really wanted to be successful with the Wildcat offense, they would need to instill it into their basic packages. Every team in the CFL has the potential to make it to the Grey Cup with maybe the exception of Toronto. Do you want the Esks to waste their time focussing on what works, or a new gimmick?

The final point is that the CFL is a essentially a two down game. Third down offense is usually limited to rushes of less than a yard or near the end of the game when a team is trailing and needs to score points in a hurry. Having only two downs, as opposed to the three typically used by NFL offenses, means that CFL teams do not have the luxury of wasting a play on a gimmick. Add the fact that the CFL play-clock is only 20 seconds, and it creates a very difficult situation for a Wildcat play to be run successfully.

There are some arguments for using the Wildcat, such as it creates an 11-on-11 running play as opposed to the typical 10-on-11 situation where the quarterback hands off the ball and then stands out of the way. It also creates havoc for defenses in picking up assignments. That being said, the CFL, and specifically the Eskimos, are playing at their best when the ball is in the hands of their starting quarterback. Having Zabransky run out from under center to fill a receiver spot and Whitlock taking the snap might be entertaining for the fans, and it might even work once or twice, but the Eskimos best chance at success comes when Ricky Ray is at the controls. I may be wrong on this one, but I can’t see the Wildcat offence being successful in the CFL over the long term.

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