As is always the case with New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow, people are lining up on both sides of the debate. So much of it has to do with stuff off the field and getting into the head of Mark Sanchez, but we're going to pass on that for the sake of this article. Some are questioning the move as a football decision, saying that the wildcat is done and that Tim Tebow was figured out by NFL defenses last season. The truth is that by joining the Jets Tebow will be given an opportunity to combine the best aspects of the wildcat with what made the 2011 Denver Broncos offense successful.
The wildcat was effective when it was first introduced because defenses didn't properly adjust. They stayed in their standard alignment, as if they were playing a traditional look with a quarterback taking the snap from center, which allowed the wildcat look to accomplish what it set out to do: win the numbers game by gaining an extra blocker due to formation. The other thing that made the wildcat successful is that defenses couldn't spend all week preparing for it, as it was just a portion of the overall offense. That led to defenses being unprepared and uncomfortable playing against it.
The downfall of the wildcat was that running backs couldn't threaten the field vertically with their arm. Ronnie Brown was a decent thrower, but opposing defenses weren't afraid of being burnt deep so they could pack the box with defenders, nullifying the extra blocker gained by eliminating the quarterback.
Tim Tebow solved that problem by being able to threaten defenses with the deep ball. His completion percentage isn't high, but he does throw a nice deep ball, giving him the ability to punish defenses that stack the box and dare him to beat them deep(ask the Pittsburgh Steelers). By being such an effective runner while still being a threat to throw the ball deep, Tebow became a nightmare to defend. It forced defenses to be extremely disciplined and play assignment football without chasing the ball, something players aren't used to doing at the NFL level.
The downfall of the 2011 Denver Broncos offense led by Tim Tebow is that defenses could spend the entire week preparing to defend it. They could drill their defensive keys and reads specific to defending the read option all week and be prepared for what they were going to face on Sunday. Tebow and the Broncos were still able to win a lot of games and Tebow averaged over five yards per carry in 2011, but the long-term feasibility of the offense had to be called into question.
Now, they join forces. Tim Tebow walks in as the operator of Tony Sparano's wildcat, just a portion of the New York Jets offense. Defenses will spend the vast majority of their time during the week preparing to stop Mark Sanchez and the traditional aspects of the Jets offense, forced to squeeze in some time to address the issues presented by a wildcat package featuring Tim Tebow. They don't have all week to nail down their reads and get used to playing pure assignment football and they don't play the entire game with that mindset. They can't use the quick fix that stopped the wildcat cold and pack the box with defenders, because Tebow can and will hit big plays down the field.
What's a defense to do? Maybe some will just stack the box and risk getting toasted deep. Most likely they will do their best to prepare during the week, but without adequate time to get defenders ready, the likelihood of them correctly executing their defensive assignments against the a wildcat set that features a dangerous passer are greatly reduced. This brings along the potential for big plays through the air and solid gains on the ground.
Just to add something that seems to be causing some confusion amongst people, that even led to a Twitter conversation between myself and Albert Breer of the NFL Network. The wildcat is a package, not a play. The read option is the play that was the base of the Denver Broncos offense with Tebow. The read option can be run out of the wildcat. Tebow will run some read option with the Jets – that doesn't mean it's not out of the wildcat package. Just because it's a read option doesn't mean it's not the wildcat. They're in different categories.
For example, Brad Smith in the Jets version of the wildcat running the read option(go to 1:29):
It's still the wildcat. It's still the read option.
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