Five years ago, the Eagles tiptoed around the question of whether then-starting quarterback Donovan McNabb didn’t like the insertion of Mike Vick into the game as a Wildcat option.
Now, with Vick potentially becoming a Wildcat option for the Jets, McNabb pulled no punches about the alternative offensive system.
“The Jets tried this whole garbage with Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez and it got them nowhere,” McNabb told the New York Daily News. “In the situation now, I think it takes away from what Geno Smith can do. It’s a maturity process for him to try to develop into an NFL quarterback. Now you’re taking him off the field or splitting him wide to bring in a 34-year-old quarterback? To do what? I understand the ‘wow’ effect, but it’s not a good thing for either quarterback.”
But it can be a good thing for both quarterbacks, if it dilutes a defense’s ability to prepare for either of them, unless the starter is the kind of franchise quarterback that a team would never slide away from the center. Which could be why McNabb hates it so much; Philly’s introduction of the Wildcat was the first tangible piece of evidence that McNabb no longer was a franchise quarterback.
“I didn’t agree with the whole deal,” McNabb said of the Eagles’ use of the Wildcat. “I think it messes up the flow of any offense. . . . I thought most of the trick plays that we ran, we could have done in our normal base offense. Of course, I wanted Mike to have an opportunity to get out on the field . . . [but] when you have an established quarterback [like me] . . . no one would have asked Peyton Manning or Tom Brady to do that.”
And there it is. Teams that use the Wildcat necessarily admit that they lack a true franchise quarterback.
For the 2012 Jets, the problem wasn’t the Wildcat as much as it was former offensive coordinator Tony Sparano’s complete lack of faith in Tebow as a player. Sparano had sufficient disbelief in starter Mark Sanchez to take the ball out of his hands, but Sparano lacked an alternative option that gave him real confidence in a successful outcome.
The Jets currently have a high degree of confidence in Vick. By using both Vick and Geno Smith, the Jets may eventually decide that they have so much confidence in Vick that he’ll become the kind of starting quarterback who, unlike McNabb five years ago, would never be forced to tolerate the Wildcat.