Can McCarthy fix the penalty problem?

It was his offseason mantra to bring more discipline to the Cowboys who led the league in penalties. After 2 seasons under McCarthy the Cowboys are 2nd in penalties .

Are the players in Dallas really just that sloppy, or is there something about the high profile of America’s Team that plays into it? Tin foil hats or not, the end result is that the penalty flags are being thrown a lot and McCarthy is understandably sick of it. He railed on the team’s discipline issues most of last year and has emphasized that point time and time again throughout this offseason and training camp.

Then came the first preseason game. Flags were being thrown left and right, up and down, side to side, and whatever other directions you can think of. It was a sloppy performance all through the night, even before the rain began. By the end of it all, McCarthy’s team had set the worst kind of record.

And how does McCarthy fix it? The coach seems to already have his answer, but Saturday’s exhibition proved it was the wrong solution. Those who have followed this offseason closely know that McCarthy has been especially strict on penalties at every stage. McCarthy has routinely benched an entire position group when one of them committed a penalty in practice.

This rigid approach is not uncommon, though its effectiveness is certainly questionable. So far for the Cowboys, it’s appeared to be wholly ineffective. But why?

It’s entirely possible, maybe even probable, that McCarthy’s intense focus on penalties this offseason is actually leading to even more mental mistakes from his team. Of course Saturday’s game which hardly any starters played might not be a sign of what’s to come. Far be it from me to overreact to a preseason game.

However, if the penalty issues do continue into the regular season, we may look back at this summer and the way McCarthy chose to address the issue as heightening the problem rather than solving it. Given that McCarthy’s solution thus far has more or less been an embodiment of his overall coaching philosophy, that could be a pretty strong indictment of his coaching ability entering a critical third season in Dallas.

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