The argument can certainly be made that no one but Chad Clifton was responsible for the four penalties he committed against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, but it’s hard to understand why Clifton did it.
The Green Bay Packers were playing at home, so it’s unlikely crowd noise was a factor. Clifton wasn’t lining up opposite Jared Allen or any other premier pass rusher, for that matter, so it’s hard to believe he was intimidated. Clifton was coming back from an ankle sprain, but it’s one he’d rested for three weeks. It could be argued that his timing was off because of the layoff. Certainly possible, but that ignores the fact that the Packers committed 13 penalties overall in the game. Clifton was far from the only offender.
What seems obvious, but few have bothered to point out, is at some point, the Packers penalty woes need to be chalked up to the coaching staff. Not only have penalties derailed the Packers in each game they’ve played this season, but they’ve become a constant under the tenure of Mike McCarthy.
Penalties = a lack of discipline. Coaches instill discipline.
Or, in the case of the Packers, coaches instill a lack of discipline. In fact, I went through this exact same refrain last year.
ESPN Milwaukee’s Jason Wilde points out some telling numbers (and is one of the only people outside of yours truly to address the issue).
After committing 90 penalties for 689 yards in McCarthy’s first season of 2006, the Packers were flagged 113 times for 1,006 yards in 2007 and 110 times for 984 yards last year. This year, they’ve committed 43 penalties for 359 yards.
The 984 yards last year were most in the NFL; the 1,006 yards in 2007 were second-most. Last year’s 110 penalties were second-most in the NFL; the 113 in 2007 ranked fourth.
See a pattern?
Most of us who perform poorly in an important aspect of our jobs are told to either get better, or the organization will find someone else to do the work. If we don’t improve, we might get demoted. We might even get fired.
But I guess those rules don’t apply to professional football or the Green Bay Packers. Unfortunately, McCarthy is just as perplexed as the rest of us about the situation.
“I’ll tell you, it’s frustrating, there’s no denying that. I’m not going to sit here and tell you I feel really good about it,” McCarthy said. “The ones that grab ahold of me are the pre-snap penalties. There’s no excuse for it. It doesn’t matter who, when, where, what time. That’s the thing that’s unacceptable.
“Now, these combative penalties and some of them that were thrown, we’ll go through the process that we go through every week. We had 13 (penalties), they had six. It definitely factors in the game. You don’t, particularly on offense, play with any rhythm. I mean, you’re going back and forth and the game’s stopped and your down-and-distance changes. We have to get it cleaned up. It’s definitely an issue the first five games.”
At least McCarthy is aware of the situation, but what he’s done about it… well, your guess is as good as mine. The evidence over the last four seasons suggests he’s done this: nothing.
The Journal Sentinel’s Greg Bedard reports that McCarthy has recently considered pulling players who commit penalties. If and when he does so, that may be a step in the right direction.
One thing is for sure. If the Packers continue to commit this many penalties, they may as well stop thinking about the playoffs, and McCarthy better start thinking about dusting off the resume.
The NFL is a bottom line business and the bottom line about these Green Bay Packers is the coaches are accountable for the team’s lack of discipline. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.