Over the past three seasons, the Dallas Cowboys have been the fifth-most penalized team in the NFL and nothing is new in 2012 as America’s Team has been called for over 30 penalties through three games. Until late Wednesday night, that could have partially been attributed to the NFL replacement referees, who many have blamed for a majority of the sloppy play throughout the league this year. However, it should never have been excuse for the Cowboys – a mentally weak team – and it sure can’t be an excuse now as the regular referees and the league have ended their lockout just in time for Week 5.
After all the crazy things that happened on Sunday were capped by the debacle in Seattle on Monday night, the frustration of NFL fans, players, coaches, owners and general managers boiled over and the league apparently noticed. But while some teams may now start to look like their 2011 selves, don’t expect the same from Dallas.
The Cowboys were called for a truckload of penalties by the regular refs over the past three seasons and that didn’t change with the replacement refs, so it can’t be “fixed” now that the usual guys are back out there. Although no member of the organization has used that excuse, it’s hard to believe that hasn’t crossed the mind of anyone at Valley Ranch. Regardless, Cowboys overpaid right tackle Doug Free – the second-most penalized player in the NFL – knows he must clean up his act:
“I don’t think I’ve done a good enough job and we got to get it fixed, and I have to fix it and I have to take the good coaching and keep working the techniques that I have been taught and really focus on it.”
The ironic thing about this is Free was the Cowboys’ No. 1 priority following the 2010 season. He had played extremely well on the offensive lined and, up to that point, had earned every dollar of the four-year, $32-million contract he was awarded before the start of 2011. The part that’s not funny is he’s played like a scrub ever since.
Even more so, Free and the rest of the Cowboys are penalized so often that one has to wonder if the message head coach Jason Garrett says he’s preaching is being heard or is actually even being preached at all. Garrett often reiterates that he demands discipline, accountability and mental toughness, but those are the three areas in which the Cowboys are the weakest.
During the past three seasons, no team that was among the most penalized in the league was anywhere near competing for the Super Bowl. So if members of the Dallas faithful are still wondering why their team is so inconsistent, there is a reason. Although Free has yet to clean up his act, his comment applies to the entire team: they haven’t done a good job and it’s got to be fixed.