The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys’ Penalties Still an Issue in 2012

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I posted two articles on the Cowboys’ continually-high penalty rate. The first, at NBC, looks at how much those excessive penalties have hurt the Cowboys in the past.

While penalties seem a bit random when they happen, the truth is that they’re pretty stable from season to season. That makes sense when you think about how consistently poor Dallas has been with penalties. Brian Burke at Advanced NFL Stats has discovered that penalty rate contributes to team wins and losses more than yards-per-carry. Actually, it’s about twice as important as rushing efficiency and nearly as vital to game outcomes as offensive interceptions.

Looking back at the Cowboys’ penalties over the past six seasons, we can calculate the win probability they’ve forfeited by analyzing when and where the penalties have come. A false start when you’re going for it on 4th and 1 in a tie game is a lot more debilitating than a false start prior to a punt in a blowout, for example. After adding it all up, the ‘Boys have cost themselves 2.85 “wins” over the past six seasons simply by accruing penalties well above the league average. Another way to think about that is, in any given season, the Cowboys’ penalties have led to around a 50 percent probability of losing an extra game simply because of the penalties.

See the full analysis at NBC.

And at Dallas News, I separated the penalties into pre- and post-snap.

There are two basic sub-categories of penalties: pre- and post-snap. The pair are quite different from one another, with the former generally indicating that a mental mistake has been made and the latter often resulting from overaggressive play or being out of position. Below, I’ve charted the Cowboys’ rank in all penalty types over the past four seasons.

It’s obviously concerning to see the Cowboys are among the league-leaders in penalties year in and year out, especially when many of those flags come prior to the snap. In theory, such mental mistakes—false starts, 12 men on the field, and so on—are capable of being avoided. The fact that Dallas hasn’t ranked better than 20th in pre-snap penalties in any of the last four seasons suggests something isn’t carrying over from the coaches to the players.

View the entire breakdown at DMN.

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