Over the last two weeks, no NFL team has been more penalized than the Dallas Cowboys. Per game, no team has been penalized more than the Dallas Cowboys. Even with the bye week, the Dallas Cowboys are in the top three of the league in penalties against. Conversely, the Dallas Cowboys are also tied for first for the most beneficial penalties and are a +1 in penalties for versus against.
However, this doesn’t tell the full picture when we look at the penalties. Before we get into a more complete picture, I think we can all agree officiating has not been very consistent across the league this year, and there are some major issues with the rules, how they are written, and how they are called. Of course, just about everyone outside of the commissioner (and perhaps the owners) hates the new taunting rules but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
The Dallas Cowboys are one of the most penalized teams, but the full picture tells a more complete story.
One of the biggest issues in the officiating this year, outside of the taunting problems, is roughing the passer. So far this season there has been a total of sixty-six roughing the passer penalties. For context: There here were 127 in 2020, 136 in 2019, and 118 in 2018.
The issue has been what specifically should and should not garner a flag. With the rules built to protect the quarterback at nearly all costs, the expectation is for a player to adjust in mid-air, stop within a yard regardless of speed and momentum, and even pull up on legitimate and legal tackles. They want to protect the quarterbacks but have done it by cheapening the defense.
But let’s get back to the Dallas Cowboys:
- The most penalized player in the league is Connor Williams with nine holding penalties and one unsportsmanlike penalty.
- Trevon Diggs is the fifth most penalized player in the league.
- Dallas is the 7th least penalized at home and the most penalized on the road. However, it isn’t just the number of penalties, it also is about the timing and what isn’t being called.
Just looking back at the last game, there was a play where CeeDee Lamb caught a pass and went out of bounds, as he was wrapped up by Harrison Smith. It appears Smith is choking Lamb, in front of a referee, yet no flag is thrown.
Later in the game, Randy Gregory was called for much less when he got two roughing the passer calls. This inconsistent application sent Cowboys Nation into a frenzy. There have been numerous shots to Dak Prescott’s helmet that have also gone uncalled all season, yet similar plays by the Cowboys defense have gotten the flag.
Now, this is not to say the league has it in for the Dallas Cowboys. There have been quite a few penalties that were absolutely the fault of the player and were obvious to everyone watching. The issue many have is how unequal some of the calls have been throughout the game. Obviously similar penalties are called for one team and not the other – all fans want is consistency.
So what can the league do? Well, they can start by fining referees for obvious missed or bad calls. For spotting the ball, there has been a push for a chip to be placed in the ball to help GPS locate where the ball should be.
Yes, there are inherent issues that need to be worked out, but something needs to be done, not just for the teams, but for the fans. The easiest way to start is to get rid of the taunting flags next season and start to find a way to penalize refs that is more than just a grade and not being able to referee playoff games.
Contrary to many conspiracy theorists, the league is probably not using penalties to “get back at” Jerry Jones. Sometimes it does feel like it, but just looking at the totals shows there are no lopsided penalty calls against the Cowboys.
Yes, the timing of some of the calls, or no-calls, does seem suspicious at times, as does the fines being levied. But the Cowboys need to do better themselves to mitigate the penalties the best they can. Maybe we will revisit this at the end of the season, but for now, you can track them yourself at NFLPenalties.