NEW COACHING MOVE ALLUDES TO ‘WILDCAT’ STAYING PUT — AND, PERHAPS, EXPANDING IN 2013.
If at first you don’t succeed — try, try again.
The old phrase can be taken in two ways to describe the Jets signing of quarterbacks coach David Lee; 1. after losing out Lee to the Buffalo Bills last year, the Jets made sure to land Lee in their efforts to revamp their offensive unit and 2. while their version of the ‘Wildcat’ offense was mostly tame in 2012, they are not willing to get off the horse just yet.
After all, the read-option/Wildcat/dual-threat quarterback is where the future of football is heading (if it hasn’t already arrived).
That’s where Lee comes in. Many assumed the hiring of Tony Sparano as the team’s offensive coordinator meant the arrival of the Wildcat offense, which his 2008 Miami Dolphins team debuted to the NFL. We know that Sparano wasn’t the mastermind of the formation. He may have had very little to do with it. It was a combination of Lee, then the quarterbacks coach, and offensive coordinator Dan Henning.
It was Lee who brought the ‘Wildcat’ formation with him to Miami from Arkansas — where he was the team’s offensive coordinator and implemented the then-unusual formation with running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. He would go on to win the Sporting News’ 2008 award as “Innovator of the Year” for his ingenuity.
And what does all this mean for the Jets? The ‘Wildcat” wrinkle may very well ripple to the Pistol package as Rex Ryan continues to show his exploration of new, dynamic offenses. The days of “ground and pound” are over. He said it himself. He wants an attack-style offense — one that brings an unpredictability factor to the table.
“I want a physical, aggressive attack-style football team whether it’s offense [or] defense and all that, unpredictable in all three phases. That’s what I want,” Ryan said in January 8th end of the season press conference.
It was in that presser where he made a not-so-subtle allusion to what style he had in mind.
“My first year when I came in here I talked about having an all-weather offense, not a ground and pound. That year of the ground-and-pound mentality fit our football team. I want to be more of an attack-style team whether it’s running the pistol or running different types of offenses. That’s what I’m looking to do. As hard as we are to attack defensively, I want to be the same way on offense. – Rex Ryan 1.8.13″
He would go on to reiterate how he wants to work with minds who share a similar mentality, whether it’s in the front office or on offense. Cue general manager John Idzik, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and Lee.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Idzik could pursue former Seattle quarterback Tavaris Jackson — a dual-threat quarterback with limited prior success in the NFL. While in Seattle, Idzik was a supporter of Jackson, who spent this past season as a backup with the Buffalo Bills — with Lee – and would fit into the their slim price range. He also had a hand in the construction of the same Seahawks team who deployed a similar read-option/wildcat formation with rookie quarterback Russel Wilson and reached the second round of the NFC playoffs.
Mornhinweg, a quarterback guru known for his offensive play-calling ability (another thing Ryan was looking for), finished in the top ten of total offense in five of the seven seasons he called plays for the Philadelphia Eagles. His quarterbacks for the majority of that time were Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick — two players whose dual-threat attributes thrived in his West Coast-Spread hybrid offense.
“The style of play, it’s hard not to respect. You have to love that from an old school football background, we both have that. I think you appreciate the way he goes about business. They take care of the football, they create turnovers on defense, and they run the football, and they stop the run. They play great special teams,” Rex Ryan 9.27 on similarities between the Jets/himself & the San Francisco 49ers/Jim Harbaugh.
Many [myself included] saw the comparison Ryan talked about prior to their Week 4 matchup – where the 49ers unveiled Colin Kaepernick and shut out the Jets at home 34-0. Both teams were then-built as a defensive-minded team that played a ball control offense with a read-option wrinkle. That’s where the similarities end however. (Which is ironic, considering Ryan devoted nearly 1,000 words to praise the 49ers.)
“When you look at [the 49ers] and see how multiple they are with their personnel groupings and formations, and shifts and motions, and all that type of stuff, you have to be on top of it,” Ryan said back on September 28th.
The Jets were not.
The transformation of the 49ers, who were a stout 7-1 with ball-control QB Alex Smith (leading the NFL in completion percentage at 70.2) at the helm, happened when then back-up/read-option specialist Kaerpernick was named the starter. It was a ballsy move, one that many clamored Ryan to do with his own read-option backup, Tim Tebow.
That, of course, never assimilated as the Jets finished the season 6-10 ranking 30th in the league in total offense with a quarterback carousel that featured two almost equally inept quarterbacks in Mark Sanchez and Greg McElroy and not the read-option quarterback, Tebow.
The Niners’ offense, on the other hand, turned from averaging 23.6 points per game to 28.5 with Kaerpernick [earning a 76.79 QBR in that span] running the read-option offense for head coach Jim Harbaugh all the way to New Orleans for a berth in the Super Bowl — scoring 30+ points in four games including the playoffs.
Now with this being Ryan’s “fresh start” as Jets head coach — having been given new life by owner Woody Johnson — he’s set to right his wrongs and “implement his will” on this team with a renewed conviction; highlighted by the most recent additions to a team that’s in search of a new identity.
The Jets have attempted to pass less than half the time in three seasons with 48.4% of the plays ran in that time devoted to the pass. In three of the four years Ryan has been the head coach, the Jets have been in the bottom six of pass rate.
Expect all of those facts to change under Mornhinweg. Employing a pass-first, West Coast offensive scheme, the Eagles have continually ranked among the NFL’s most pass-heavy offenses. Philadelphia ranked inside the top 10 in pass percentage in three of the past four years with Mornhinweg calling the plays.
Ryan may not have done many things right over the past two seasons, his subpar 14-18 record shows that, however he has also shown a readiness to not only acknowledge his mistakes but to right them. The recent moves made by the Jets dictate that.