Penalties have been a sore spot for the Dallas Cowboys the past few years. For fans watching from the outside, it was always puzzling why this issue lingered from season to season. Especially galling were the false start and offside penalties that appear to be strictly failures in discipline. In 2012, Dallas was at the bottom of the NFL list (or the top, if you put it as numbers) for both those kinds of pre-snap infractions.
This is even more difficult to grasp under Jason Garrett. The head coach has preached discipline and accountability. Despite that, the issues have continued. It always seemed to be a breakdown, a failure by Garrett to get the message across and find a solution. It violates the Way of the Rooster, a term I freely admit I pilfered from Fanposter Dawn Macelli.
2013 may be different. The first reports of something new to address this problems showed up in Tweets, and now Nick Eatman has an article up at DallasCowboys.com discussing the new approach.
We've seen running. We've seen pushups. We've seen players pulled from practice. Now, the Cowboys are trying a different approach in to get players to be accountable for their mental mistakes in practice.
This year, jumping offside before the snap doesn't just get you pulled out of the drill. The entire group will go off the field as well.
Jason Garrett has taken his mantra of being accountable to your teammates to another level. Now the consequences of getting it wrong don't just affect the individuals. It is also has an immediate effect on the rest of your unit.
This is something that those of you that have a military background, as I do, will probably recognize. It is the acknowledgement that nothing is as impactful as the support or sanction of your peers, particularly on a tight-knit team. A player who might not really buy into what a coach is saying is almost always going to pay real attention when a committee of his teammates surrounds him in the locker room and explains that it is time to get his feces properly consolidated.
No matter how big an NFL player is, he can be outnumbered. And far more than any implied physical threat, the psychological impact can be devastating. Even those players that are pretty much not going to be criticized, team leaders such as DeMarcus Ware, cited in Eatman's article as having jumped in one case, are going to cringe at setting a bad example. (Well, the real leaders. If you believe that the Cowboys have leaders, despite all the pronouncements that they don't.) No one, if they are one of Garrett's RKGs, is going to shrug off letting his teammates down that way. That is a core trait for the Right Kind of Guy. And, as I have stated, I think that the team is now almost 100% Garrett approved RKG.
The technique also is good because it moves the units in and out as a group, and lets the coaches address what just happened with the offenders while the next group is out there getting work on the field. Effectiveness and efficiency are both served.
Of course, the team has tried other solutions for the problem of pre-snap penalties. Many others. We have to see if this bears fruit.
But this looks like a really good approach. One that fits right in with the Garrett Gospel. And it ought to work out.