Heac coach Dennis Allen's Raiders were flagged fewer times in 2012 than they had been the previous season under Hue Jackson. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
A lot went wrong for the Raiders in 2012, but Dennis Allen did deliver on one promise he made after he was hired as head coach:
He brought more discipline and the Raiders committed fewer penalties.
In 2011, the Raiders under Hue Jackson were penalized an NFL-record 163 times for 1,358 yards, a total that was far and above any other team in the NFL.
Allen, who was hired as head coach after serving as defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos, looked at that total and vowed to fix it.
“Our philosophy is that we want to be a tough, smart, disciplined football team,” Allen told the media in May. “Everybody talks about the penalties here and that’s all part of discipline. We’re going to preach that message day in and day out. If we can uphold that and become a disciplined football team we’re going to have a chance to have success.”
Well, yes and no.
The Raiders cut their penalties, but slid from 8-8 in 2011 to 4-12 in 2012. Yet Allen’s progress in the area could spell a fundamental change in an organization that is in true rebuilding mode.
As the Raiders restock their roster this offseason, bring in a new offensive coordinator and try to take some bigger steps forward in 2013, the foundation of discipline and fewer penalties could be part of future progress.
This past season, the Raiders were flagged for 108 penalties, the fewest the team had committed since the 107 it recorded in 2001 in the final season under head coach Jon Gruden.
Many of Allen’s players this season complimented their rookie head coach for his focus, communication skills and organization.
Cleaning up the penalty problem was something that had to be dealt with.
“He’s done a good job with penalties, making sure we’re focused on being disciplined,” Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey told Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle in December. “He’s kept us aware of what’s going on game in and game out, preparing us for our opponents very well.”
The Raiders still rank in the bottom third of the NFL in penalties, having committed 6.8 per game in 2012. But that’s a huge improvement from 2011 when the team averaged 10.2 per game. The league leader this season was Atlanta, with just 3.4 per game.
Early in the season, when the Raiders’ number of penalties was down significantly from 2011, Allen said he thought his team was buying into his ideas of discipline, but he said, “It’s a continual work in progress.”
At least in this one area, the Raiders did at least go in the right direction.