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Packers Need the Return of Positive Penalty Yardage


The 2018 Green Bay Packers did something that had not been done since 2009 in netting a negative yard total from penalties.  This is according to  Green Bay was the fifth-worst team in the NFL with 145 more yards assessed than benefited from.

Two of the four teams that had a worse net total made the playoffs so Green Bay's 2018 ranking doesn't necessarily indicate a major issue.  In fact, there is no significant correlation between net penalty yardage and overall team success but still better to be on the positive side of the equation.

With many past seasons having netted a positive total for Green Bay, one can point to those teams that had more of a veteran presence as a major reason.  Overall, the Packers have often carried one of the younger rosters in the league.  The historical positive penalty yardage stats seems to stand out a bit in that one would think that a team with more young players will be penalized more often.

Looking at last season, we can see that is not always the case.  It's a very small sample, but a quick glance at 2018 shows that rookie Josh Jackson and nine-year veteran Bryan Bulaga both led the team with eight penalties on the year (Jackson had one declined so technically had nine).  Bulaga logged 781 snaps to Jackson's 718 so the penalty totals are significant.

Hopefully Matt LaFleur and his staff adequately address this with the entire team from day one.  Avoiding things like unnecessary roughness, unsportsmanlike conduct, taunting and delay of game (the Packers had eight such fouls last year) comes down to a culture of discipline and sound in-game management.

While instilling a culture of discipline is important, there are also many uncontrollable factors that come into play.  As we saw in last year's NFC championship game, many penalties are based on judgment and aren't always accurate.  It's a factor that team's can't manage as well as they would like.  

With the NFL adding new rules seemingly every season, it also becomes difficult for teams to keep up with how certain rules will be enforced and also how often.  See: Clay Matthews last season.  He was a clear and obvious target of NFL officials in the early part of the season.  He was flagged in consecutive weeks for roughing the passer, with one of those calls taking a victory from the Packers.

The NFL, at first, stood behind the calls and used Matthews as an example of a call that should be made.  They later admitted that the calls should not have been made, after the fact and too late to right the wrongs.  With that approach, all teams can really do for themselves is, as mentioned earlier, focus on what they can control.

Teams that effectively emphasize certain elements of the game are likely to see positive results in those areas. 

For example, the Packers have historically been among the teams with fewer pre-snap penalties.  These are especially detrimental because they're avoidable.  Between coaching, player focus and, to an extent, a quarterback who has firm control at the line of scrimmage, the Packers have avoided more of these frustrating gaffes. 

As the team prepares for training camp in a few weeks' time, the effort to avoid self-inflicted pains begins.  With a new offense to install and many changes, the opportunity for mental errors and miscommunication is increased.  The emphasis by this coaching staff has to be evident early on if this Packers team wants to get back into the plus column in net penalty yards.



Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Pulse of the Pack podcast.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (37) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Bure9620's picture

Special teams was a nightmare with penalties, hopefully Menenga can limit these, so undisciplined last year

Nick Perry's picture

It sure was... It seemed EVERY TIME the Packers had a nice return on a punt or kickoff there was a hold or block in the back called. UGH!

RCPackerFan's picture

We all want to rip on Montgomery but how many good returns did he have that got called back?

Tundraboy's picture

Double ugh.

murf7777's picture

Agree, I’m curious if you just count ST’s penalty yards how we would rank. Last? It wasn’t pretty.

dobber's picture

Five teams in 2018 had an average field position start outside their 30 yard line. Four of them made the playoffs. No team in the bottom 10 of starting field position made the playoffs.

Take home message: if you commit penalties on special teams, you're slitting your own throat.

Point Packer's picture

It got to the point that I was surprised when there WASN'T a flag on a GB return. Seriously.

Bearmeat's picture

I have no issue with the post. I do have an issue with the picture... Just don't like to be reminded about that BS.... As you mention, CM3 (and us via his misfortune) got made into an unfair example in the first 1/4 of last year. It literally cost GB a game.

Yes, I'm still a little salty about it.

RCPackerFan's picture

I'm still salty about that too.

