The Birth and Death of the Packers’ Wildcat Formation
We may have witnessed the birth and death of the Green Bay Packers “Wildcat” formation, or at least a certain Packers quarterback made it sound like it yesterday.
Before we talk about its potential mortality, let’s document the birth of the Wildcat in the Packers offense.
On Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Packers lined up Randall Cobb, a former college quarterback at Kentucky, in the formation on the second play from scrimmage to start the second half.
Cobb took the direct snap and ran off right tackle for a gain of four yards.
(For those who don’t know, the Wildcat is a single-wing formation in which, more recently, a skill player lines up in the shotgun with some kind of pre-snap motion. Once the ball is snapped, the runner has the option of running directly, handing off to the motion man or throwing, with the latter being the rare exception. However, that player usually has some kind of throwing experience or prowess in order to keep the defense honest to the pass. The Miami Dolphins, with Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, ran the formation successfully during portions of the 2008 season. There are different variations of the formation, but the one listed above is which most fans are now familiar.)
The possibility of running Cobb in the Wildcat formation was briefly discussed after the Packers drafted him in the second round last April. Cobb started nine games at quarterback during his freshman season at Kentucky, throwing for two scores and running for another seven. He moved to receiver full time the next season, later becoming one of Kentucky’s best all-time players. Despite the switch, Cobb obviously possessed the kind of versatility to pull off that kind of formation on occasion in the NFL.
But after just one snap in the formation, that page in the Packers playbook might have been torn out.
While nothing catastrophic happened during the Packers’ trail run at the formation, Jason Wilde’s weekly interview with quarterback Aaron Rodgers suggests that Sunday’s appearance of the Wildcat may be a one-time deal.
“I’m not crazy about it,” Rodgers said matter-of-factly when asked about the formation.
Later, when asked about the possibility of doing a Montee Ball-to-Russell Wilson type throwback pass, Rodgers said, “I’ve done that one time; scout team 2006. We had this awesome play where I pitched it to the back and ran down the sideline and then caught a ball down the sideline for 40 yards. But that was when I was a backup. I get paid to throw the football, and I need to be on the field in order to do that.”
While Rodgers obviously isn’t the one calling plays for the Packers’ offense, there is a certain amount of sway you can believe he has when it comes to a formation like this. Try it one time to get Cobb a carry because of a shortage of running backs? Sure, go ahead. But I wouldn’t expect the Wildcat to show its face again this season. It’s on tape now, and teams have to at least respect the possibility of it showing up again during a given week. That’s more than enough.
There’s also something to be said when the quarterback is that direct his answer. To think that Rodgers hasn’t already expressed that same feeling to Mike McCarthy and Joe Philbin before answering in that way probably isn’t looking at the whole picture.
And why wouldn’t Rodgers dislike the formation? The Packers actually took Rodgers off the field instead of lining him at receiver like most teams have in the Wildcat.
More importantly, taking your best player and the NFL’s likely MVP off the field for even one play probably isn’t the best use of your resources. Having No. 12 on the sidelines drastically reduces your chances of any play being as successful as it can be. Having No. 12 line up at receiver would have the same effect. There are other ways for getting Cobb the football, especially if getting him a carry or two to help the Packers depleted backfield was the sole reason, which was what Philbin said post game. The Minnesota Vikings’ playbook has a plethora of plays that get Percy Harvin the football in various ways as a running back without taking the quarterback off the field or lining him up at receiver.
I’m sure Rodgers wasn’t thrilled at the timing of the play call, either. Running it in the first half as a “surprise” is one thing, but using as the second play of the second half, after a first half that saw the Packers score zero points, was somewhat puzzling. It wasn’t the time to get cute, and it certainly wasn’t the time to take your best player off the field.
Timing might be beyond the point. Either way, Rodgers’ comments certainly make it sound like the Wildcat won’t be a part of the Packers’ offensive plans moving forward. Maybe I’m giving Rodgers too much sway over the play calls, and maybe I’m being too harsh on the usage of it Sunday.
But looking ahead, I’m more than willing to call the formation a torn and disposed of page from the Packers playbook.
RIP Packers Wildcat (Dec. 18, 2011-Dec. 20, 2011)——————
Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.
You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.Follow @zachkruse2