Wildcat…Old Joke, Wrinkle Cream or Both?

I was at the Eagles game last Sunday where the wildcat formation was unveiled in a regular season game for the first time.  Actually, depending upon who you ask, the wildcat was used nine times according to various reporters, or 12 times according to Eagles head coach Andy Reid.  The exact number of times the formation was used isn’t really important.  What is more important is weather it was used too much.

The first time you hear a funny joke it makes you laugh.  At least it should anyway.  What happens when you hear the same joke again?  You might laugh, but you probably don’t laugh as hard as you did the first time.  If making people laugh was so easy, comedians wouldn’t be constantly writing new jokes.  They would just tell the same old jokes over and over again, right?  I mean, it made people laugh the first time, shouldn’t it make people laugh the 2nd time? The 3rd time?  The 9th time?  The 12th time?  You understand my point.  When does a joke get old?  Likewise, when does a new scheme like the wildcat get old and lose its effectiveness?  Can you use it too much and eventually wear it out?

According to Andy Reid, it wasn’t used too much, and when it was, it was very productive, evidenced by a 5.7yd/play average.  I can’t argue with that if your goal is to gain yards.  However, gaining yards is actually a secondary goal in the game of football and it has been proven over and over again that a play can become very ineffective if you repeatedly run the same play.  To steal a phrase from the former Eagles wide receiver and current Eagles radio color analyst Mike Quick, “The team…that scores…more points today…will win…thee game.”, so the primary goal in the game of football is to score points and more points than the other team, gaining a lot of yards is secondary to that primary goal.

Score more points than the other team with your offense and prevent the other team from scoring points with your defense.  It is football 101 and Andy Reid knows that.  From what I saw on Sunday, neither the Eagles offense scored more points than the Saints nor did the Eagles defense do a whole lot to prevent the Saints from scoring.  The Eagles offense was able to move the ball using the wildcat.  That was obvious to me.  What I did not see was a wildcat play that produced a score.  I also did not see an Eagles defense that was able to prevent the Saints from scoring.  Some of that blame falls on the shoulders of the Eagles special teams, but the special teams is a topic that will require more space than this web site allows, so I’ll leave them out of this discussion for now, but don’t think that I don’t hold them partially responsible if not mostly responsible for Sunday’s defeat.

I’ll get back to the Eagles in a minute.  First let me ask you a question.  If you are a rich and famous A-list Hollywood celebrity who’s success is related to how good you look, are you going to slather wrinkle cream all over your belly to get rid of the stretch marks from the last pregnancy or fad diet you just completed, or are you going to seek a more permanent solution like plastic surgery?  The wrinkle cream might work, yes, but it is only temporary.  Eventually, you need the tummy tuck or the face lift to tighten things up real nice.  The wrinkle cream is just helping to hide a more serious problem.

The wildcat helped the Eagles gain yards for sure, however, it did not really help them score more points than the Saints.  I believe that the wildcat, like wrinkle cream, actually helped mask a more serious problem—they lack a reliable running game that can score points and complement their passing attack.

Jon Runyan and Trey Thomas are no longer on the team.  Todd Herremans is injured.  Shawn Andrews, the man that Andy Reid had envisioned to become the anchor of his offensive line, has been placed on IR, ending his season, and for all intents and purposes, his career as an Eagle.  Stacy Andrews has been demoted from his position as a starter on the line and only subs in for special situations.  Last but not least, Brian Westbrook missed training camp to recover from off-season surgery and is now listed on the injury report with a swollen ankle and did not practice this week.

The Eagles have a serious stretch mark problem in their running game and are using wrinkle cream in the form of the wildcat to hide it.  The only way to properly fix this problem is to see a plastic surgeon and get a tummy tuck, but we will have to wait until the season is over for that to happen.  For now, the wrinkle cream will have to do.  Hopefully, it doesn’t become an old joke before this season is over.