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Jerry Jones thinks penalties should be ‘the same for both sides’, even during the match

Jerry Jones has a novel idea: he thinks penalties should be called “evenly” and generally equal for both teams during a match. But is it practical or even the right thing to do?

Be the judge.

During an interview on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas this week, the Cowboys owner and general manager discussed his team’s recent victory over the San Diego Chargers, which he said was officiated ideally.

“Penalties play a big role in this,” Jones said Friday. “In general, in a given game, if the officiating is ‘what’s good for the goose, good for the eye’, it’s the same for both sides, the offense (and) the defense, then you really didn’t have any change in the outcome of the game. And that one the other day (against the Chargers), we all had it tied.

In Monday night’s Chargers-Cowboys game, the Chargers had nine penalties for 79 yards and the Cowboys had 11 penalties for 85 yards.

Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley talks with the referee during their game against the Dallas Cowboys at SoFi Stadium on Monday, October 16, 2023, in Los Angeles, California. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Who can argue with that, right?

That would really be ideal. If both teams are given penalties of similar or roughly the same number and severity, then the officiating is not a factor in the game, which is what everyone wants.

Here’s the problem: what happens if both teams don’t commit penalties at the same level?

To have a fair distribution of penalties – ethically speaking – both teams should commit them at the same level, which is not always the case. So what should the referee do in this situation? Start giving penalties to the other side just to tie them up? This is obviously a very bad idea and not a real solution either.

But Jones’ comments speak to a larger sense of dissatisfaction prevalent not only among fans but also, apparently, among the Hall of Fame owners of one of the league’s most popular franchises, namely that officials play far too large a role in determining the outcome of the game. A second point in Jones’ comments could also be the assertion that penalties are not called the same way.

This is also something that the fans feel.

Anyone who has watched the Kansas City Chiefs play football this year has seen it. Whether it’s Jawaan Taylor getting away with multiple illegal formation penalties in the Chiefs’ Week 1 game against the Lions or the horrible calls made every time Patrick Mahomes throws an interception. It seems like Mahomes can’t throw a pick without some sort of offense against the other team.

Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs talks with referee Paul King about contesting a first down against the Jacksonville Jaguars during...

Kansas City Chiefs Patrick Mahomes, #15, talks with referee Paul King, #121, about challenging a first down against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the third quarter of the divisional playoff game of the AFC at Arrowhead Stadium on January 21, 2023, in Kansas City, Missouri. (David Eulitt/Getty Images)

In the past, this was considered barroom conversation. Fans of abandoned teams are sharing “war stories” about how their team was stolen from by money-hungry referees and NFL executives who “hate their team.” But now with Jones’ comments, whether he intended to convey that sentiment or not, he reveals that these issues are recognized and felt even at the highest levels of the league.

Will anything change?

Probably not, at least not right away. NFL officials rival CNN and Congress in popularity. It’s the worst in the life of this 47-year-old football fan. But we don’t need fairness among officials. We need the penalties requested by those responsible to be assessed equally, not by a similar number.

Pass interference should be called exactly the same way regardless of who the quarterback is. But it’s time for the league to start finding ways to limit the referees’ influence on the game.

No one pays to watch them.


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