Views from the Loon: Unnecessary roughness

28, 32, 29, 27, and 28.  These numbers represent the Dallas Cowboys as one of the most penalized teams for the past five years.   Over that same period of time, the Dallas Cowboys were known for their lack of discipline across the entire organization.  From the top down, it was unbridled chaos.  Then head coach, Wade Phillips, had lost complete control of his team. Jerry Jones, realizing Phillips was not the answer, named Jason Garrett interim head coach in November of 2010.  Garrett finished those last eight games with five wins and finished the season 6 – 10.  Not good in most people’s eyes, but it definitely was a move towards improvement.  For his efforts, in January, 2011, Jones hired Garrett as the 8th head coach.  Records aside, the Cowboys are STILL in the top five for most penalized teams.  Is this a coaching problem or is it a player attitude issue?

Aug 16, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; A penalty flag sits on the field during the game between the Cleveland Browns and Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. The Browns defeated the Packers 35-10. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

Garrett began his reign with an immediate change to the dress code.  Players were asked to dress professionally; donning a suit and tie. Marion Barber didn’t respect the coach enough to comply; he is no longer a Cowboy.  Several other players attitudes were not on the same page with the new regime.  They, too,  have the privilege of playing somewhere else. It does seem like there are positive changes being made, but one thing stands out in every game… excessive amount of penalties.

Having played basketball growing up, I know a bit about making mental mistakes on the court.  Walking / traveling was one of those repeat offenders.  So, I practiced, over and over, dribbling and moving with the ball, so it would not happen again.  Why is it that these professional football players continue to make boneheaded mental mistakes?  Time and time again we hear the whistle for offsides, false starts, too many men on the field, unnecessary roughness,  etc.  I can understand a false start occasionally, just nerves acting up until they settle down, but many of these penalties are repeats every single game.  And by the same player, every single game.  Are these coachable or are they mental?

What would happen if, like the Tennessee Titan player who was fined thousands for showing up late to a team meeting, the players were fined for repeat mistakes?  They may think twice about being so lax when it comes to potential infractions. If the coaches would put more emphasis on the penalty problem, there would be improvement, but no one seems to see the urgency in correcting this issue.

Over the past two years, here are a few statistics that stood out:

  • Team penalties per game:   Dallas #28 out of 32 teams
  • 2010 6.8
  • 2011 7.1
  • Team penalty yards per game:   Dallas #14 out of 32 teams
  • 2010 53.9
  • 2011 51.0
  • Team penalty first downs per game:   Dallas #2 out of 32 teams
  • 2010 1.2
  • 2011 1.1
  • Team penalty yards per penalty:   Dallas #1 out of 32 teams
  • 2010 7.9
  • 2011 7.2
  • Team penalties per play:   Dallas #28 out of 32 teams
  • 2010 0.05
  • 2011 0.06

It would not be surprising to say the Cowboys would have two to four more wins had penalties not killed momentum and field position.  Just as we watched in the second pre-season game last weekend, Dez Bryant scored a touchdown (in one-handed Superman fashion), but it was called back due to holding.  While holding can be very subjective, it is still a mistake that can be corrected.  Coaches can reiterate the importance of not making these mental errors or they could start monetarily penalizing the players.


The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.

-Vincent T. Lombardi

It all comes down to the individual and how much they want to be successful.  Discipline begins with self.  Coaches can garner respect; some do, some do not.  But the elite have to want it and push themselves to have it. Everything we do in life, or on the field, needs to be our best effort.  The Cowboys will get there, but it begins with the individual.



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Tags: Dallas Cowboys Penalties Referrees

  • californy

    I must admitt I skim through your article. I do understand what yiu are trying to say here. This team lack discipline. This problem start at the top more than anything. The basic of lack of disciple come with a lack of lack of accountability. Back in the Day, Jimmy Johnson fired someone for fumbling issue in the 1990′s. Disciple was instilled into these players. Jimmy had a instant where he yelled at Emmiit on a small matter, this example served that anyone and everyone is accountable to each other. I can’t help but notice how many player dont practise yet they start and play in NFL games. I remember Deion Sander being one of those in the 1990′s. Today that seem to be the norm of many of the Cowboys player in people like Austin Miles and Dez Bryant. Practice is crucial to build timing and stainma with the players. A player who can not stay healthy and who doesnt practice should not play. All rules should apply equally to every player but they dont. Now there the problem. The boys lack the focus of the small detail than many of the better NFL team have in the NFL. We lost too many close game last year because we lack the attention to these small details. In many way we are a couple plays away from 4-5 additional wins last year. This has been very typical for us the last couple of years. The line between win and losses is a lot closer than whay people think. Discipline and playing smart are just as important if not more important that team talent. This can all be avoided if the boys would only apply the rules equally to all.

    • Tonni Shook

      My thoughts exactly cali

  • Rich

    Most of the the penalties against the Cowboys are connected with a lack of ability, offensive linemen having to get the jump, because they aren’t good enough or quick enough. At least they don’t get a lot of personal foul penalties for doing stupid stuff and just being out of control. If this were the case I would be inclined to say it is a lack of discipline. Jason is doing a good job, give him time, as the talent improves, penalties will go down.

  • merchantofchaos

    And I think some of it too is a bit of a Catch-22 situation: These players get drafted high – with accordingly high salaries – and management is obligated to play them basically regardless of their performance because of the investment. In college, it’s different: You screw up, there’s the bench. And the players know that and aren’t motivated as much to correct mistakes because A. If they get benched it shows management can’t manage, and B. They’re getting paid either way.