Shutdown Corner

Jets forbid media from tweeting out Wildcat information, forget that everyone already knows it

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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"Shhh!!! There might be a new wrinkle!" (Getty Images)

Apparently, the New York Jets have just been taking their sweet time with the Wildcat, and now, they're really ready to unleash it. So says Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, who relayed this bit of info from the Jets' PR department before Monday's practice:

@MMehtaNYDN

Well, good. There shouldn't be a problem with the bunker approach. It isn't as if anyone has free access to specific information about the Wildcat concept, and its three primary plays -- Steeler, Power, and Counter, plus the play-fake pass that could come off a reverse.

Oh, wait ... you say there IS such a thing? My goodness.

David Lee, the man drawing the X's and O's of the Wildcat in that video, used to run it at Arkansas with Felix Jones and Darren McFadden. And it was Lee, not former Miami Dolphins head coach and current Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who brought the Wildcat to the NFL on a large scale in a Week 3 upset win over the New England Patriots in 2008. Lee, then the Dolphins' quarterbacks coach, gave Sparano the idea. And Lee is the Buffalo Bills' current quarterbacks coach. So, the Jets' secretive approach should pay extreme dividends!

[Also: Chad Johnson gets released from jail, then gets cut by Dolphins]

Or, maybe it's just the Jets who are puzzled by the 'Cat. When they lost 17-13 to the Tim Tebow-led Denver Broncos in Week 11 of the 2011 season, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine now recalls that they were so busy preparing for the Tebow Wildcat they didn't really see, they were unable to adjust to other things. From the Daily News:

It's a question that confounded defensive coordinator Mike Pettine when the Jets faced Tebow in Denver last season. After the Jets shut down the Broncos for 3½ quarters, Tebow beat them  with a frenetic 95-yard game-winning drive in the final five minutes. Part of the reason why? Pettine said the Jets had exhausted so many hours preparing for the Wildcat/read-option plays that they didn't have time to practice two-minute situations in the run-up to the game. So when Ryan consulted Pettine before the Jets traded for Tebow in March, the defensive coordinator was all-in. "Absolutely," Pettine told Ryan. "I'd rather face him in practice than a game."

Never mind that, per Football Outsiders' 2011 game-charting, Tebow didn't run a single play classified as a Wildcat. That includes the Jets game, which saw Tebow using far more of the read-option ideas he's been running since he became a red-zone weapon for Urban Meyer's Florida Gators. It's not that Tebow can't run the 'Cat -- he's certainly got the general skill set to do it very well -- but that wasn't what the Jets saw. The winning play was a simple Tebow bailout against the Jets' Cover-0 package.  We expect announcers to confuse read-option and Wildcat plays -- they do it all the time.

[ Also: Veteran receiver Plaxico Burress works out for the Patriots]

We also expect more of professional football coaches.

Another goofy aspect of the Jets' sudden 'Cat paranoia is that they've been very open about it before. On Aug. 2, the Associated Press published a report that had the Jets breaking down their Wildcat concepts to an extensive degree.

The Jets had kept their wildcat plans mostly under wraps since acquiring Tebow from Denver in March, but ESPN has been camped out all week showing live shots from practice—including the goal-line plays Thursday. Clearly, New York has a lot more in store for Tebow and it's likely much of that will be revealed during the regular season as the Jets game plan specifically for opponents.

By the way, everyone in the world knows that Tebow will see read-option looks in the red zone. He scored as many rushing touchdowns in college as did Marshall Faulk.

[Also: Rookies who shined in preseason opener must replicate outings]

"I don't know if I've ever seen as much interest," Tebow said with a laugh after the closed practice, when asked if he'd ever seen such secrecy. "I don't know if it's secrecy. We're going out there, running our offense and our plays. It's just part of the offense to us. Like we wouldn't talk about play-action plays. It's just nothing something we [need] to talk about how much we do it."

It's actually standard operating procedure for the media to refrain from revealing any specific play designs in closed practice. Any reporter who's been doing this longer than five minutes understands this. So, the Jets are either shadowboxing with the public, putting out the perception that there's a whole new Wildcat package in the works, or they're just being a bit goofy about the whole thing.

Right now, we're betting on the latter.

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