If you want to find the most undisciplined team in the NFL, the search ends in Irving, TX. In a year that began with Super Bowl expectations, the 2008 season is sputtering out of control. If any additional proof was needed to show us that the Dallas Cowboys are closer to the bottom of the league than the top, look no further than their loss at the hands of the New York Giants this past Sunday.
With so many factors contributing to their recent fall from grace, none shine brighter than the mountain of costly penalties that continue to follow this team, week in and week out.
Watch a Cowboys game and you are bound to see Flozell Adams false start, multiple defensive encroachments, penalty after penalty on the secondary, blocks in the back during punt coverage, and usually a facemask or two for good measure. Some variation of the above happens every week.
For a season and a half, Dallas’ high-powered offense has covered up these mistakes. Sunday, without their usual Romo-led attack, it became impossible to ignore their lackadaisical ways. Entering the game as the most penalized team in the league, Dallas held true to form, committing nine more infractions against New York in their 35-14 defeat.
Gone are the days when players would fear returning to the Cowboy bench after stupid penalties, the days when Bill Parcells’ ominous growl and a good tongue lashing would be waiting for you on the sidelines. All of that has been replaced by the player-friendly Wade Phillips regime.
Now, accountability within Dallas’ freewheeling style doesn’t exist and penalties have become accepted as a way of life.
On numerous occasions, Coach Phillips has been pressed about his team’s lack of attention to detail. Time and time again, he offers the same rhetoric—that the penalties are on him and not the players.
When asked about where the accountability lies, following an eight-penalty effort in a blowout loss to St. Louis three weeks ago, Phillips said, “It’s always the head coach; it’s always the coach, and it always will be with me.” He continued to say, “I’m not changing; I’m going to coach the way I coach, and I think they will respond. I think they will play hard, and I think we’re determined to do better, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Things have not changed; in fact, they have gotten worse.
On an afternoon when they needed to be flawless, they were as sloppy as ever. Seemingly every time something positive happened, a yellow flag would fall on the Meadowland's turf. Nine penalties, including seven on the defense and special teams, mixed with four turnovers, handed the game to New York on a silver platter.
The Cowboys now have more losses in 2008 than they had in all of 2007. They head into their bye week floundering in last place in the NFC East, three full games behind the division-leading Giants, with their playoff hopes, like their play, deteriorating quickly.
If Wade Phillips wants to assume responsibility for every penalty his teams commits, I guess it’s fair to assume he’ll accept responsibility when those same penalties are the root cause of his Pro-Bowl-stacked team missing the playoffs.