During the bye week, I felt like I read the same article about the Jets over and over. It felt like every publication I saw had an article saying something to the effect of, “The Jets commit too many penalties. The coaching staff needs to get this under control.”
This made me want to do a deep dive to find out whether it is really the case. The Jets are indeed tied with Kansas City for third most penalties committed in the league. Is this an issue the coaches need to stop?
As I did a deep dive, two things really stood out.
Number one: The Jets are getting flagged a lot, but their opponents are too.
The Jets have been penalized 81 times this season, but Jets opponents have 73 penalties. Only eight teams have benefited more from opponent penalties.
The fact both the Jets and their opponents have been penalized a lot suggests the team has likely drawn flag happy officiating crews.
Some crews call the game tighter than others. Some let teams get away with more than others. Circumstantial evidence here suggests at least part of the reason the Jets have been flagged so frequently is they had had officials prone to calling a lot of penalties and not giving players the benefit of the doubt.
Number two: The penalties the Jets commit generally aren’t caused by a lack of discipline.
The most avoidable penalties NFL teams commit occur when the ball is not in play. If you are committing penalties either before the snap or after the play is over at a high rate, it is likely due to a lack of discipline. Are the Jets doing this?
The answer seems to be no. While the Jets are tied for the third most total penalties in the NFL, they are tied for eleventh fewest presnap penalties.
There are certain types of presnap and dead ball penalties the Jets do frequently commit. Their 12 false starts are eighth most in the league, and being tied for third with 7 unnecessary roughness penalties is unacceptable.
The bulk of the penalties the Jets commit at a high rate come with the ball in play, though. Their most frequently committed penalty is offensive holding. They are tied for seventh highest in that category. The Jets also find themselves in the top ten for defensive pass interference. They lead the league in both illegal contact and defensive holding flags.
Why is this relevant? Penalties committed after the snap tend to be more about talent issues. You hold because you cannot handle the guy you are matched up against. You commit a penalty because the opponent has you beaten.
In many instances, you cost your team less by committing a penalty than by letting the opponent go untouched and allowing him to produce a big play.
When a team commits the specific penalties I mentioned above, it might be due to a lack of talent at offensive line and cornerback. It even could help to explain the high false start rate. Sometimes overmatched players on the offensive line feel the need to cheat a bit to try and get a jump on the play.
Are the Jets a team struggling so much at offensive line and cornerback that it could be creating penalty issues? You tell me.
Do the Jets have a penalty problem? They certainly do.
Is this a problem the coaches can fix? It might require better players. At the very least, drawing officials less flag happy would help.
(Hat tip to nflpenalties.com for the numbers.)