After a loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday, both coaches and players from the Dallas Cowboys cited petty mistakes as the cause for the unimpressive performance. I, for one, feel that there is a major underlying theme to the Cowboys’ game-time struggles.
When considering why Dallas has only won one playoff game in my little sister’s lifetime (who by the way is a high school freshman), I’m surprised that few people seem to consider the one disturbing trend: penalties. You can blame a lack of leadership, you can blame underachievement by players, but the numbers speak for themselves 8212; penalties are a major issue in the Dallas franchise.
The Cowboys have consistently been huge penalty gatherers in the NFL over the past decade. In eight out of the past 12 years, the Cowboys have ranked in the top 10 in both penalty yardage and penalties received. In every season since Wade Phillips became the head coach, the Cowboys have hit the top five.
As of now, this season is no exception. The Cowboys already have 18 penalties for a total of 131 penalty yards. Alex Barron’s little holding incident during the final play of week one cost Dallas a victory against the Washington Redskins. In addition to that, six penalties took away 50 yards (and far more momentum) in last week’s effort against the Chicago Bears. If there’s any one subject that needs to be addressed immediately, I say it’s avoiding that infamous yellow flag.
I’m really curious to see how Wade Phillips and the rest of the coaching staff handle this situation. In the past, the coach has shrugged off questions about penalties, stating that there wasn’t much of a correlation between penalties and wins. Veterans such as tight end Jason Witten, however, have been vocal since the pre-season in disagreeing with Phillips’ stance. Now that Dallas’ penalty issues are in the national spotlight, perhaps now Uncle Wade will have a change of mind. If Dallas fails to put together the discipline needed, the likelihood of a strong playoff run appears to be fading fast.
More than likely, someone out there still feels that the Cowboys’ biggest concern relies in finding a better kicker, firing Wade Phillips or revamping the offensive line. Perhaps all of the above. I still hold to the contention that for every yard lost with a holding or false-start violation, another one that Tony Romo and the Boys needs to be picked back up. Even with the talent that the Dallas Cowboys have, 3rd and 15 is never easy to pull off against a NFL defense. When the Cowboys start to mature out of the “petty mistakes” that are penalties, perhaps we’ll see a re-emergence of a playoff contender.