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One final goodbye to the dearly departed Wildcat

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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The Wildcat, 1934-2010

MIAMI -- The Wildcat offense, once one of the more dazzling and formidable strategies in football but recently a sufferer of overuse and lack of effectiveness, died Friday. It was 76.

The Wildcat was surrounded by friends and family, according to a publicist for the offense. It had struggled in recent months and was seen living in a trailer outside of Sun Life Stadium.

The Wildcat had a great breakout two years ago, but it died alone. (Getty Images)  
The Wildcat had a great breakout two years ago, but it died alone. (Getty Images)  
"We are saddened by the passing of the Wildcat," said commissioner Roger Goodell in a statement. "It lived a good life. But the Wildcat is in a better place now and that place is off the football field."

The Wildcat burst onto the NFL scene two years ago in Week 3 when the Miami Dolphins shocked the Patriots. Running back Ronnie Brown scored four touchdowns and threw for another using the Wildcat, with Ricky Williams rushing for 98 yards. The Dolphins won 38-13.

"What the ---- was that?" said Patriots coach Bill Belichick immediately afterward.

And the Wildcat was born.

After an initial spate of controversy -– some people confused "Wildcat" with "Cougar," and the Broadway play Wildcat was scuttled after former president Bill Clinton suddenly withdrew from the lead role -- other teams quickly incorporated the attack and it became a league-wide trend. The New York Times compared the Wildcat to author J.D. Salinger. "... Cynical yet romantic; disdainful of hypocrisy, social convention and conformity," the newspaper wrote, "self-conscious and uncomfortable in [its] own skin..."

The Wildcat made stars of Brown and Williams. Brown received numerous endorsements and made a guest appearance on Jersey Shore. Williams used his Wildcat-enhanced fame to film a public service announcement backing the legalization of marijuana in California. He also appeared on Saturday Night Live with musical guest Willie Nelson.

The Wildcat joined such football legends as Jim Brown, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Troy Aikman, Vince Lombardi and the actor who starred in Rudy.

Some teams and stars refused to utilize the Wildcat. Peyton Manning said his bulb-like, obtuse head was too cumbersome to run it. Randy Moss explained: "That offense is horrible, homie." Mike Vick objected to using any offense with the name "cat" in it.

The history of the Wildcat is sketchy, but it's believed born out of six-man football in 1934. It got its name in 1998 from a high school coach. Or possibly this.. The Wildcat was short-lived as defenses adapted over just a few short years. It hindered offenses instead of enhancing them. The Dolphins had popularized the Wildcat, but it became a failure. Against the Jets this season, the Dolphins used the Wildcat package eight times, accumulating 2 yards on five runs, a failed pass and two penalties.

The Wildcat knew its demise was imminent and desperately reached for lost relevance. In an attempt to stay in the public eye, the Wildcat ran for the governorship of Florida but lost in a runoff to Dan Marino.

During the campaign, rumors circulated that the Wildcat had an affair with the Run-and-Shoot. The Wildcat strongly denied them (Run-and-Shoot had no comment). However, when the Pistol offense claimed in a biography it was the son of the Wildcat and Run-and-Shoot, the Wildcat, in an interview with Access Hollywood, admitted to "mistakes during my marriage to the Wing-T. For that I am truly sorry."

After its wholesale rejection as a useful tool, and following the failed political run, the Wildcat withdrew to the rural beaches of Florida, where it lived in seclusion. Occasionally, it was spotted fishing in a marsh with Mel Gibson.

In the last interview before its death, the Wildcat told TMZ.com: "If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."

The Wildcat is dead.

Rest in peace.

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