49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

December 10, 2008
Things that make no sense, 49ers style

I must be stupid because I don't understand the Wildcat. I mean, I understand how it works. I just don't get why it works. I asked Mike Singletary that yesterday and he explained that the formation is effective because there are two running backs in the backfield and the defense doesn't know which is going to get the ball. Fair enough, but how is that more difficult to defend than a normal play in which there's a quarterback, a running back and often a fullback in the backfield? Any one of the three can run with the ball, and moreover, the quarterback can throw it downfield. In the Wildcat, all the running backs are going to do (94 percent of the time anyway) is run with the ball.

What I'm getting at is that the most valuable member of your offense, the quarterback, is virtually obsolete in the Wildcat. The guy who accounts for 75 percent of your offense on any given Sunday is reduced to a bit role on the outskirts of the formation. It's like taking the lead actor in "The King and I" and giving him a new role as a tree. The Wildcat, therefore, should be much, much easier to defend than a run-of-the-mill play.

But wait, there's more. In the Wildcat, you also remove a receiver, who by his very nature is good at running and catching the ball, and replace him with a quarterback, someone who is usually not very good at running and catching the ball. (See: Pennington, Chad). So to sum up thus far: You've replaced the quarterback with a player, a running back, who can't throw and you've replaced the wide receiver with someone, a quarterback, who can't run or catch. And this is more effective ... how?

Lastly, it seems dangerous. The quarterback is the most fragile and valuable guy on the field. He's the Faberge egg of football players. And yet you willingly remove him from the cone of protection that the league provides him. That is, what's to stop the 49ers from lining, say, Justin Smith (he does shoulder shrugs of 405 pounds every Tuesday) in front of Pennington and have him play press coverage so hard that Pennington thinks he's waking up on a farm in West Virginia?

If II were defensive coordinator, the Dolphins might gain a few yards the first time they run the Wildcat. But I guarantee they'd never run it again ...

While we're on the subject of things I don't understand ... Lemme get this straight -- the 49ers are forbidden from offering Singletary a long-term contract until after the season because it would undermine the NFL's effort to have more minority coaches? (Raise your hand if you see what's wrong with this picture?)

Ah, but it's true. Teams cannot give an interim coach a long-term contract during the season because it would circumvent the Rooney Rule, which requires them to interview a minority candidate before hiring a head coach ... apparently, even if the interim coach is a minority. (!!!)

-- Matt Barrows

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Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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