Wade Phillips might bring in refs to help

October, 20, 2010
10/20/10
10:20
AM ET
The Cowboys are tied with Tennessee with the third-most penalties in the NFL at 49. The Cowboys' offense is tops in the league with 30.

Coach Wade Phillips said these mistakes are on him. In reality, however, the players are committing them.

Why?

Maybe they've tuned him out, which seems to be the case because they don't fear any retribution for their actions.

Phillips said Monday peer pressure is one way to get players to make clean plays to avoid penalties.

How about fear?

In an attempt to curtail the penalties, Phillips is thinking of bringing in referees to help out. Referees come to training camp for a few days to go over new rules changes and to help offenses determine if a formation is set up right and if players are onsides or offsides.

But with the Cowboys in desperation mode at 1-4 and penalties being a primary concern, Phillips has to try something to fix it.

Can the refs help?

"We may. That’s a possibility," Phillips said. "The officials we get, all they do is stand there and watch and see if we line up onside or offside during the season. But there are some other things we’re going to explore."

Film study is another way to help. The coaches can go over the penalties, some of which are technique issue, in meetings and correct footwork, hand placement and how to react to plays better.

"We’ve done it in meetings," Phillips said. "We've done it on the field. We’re going to try some other things this week. I think that’s what you do."

The positive thing is Phillips is trying to fix the problem. It's costing him games, and probably the season.

He has 11 games to fix it.

"We’ve had the ball a lot more than everybody else," Phillips said about the Cowboys' time of possession. "I still think -- and I may be wrong -- but I think you have more penalties if you have more offensive plays. There’s more things that can happen offensively. There’s a line where you have too many that cost you drives or field goals or touchdowns. There is a fine line there. We’ve gone over the line."

The Cowboys do lead the NFL in time of possession with an average of 33:47 per game, but Baltimore -- second at 33:34 -- ranks only 12th with 38 penalties. Atlanta, third at 33:29, ranks 26th in the league with just 27 penalties.

Former Cowboys assistant coach Tony Sparano, now the coach of the Miami Dolphins, oversees an offense that averages 32:49 in time of possession, fifth in the league. Guess how many penalties the Dolphins have committed?

The fewest in the league at 21.

The two teams with more penalties than the Cowboys -- the Detroit Lions (59) and Oakland Raiders (55) -- both have losing records.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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