View Full Version : Cowher's plan on stopping the "Wildcat"

tony hipchest
11-19-2008, 03:52 PM
pat kirwan has talked on sirius how him and cowher have had lengthy discussions on what miami is doing and how to defend it. bill knows the steelers defense is the most capable of defending it and immediately drew up a plan after miami torched the patriots (think he's got coaching out of his system? :wink02: ). kirwan noted how after the ravens stuffed it they basically used cowhers "plan".

its worthy to note the jets successfully used a wildcat play against the patriots last week. im willing to bet we have a package for dennis dixon when we play the patriots. remember ben was a wr in high school. and ward was a qb.

anyways, kirwan finally got around to writing an excellent x's and o' article on this, with plenty of chalk board diagrams-


I hear analysts on television refer to the Wildcat formation as a gimmick. Webster's dictionary defines a gimmick as "a trick." By that definition, the Wildcat is not a gimmick; coaches I spoke to about it haven't been tricked by it, but the formation does concern them.

Some observers call the Wildcat a trend, but Webster's defines a trend as "veering in a new direction." Former NFL quarterback Billy Kilmer recently told Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino that he ran it in the 1950s. So it's not really a trend, either.

So what is the Wildcat then? NFL coaches talk about it in terms of a package. Webster's defines a package as "a group or bundle."

So from now on, I will be looking at the Wildcat "package." For this study, I was curious how one former NFL head coach would construct his Wildcat package and how another former NFL head coach would defend it.

From everyone I talked with and from video I watched, no team is committed to the Wildcat as the mainstay of its offense. Consequently, defenses have developed a "check" system to play the Wildcat if it shows up in a game. If it is 10 percent of a team's offense, then an opposing defense can only spend 10 percent of its prep time on it. But any good defense has already worked on it at least a little, so it should not take anyone by surprise.

The NFL version of this package is to come out of the huddle with the quarterback lined up as a wide receiver and the running back, or a wide receiver, in shotgun formation behind the center. From that basic principle, a "package" of plays can be developed based on the talents of the player taking the snap.

First, a few concepts that former Steelers coach Bill Cowher sees when it comes to defending the Wildcat:

There is a "mesh point" where the shotgun player will engage another runner with the ball somewhere in the backfield. This point has to be defended.

A defensive player has to be assigned to the ball.

The whole package has to be contained and can never get on the perimeter.

Of all the plays in the package, the pass is the defense's least concern.

Below is a step-by-step defensive package that Cowher would build to defend the Wildcat. Because the quarterback is in the huddle with a number of personnel groupings, there is no way to tell when the Wildcat will be utilized. So Cowher built his "check" package with the idea that if an opposing offense came out of the huddle and was set up in a Wildcat, his team would check out of the defense called and go to a Wildcat defense. The middle linebacker would yell "check cat," and the following would transpire:

check link

The Wildcat is a fundamentally sound package and has its place in the pro game. It can be an effective package against teams without a good check package. It can also help an offense survive a injury to its quarterback.

No one should call it a gimmick. A double-reverse pass with the intention to fool a team is a gimmick, and the defense can't spend much time preparing for that. The Wildcat package can cause problems in a number of ways, and the defense knows it's coming at them.

And it just might be here to stay.

11-19-2008, 05:46 PM
Nice article. Should we ever have to defend against it, I'm sure Lebeau will have a nice package of his own to smack that cat up.

11-19-2008, 06:14 PM
That's a sweet article.

11-20-2008, 01:05 PM
I think defensive team speed, which the Steelers have in spades, can't be underestimated.