Literally cost us a win. Also the next week it completely changed the game.

I really hope they don't find new ways to screw us this year with officiating. Seems like we always are the ones that get screwed when the league does something different with officiating. The Fail Mary was due to having fill in officials. Cost us a game. Then they decided that since it cost us a game they better get the real officials back.
Last year due to this new emphasis on sacking QB's it cost us a game and had a big impact in the following game. Not long after the refs changed the way they called games.

This new challenge pass interference thing I really hope doesn't come back to bite us early in the season. I'm tired of being the guinea pig of the league. Wait till something bad happens to us. Costs us games and then make changes.

Samson's picture

"Seems like...." is the key to your post.

Consider this: --- GB was penalized 108 times in season 2018 --- 19th in the entire league (most to least). --- GB was penalized a total of 937 yards in season 2018 --- 18th in the entire league (most to least).

KC was 1st in the league in both total number & yards. (137/1152)

Point Packer's picture

"Yes, I'm still a little salty about it."

As you should be, Bearmeat. That was classic Roger Roger simpleton BS. Amazing that guy is the head of anything.

nostradanus's picture

It makes one wonder what the Packers season could have been if the Minnesota game was not stolen from the Packers by the refs. It seemed that the Packers were deflated by that atrocity and never could get any momentum going.
Maybe they make the Playoffs and McCarthy is still around? It is interesting how Rodgers doesn’t seem to benefit from those roughing calls as much as other QB’s, or I could be looking at the world through cheese head glasses.
Here’s hoping things start going our way again this upcoming season.
Go Pack!

Tarynfor12's picture

" It seemed that the Packers were deflated by that atrocity and never could get any momentum going."

So this is the excuse for the entire season's bad play.
If so, what kind of team was this...quitters?
Did no other team suffer from horrible officiating?
Did every team in the playoffs NOT suffer horrible officiating?

Bearmeat's picture

Oh, dry up. That's not at all what he said. He's simply speculating on "what might have been." What's done is done. Green Bay was bad last year and the house-cleaning was completed.

You really do specialize in straw-man construction.

Tarynfor12's picture

LOL...This coming from one who is still, what was it... ' salty ' over a call from week2. What about...What's done is done you just stated.

Tarynfor12's picture

If one is going to speculate at least use something that fits the idea...
Lack of talent
and not to leave out the the FO chaos or the Rodgers-McCarthy power struggle, the sabotaging of offensive calls,
But let's allow the horrible week 2 officiating call be the speculation for the disaster.

Coldworld's picture

I don’t believe that was the point being made by either of the posters.

IceBowl's picture

I guess the Pack finished up 0 and 16.

Since '61's picture

Penalties are like tackling. Coaches need to work with players to limit penalties. With the current CBA limiting practices it’s difficult for young players to work on their techniques to STs.

In any case the Packers need to be better on penalties on STs. Not only are good returns nullified we are often left with poor field position (inside our own 20) as a result.

Cleaning up penalties like DPI, defensive holding and roughing is more difficult since so much is a subjective call by the officials. The league needs to put measures in place to reduce the bad calls and non calls. The games need to be fair or what’s the point. Thanks, Since ‘61

flackcatcher's picture

Goodell has already done enough damage with his heavy handed top down actions. If the owners do not get it though their thick heads that their man has made the pro game play far worse, then what come next will be on them.

Since '61's picture

Flak, I agree completely about Goodell. He has been a disaster for the league and the level of play and officiating has deteriorated every season under his watch. But the owners are only concerned that the money keeps rolling in. They don’t care about the game, the players or the fans.

Goodell is an imbecile and regrettably we’re stuck with him for the next several seasons. Thanks, Since ‘61

Tarynfor12's picture

I disagree, Goodell is far from an imbecile, he does exactly what the Owners pay him to do...make them money and take the heat for doing such. Which is why he was given another contract despite the agreed upon dissent from a couple of Owners with one named Jones for show to a call for change.

Tundraboy's picture

True. Problem is some owners carry a lot more clout than others, and speak loudly .

