As with any team in any season, the 2022 Jets saw many controversial moments that had a major impact on wins and losses. Any review of officiating trends is always tricky because it’s difficult to remove bias from the conclusions. However, it is possible to identify some interesting trends purely based off the calls that were made - whether or not they were correct.
Let’s assess some of these trends:
The Jets have specifically targeted players with a good record of on-field discipline in free agency and the draft and, sure enough, they ended up in 21st place in total penalties called against them, although this only came about because of a concerted effort to reduce penalty counts over the course of the season.
Despite this effort to bring the penalty count down to an acceptable level, the Jets still ended up with the 10th most penalty yards against. Already you can deduce that the types of penalties they were giving up were often more than your basic five yard variety.
This trend was reversed in terms of penalties committed by their opponents. They weren’t getting many calls - only the 24th most in the league - but they got even less yards - the fourth fewest of any team in 2022. So, it’s clear that a higher percentage of Jets opponent’s penalties were basic five-yarders.
Adding up the data confirms that each Jets penalty was worth 9.5 yards on average, whereas their opponents’ penalties were only worth 7.9 yards. Again, this difference was even greater until midseason when the Jets made a concerted effort to cut down their penalty count.
When combining the two, you find that the Jets are in the middle of the pack for net penalty count (ie penalties called compared against opponent penalties) but third-worst in the league for net yards on penalties.
One final anamoly: For some reason there were way more penalties called when the Jets were on the road than when they were at home. Jets home games had fewer total penalties called than those of any other team. However, in Jets road games, the penalty count was the ninth highest. If you make the assumption that home teams will generally benefit from “home town calls” this seems to be an area the Jets benefited from less than every other NFL team.
Types of Penalties
As we’ve determined, the Jets suffered from more penalties than their opponents that were worth more than five yards.
This manifested itself in roughing the passer penalties, where the Jets were tied for second in the league with five calls against them, a few of which were particularly controversial. All five of these were in the first eight games, after which the Jets put an emphasis on avoiding having any.
It was also a factor on pass interference calls. The Jets actually only had six of these, tied for eighth-fewest in the league. However, their yardage count on these penalties was 10th-highest. The average penalty was worth over 25 yards. Only the Bears (28 yards per pass interference penalty) and the Falcons (40 yards on their lone pass interference penalty) had a higher average.
Perhaps a bigger factor was those penalties that weren’t being called on their opponents. They didn’t receive the benefit of a roughing the passer call all season and the five pass interference calls they benefited from averaged just 18 yards per penalty.
The Jets’ main offender was George Fant who had eight penalties in just eight games. This was uncharacteristic from a player who only had seven penalties in the past three seasons combined. Duane Brown was next up with six, which is notable because that’s the most he’s had since 2015.
While Brown might feel that he was treated less generously than in previous seasons - and there were a couple of controversial calls here - the more plausible explanation for this is that both Brown and Fant were playing with injuries that may have caused them to lose more matchups and commit a hold, or try and get a head start and commit a false start more often than in the past.
On defense, Sauce Gardner was the only player to get flagged five times all season. Two of these were declined though, so CJ Mosley led the team with four accepted penalties.
There was an interesting trend in terms of pre-snap penalties, which tended not to be an issue earlier in the season, but were then a big issue late in the year.
In total, the Jets had just 31 pre-snap penalties, which is down in 22nd for the most in the league. That reconciles with our earlier conclusion that the Jets were being punished more often with the more costly kinds of penalties.
Clearly it became more of an issue as the season went along though. They only had seven pre-snap penalties in the first six weeks, nine in the next six weeks (which included the bye week) and then 15 in the last six.
These are the penalties that are avoidable and it’s worrying that the Jets committed more of these as the season went along as it suggests focus wasn’t maintained over the course of the season.
Could reducing penalties be a bad thing?
So far we’ve seen a couple of overriding trends. The Jets knew they were losing the penalty battle every week, so made a concerted effort to reduce this at midseason. This seems to have been successful in terms of bringing their penalty count down, but not necessarily in terms of winning games. In addition, despite this focus, their pre-snap penalties escalated over the course of the season.
The reduction in penalty count was definitely successful because they had 48 in the first seven games (almost seven per game) but just 43 in the last 10 (just over four per game). However, as we all know, the Jets were 5-2 in those first seven but 2-8 in the last 10.
It’s understandable that the Jets tried to reduce their penalty counts though. They gave up more penalty yards in each of those first seven games, even though they only had more penalties than the other team three times.
For the season as a whole, though, the Jets were 6-5 when they had more penalty yards but 1-5 in all other games (with that one win being a game where only two penalties were called all day; a five-yarder on the Jets and a 10-yarder on the Bears). Maybe they’re better off not focusing on this area?
Why could this be? Two theories: One is that focusing on not committing penalties takes valuable time away from working on other important things during the week. The other is that trying extra hard not to commit a penalty could give you a competitive advantage. If you’re less physical in coverage, you might be giving up more catches. If you’re pulling out of hits on quarterbacks, maybe you’re less likely to pressure them into a bad throw or force a fumble. If you’re letting go of your blocks a beat earlier, then the defender is less likely to be prevented from making a play.
The fact is that you can still win if your penalty count is high. Dallas led the league in penalties this year but still made the postseason and four of the seven most penalized teams made the playoffs in all.
Even so, it’s well worth revisiting the trend in terms of pre-snap penalties. As noted, they only had seven in the first six games as they began the season 4-2. The next five games saw them commit nine and they won three of five. The final six games, all of which were lost, saw them commit 15. There does seem to be a correlation there and it underlines how the Jets’ focus and attention to detail waned over the course of the season.
It’s perhaps also telling that the Jets benefited from fewer false start penalties by their opponents than any other team in the NFL. Again this is a sure-fire sign that that teams playing against them were generally focused and well-prepared.
There are plenty of interesting trends here - some of which are surprising, some of which are exactly what you expected and some of which provide possible explanations for the way the season panned out.
On the basis of the trends identified, the Jets should bear in mind that any attempt to reduce penalty counts could put them at a potential competitive advantage and that in some cases it might be better just to live with whatever penalties are going against you rather than trying to modify your style.
It also underscores how damaging pre-snap penalties can be and the fact that they are avoidable suggests time should always be dedicated to making sure the offense remains focused and knows their role to minimize these. Perhaps this will be an area that improves following the offensive coordinator change.
As noted, we’ve chosen not to debate or discuss any controversial calls or investigate whether penalties that were typically called or not called during Jets games were correct decisions. However, this may be something we investigate further in due course.
Data from NFLPenalties.com was used to determine rankings and comparisons with other teams but all other data was compiled by us.