What the penalty numbers say about Big Mac and the Cowboys

When you take the raw emotion out of the disappointment of the eagles loss, there are some interesting penalty numbers and patterns to discuss. This post is not intended to discuss the refs but to look at what kind of penalty patterns the Cowboys seem to be exhibiting in the Mike McCarthy era.

First of all, after 8 games the Cowboys are tied with the chiefs, bears, bills, and packers for the most penalties in the NFL with 60. The Cowboys are on pace this year to have over 120 penalties, averaging almost 8 penalties per game. I was never a Jason Garrett fan…ever…but Interestingly, under Garrett, the Cowboys never approached anything close to 120 penalties in a season.

What frustrates me the most about the Cowboys and penalties is their rash of pre-snap penalties. Over 1/3 of our penalties are pre-snap. In fact, the Cowboys lead the league in pre-snap penalties.

Here are some facts about our penalty patterns:

  • The Cowboys lead the league with a whopping 11 offsides penalties, 5 more than the next team.
  • We‘ve had 10 false starts so far.
  • In 2021, the Cowboys led the league in penalties and in the one playoff game we had that year against the niners, we had 14 penalties, and 6 were pre-snap penalties, including…wait for it…5 neutral zone infractions.
  • In 2022, the Cowboys finished in the top 5 in penalties.
  • In 2023, the Cowboys are again leading the league in penalties.
  • Again, not a Garrett fan at all, but in his era, the Cowboys usually finished between 15th and 24th in penalties.

I like a lot about what Mike McCarthy has brought to the Cowboys. We have an 11 game home winning streak, better responses to playing through injuries, and have had back to back 12 win seasons. But Mac MUST start addressing these penalty patterns…especially pre-snap penalties like false starts and lining up offsides.

If 1/3 of our penalties are pre-snap, with more attention in practice to addressing those problems we should get some improvement. Attention to detail matters regarding penalties!

Here’s the link to the info I used for this:


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