Since '61's picture

Taryn you are correct from an ownership perspective he helps them make more money. But as I pointed out in my post that is the problem. As long as the money is rolling in neither the owners nor Goodell care about the game, the players or the fans.

Once upon a time the commissioner’s role in every sport was to protect the integrity of the game. With Goodell there is not even a pretense of trying to protect the game, it’s all about money grabs while the product on the field deteriorates with every during the season.

But your point is a fair one Goodell does do what the owners want. Thanks, Since ‘61

Tarynfor12's picture

Let's not place the larger chunk of blame on Goodell as to the Integrity of the game...every criminal action or any disciplinary action done by a player is met with fierce opposition by the fans ,to which, no matter the decision, it 's construed as wrong and biased against their respective team. Let's also not ignore the power/sway each owner has based on market and monetary draw for the league. Teams that need more financial aid than another won't have the pull of those who supply most of the money via merchandise sales etc....yes it matters.

Protecting the Shield isn't as cut and dry as perhaps once upon a time and the outrage from fans of larger market teams who tend to think their players can do what ever in the name of winning and in the same breath demand punishment for one on another team been harsher than their own also in the name of winning.

The punishment needs to be simple...
Any 1st offense regardless is a 4 game suspension
2nd offense is a year suspension without pay.
3rd offense is banishment from League play.

I understand that offenses will not be equal but since any offense is a violation of League Policy, they need to be handled equal and let the outside courts handle punishment separately based on those crimes and sentencing/punishment.

To protect the Shield fairly is to treat each offense equally as to football offense is an offense against the integrity of the Shield...period.

How many times have we seen a player apologize only to repeat the offense or be involved in another on some level.

dobber's picture

Goodell's reign is colored strongly by the new CBA which I think does more to cripple play than just about anything else.

Coldworld's picture

Goodall has not been effective at handling PR, officiating or consistency in disciplinary policy and actions. While he is certainly the creature of the owners, I do not think he will prove to have been a good Commissioner for them or for the legacy of the NFL.

flackcatcher's picture

'Yup, that's my point about the owners. One can be intelligent, and still be a imbecile in not understanding the damage being done to your product. What worse, is we all see what is coming. Even if you disagree with many of the reasons listed on this thread, in the end the results show on the football field. The owners are totally at blame here, but only they have the power to prevent the collapse of the NFL. Goodell was for goodness sake changing the tackling rules, and then in mid season changing the coverage and pass interference rules. Literally trying to game the game. And he is their man for the as you say '61 " for the next several seasons".

PatrickGB's picture

I wish there was a category for penalties at key moments. Because those were the ones that seemed to hurt us the most. Also, a few players seemed to make some real boneheaded ones at key moments. Some of that is due to youthful overzealous. I expect/hope that special teams and DBs will improve with better coaching and experience. Oh, and one more thing, I hope that the new “hug” technique by the OL will not look like holding to the refs.

Lare's picture

As the Packers learn the new offense and coaching systems this year, they can't afford to be beating themselves with penalties, mistakes and turnovers.

If the opposing team beats you fair and square so be it, but don't help them do so.

Lphill's picture

the Packers were just not coached well last season.

Tarynfor12's picture

How does this get a dislike when all the screaming was for coaching changes.

Point Packer's picture

I have absolutely no idea, Taryn.

IceBowl's picture


There is screeching for coaching changes after every losing season. Foolish bandwagon fans screeching.

Expected, and placed in the proper receptacle.

dobber's picture

"For example, the Packers have historically been among the teams with fewer pre-snap penalties."

How hard is it to wait for the snap when you know it's coming at 0:02 on the play clock?

ricky's picture

Yes, improvement would be nice, but if two of the teams who did WORSE than the Packers made the playoffs, this doesn't seem to be a major priority. After all, take away all those bogus "roughing the passer" flags on CMIII, and this stat might look a lot better.

jannes bjornson's picture

If you want less penalties, get smarter players. If a guy is coached proper technique, yet consistently makes the same errors, it's time to cut bait.

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