By ETHAN J. SKOLNICK South Florida Sun-Sentinel Writer
DAVIE, Fla. _ First dates rarely go better than the one the Miami Dolphins had on Sept. 22, 2008, in the quaint surroundings of Foxborough. Six Wildcat plays, four touchdowns, a 25-point road victory against the Patriots and one humbled coaching genius.
You couldn’t blame the Dolphins for falling hard that day for the Wildcat. And when you’re smitten from the start, you’ll do anything to keep the flame lit. You spoil your love interest with lavish gifts, even if it costs you dearly_like a second-round pick on the seemingly perfect present called Pat White. You keep trying to recapture the first date magic even as everyone tells you the relationship is doomed and destructive, and it’s time to see other people.
And for the Dolphins, it clearly is. They don’t need to block the Wildcat’s number or de-Friend it on Facebook. They can still call on it sometimes, just to see what’s up. This going steady stuff, however, has got to stop.
Sunday against the Jets, the Dolphins tried the Wildcat eight times. They netted minus-18 yards. As dates go, that’s the equivalent of her vomiting expensive red wine all over you, then berating you for letting her order it.
“Let’s see, average,” Tony Sparano said Monday, when asked to assess the Wildcat’s production.
Did he think it hindered the offensive flow?
“No,” Sparano said.
He added that the Dolphins aren’t looking for huge gains out of the formation, just consistent, efficient runs.
“I ain’t all stuck on that, not at all,” Sparano said.
No more than Sam was stuck on Diane.
Here’s the reality: the Dolphins are victims of their success. NFL rivals implemented versions of the formation, which also taught them to defend it. So went the surprise. Many Jets said they anticipated eight to 10 Wildcat plays Sunday. As Jets safety Jim Leonhard said, “We have a huge package for Brad Smith that we get a lot in practice. So there’s not much we haven’t seen out of it.” Smith was a college quarterback. He’s what White was supposed to give the Dolphins: a Wildcat pass threat.
Instead, the Dolphins are fairly predictable. Leonhard noted that “if they hit a big play, they’ll jump in the Wildcat, try to get you scrambling a little bit.”
“We know what to expect,” Jets linebacker Bart Scott said. “They go Wildcat in the red zone. That’s their M.O. They get big bodies out there and try to outnumber you on the edges, and get a guy unsure, and get an angle, and take advantage.”
The Dolphins do something else, of course. They take control from their developing quarterback. In Sunday’s game, the Dolphins used Wildcat five times after Chad Henne threw passes. He had completed four of those, for 91 yards, and they were four of his best throws. What would his next throw have been?
The Dolphins have repeatedly downplayed the rhythm drawback, but someone’s word carries more weight. On WQAM-560 on Monday, Dan Marino said, “I was never a big fan of taking the starting quarterback out of the game for one or two plays. Ronnie Brown is a running back and, pretty much, when he’s in there, the passing game is gone, there’s nothing.”.
So don’t take it personal, Wildcat. It’s not you. It’s the Dolphins. They’re ready to move on, or should be.