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BTB Mailbag: What Can Stop The Cowboys From Being Penalized So Heavily?

One of our readers wants to know why the Cowboys continuously like to accessorize the league's best uniforms with yellow pocket squares. Not very fashionable, fellas.


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On to this post's question!

This team has been a penalty machine for years. Do you think that with all the changes to the coaching staff, that we are due for another year of being one of the most penalized teams?

Can this new staff start holding repeat offenders accountable for bone-headed plays?
In other words, do you think that any of these new coaches are strong-willed enough or persuasive enough to get into Garrett's ear and get him to do something about it? - eviscole_mti

KD: Tyron Smith had 11 penalties last year; second most on offense. DeMarcus Ware had 9, most on defense. Morris Claiborne, Anthony Spencer and Jason Hatcher were next in line. What exactly do folks want the coaching staff to do to hold these players accountable? Sure, you can take away playing time from guys like Doug Free and Kevin Ogletree.. oh wait, they did that. What they really need to do is walk away from players like that. Oh, they probably are? Let's keep it real here. Sorry, you're going to need something else to not-so-subtly bash Garrett.

Also, not minimizing the timing of a lot of our penalties, but do folks know that out of the 9 most penalized teams in 2012, 5 of them made the playoffs including the two Super Bowl teams? Penalties are not indicative of success or lack thereof.

OCC: I don't like this entire question, because it seems to imply that simply getting a tough taskmaster who holds "offenders accountable for bone-headed plays" would help the Cowboys fix their penalty issues.

The Cowboys got flagged 140 times last year for 117 penalties. By far the leading cause of penalties were offensive holding (31) and false starts (28). The holding calls are a sign of an overmatched player and as such point more to a talent issue than anything else. The false starts I would suggest are the result of an offensive line lacking any type of chemistry; a line which changed at every single position versus 2011, and a line which got a new center two days before the start of the season.

Tom: I think the question misses the point a little bit, because I don't think Jason Garrett needs any persuasion on this topic. I am sure he is as angry and frustrated by the penalties as anyone, and wants this fixed yesterday.

I see two issues, one of which relates to the coaching staff. I think Rob Ryan's frequent adjustments and substitutions contributed to at least some of the defensive penalties. Monte Kiffin's emphasis on keeping things simpler as far as assignments, such as his concept that the front four rush the passer every single down (which gives me goosebumps), will help cut down on offsides and other mistakes.

The other issue was laid out brilliantly (no big surprise there) by OCC in his recent post on the need for continuity on the offensive line. He talks about how the changes at center spurred many of the false starts, and of course better O line pay overall should also cut down on holding calls. I think that getting the five starters figured out and hopefully keeping them healthy for most of the season would probably be the best way to cut down on penalties. So I am expecting the team penalty rate to get better.