Just like in life, it seems like common sense to draw a correlation between discipline and success.
However, a recent piece by USA Today challenges that thought process.
According to the article, the 30 least penalized teams in the country are a combined 123-132 (48%), while the 30 most penalized teams in the country have fared significantly better at 143-107 (57%).
Even more interesting is the fact that you'll only find four of the top 30 most disciplined teams among the nation's top 25 in the BCS Standings, while seven of the most penalized teams in the country have their names among the top 25.
By our own count, the most penalized team in the country since 2007 has carried an overall record of 44-42, while the least penalized team in the country (which happens to be Navy in five of the past seven seasons) is a combined 54-32.
Going back to USA Today's information, many of the teams that are among the most penalized are teams like Oregon, Baylor, Northern Illinois, and Michigan State, are comprised of offensive or defensive staffs that have taken the approach that they want their guys playing smart and fast. Playing fast certainly comes with a certain price, and as Mark Helfrich and Kliff Kingsbury explain, the "smart" part comes from their focus on eliminating the "dumb" penalties that happen pre-snap.
"We try to hammer our guys on being great decision makers. Penalty yardage, if you really look at it, is not a huge predictor of wins and losses." Helfrich explained to USA Today.
Kingsbury, on the other hand, splits penalties into two major categories; dumb penalties and effort penalties.
"Our big deal with this is eliminate the dumb penalties, that being the pre-snap, the ones you can control, the holding, things of that nature. Effort penalties, those happen, and there's a lot of subjectivity to those. But we really harp on the pre-snap penalties. The ones that we can control." he explained.
Pat Narduzzi is another great example. Could you imagine how different the Michigan State defense would have looked against Michigan (and their other games this season) if they were hesitant, and weren't flying around the field with a reckless abandon?
It applies to both sides of the ball, as well as special teams.
There's a certain "line in the sand" drawn when it comes to your approach to penalties. Either losses of yardage at any point is frustrating and unacceptable, or, as a head coach, and a staff, you understand the price tag that you have to pay in order to play a certain brand of football.
Ask yourself...what's your approach? And more importantly, is that a message that you've shared with your team and coaching staff?