When Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano got his first head coaching job in Miami, he instantly took the league by surprise when he dusted off the old Wildcat formation. For those unfamiliar, the Wildcat (simply put) has the ball snapped directly to the running back who in the process of the play, read option style, decides whether to keep the ball, hand it off to another running back, or on rare occasion, pass it.
Sparano used the scheme to lead the previously 1-15 Miami Dolphins to an 11-5 record. Eventually the rest of the league caught up to it and it wasn't catching anyone off guard. But for that one season, it was fun to watch.
Of the inevitable question would come up as to whether Sparano would bring it to Oakland now the he is the man in charge.
"You could see anything," Sparano said Friday. "We've done a lot of work right now and it's all about our self-scout. Up until now we've really run three snaps of [the Wildcat]. Three snaps. We've been efficient every time we've lined up in it, it's been good to us, but we've only run three snaps. And for different reasons. Maurice [Jones-Drew] maybe not being out there at times. When we went to it in Miami it was largely to get Ronnie [Brown] and Ricky [Williams] on the field at the same time and to be able to do some things that way, so we could see anything right now."
Now, Maurice Jones-Drew is fully back from the injured hand that had him out two games and he has had the bye week to work his way back into the lineup. That means, Sparano has the two running backs he needs to be able to run it.
In the three times they ran the wildcat before, it was run through Darren McFadden. During McFadden's time at Arkansas, he became very familiar running the Wildcat, or as they called it there "Wild Hog" (because they're the Razorbacks. It's the same formation).
MJD returned against the Dolphins two weeks ago but in that game he only saw 17 snaps and carried the ball just 2 times. Sparano would like to see those numbers improve.
"like to see Maurice take a little bit greater role, maybe get some snaps off of Darren if we could," said Sparano. "Keep them both fresh. We also gotta be running the ball doing some things that way too."
He said when he took over as head coach that the primary change in the Raiders would be to his philosophy and that philosophy starts with a commitment to the run. There's no system that commits to the run more than the Wildcat.
Sparano knows he can't live and die by the Wildcat like he did in Miami. But he has shown he is a firm believer in it so I would expect we see it a bit more with him in place.
Oh, and Ronnie Brown -- who was the key to Sparano running the Wildcat in Miami -- was just re-signed by the Chargers. Clearly, the Chargers are preparing themselves to face the Wildcat or whatever other schemes Sparano has up his sleeve.