ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — The fine jar in the defensive meeting room fills up with bills, suggestions pour in from fans and coach Hue Jackson’s voice gets hoarse from yelling.
Despite plenty of effort to cure the Oakland Raiders age-old penalty problem, this year’s team is on pace to shatter the NFL record for penalties and yards penalized in a season.
“I don’t have the answer, obviously,” Jackson said. “I talk to the team about it all the time. I don’t just talk. I yell, I scream, I threaten. I’ve done everything. I get a bunch of letters of people telling me other things I should try, too. And please don’t send any new ones because those things don’t work.”
The Raiders (8-7) head into their must-win season finale against San Diego needing four penalties for 11 yards to break both records held by the 1998 Kansas City Chiefs.
Considering the Raiders have committed at least four penalties in 27 straight games and have had at least 11 yards in penalties in all but three games since moving back to Oakland in 1995, it seems like a safe bet those records will fall.
Jackson vowed at the start of training camp that he would fix a problem that has plagued the Raiders for most of their history. Oakland has committed at least 100 penalties for 12 straight seasons and have ranked in the top five in total penalties in the NFL for five straight seasons.
Jackson has had three officials at most practices in order to curb the problem and said they usually see about three or four infractions a day. That rises to more than 10 a game when it counts.
The players have also instituted a $100 fine system for committing penalties with a jar on defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan’s desk collecting the loot.
“Charity will love us at the end of the year,” Bresnahan said.
But the flags keep flying each week. The Raiders have hit double digits in four straight games, including a season-high tying 15 in last week’s overtime win at Kansas City that featured a delay of game that negated a fake field goal for a touchdown.
“I wish we knew what it was,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “It’s not a bunch of false starts. It’s not just holdings. It’s kind of all over the place. In special teams, on a touchdown a delay of game. It’s just been a weird year. There’s been some calls that you can’t find on film when you go back and watch them. It’s not one thing. It’s not a trend. As those flags get going in games I always have guys come up to me on the sideline saying, ‘This is what happens when you play for the Raiders.’”
There have been quite a variety of penalties with 58 being pre-snap calls, including 20 offsides calls and 19 false starts. There have also been a league-worst 29 personal fouls, and 39 holding calls.
The biggest problem has been on defense where the Raiders have committed a league-worst 78 penalties on defense — more than twice the league average of 35. They have 58 penalties on offense — tied for fourth most — and are tied for sixth with 19 on special teams.
“You want the penalties to hold down because they’re going to come back and bite you sooner or later,” said defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, who has been called for seven. “To me, just limit the 15-yarders, the big ones. We can deal with the 5-yarders. But the 15-yarders are the ones keeping the drives alive.”
There have been some costly ones as the Raiders have given opponents 54 first downs with penalties, including 20 drives that led to a score. Penalties aided Buffalo’s two fourth-quarter TD drives in a 38-35 Oakland loss in September and Detroit’s two fourth-quarter TD drives in the Raiders 28-27 loss earlier this month.
“I stay up late at night trying to figure this out, as much as I can,” Jackson said. “I’ve worked at that as hard as I’ve worked at anything. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen, but we’ll have a long discussion about penalties when this season is over. I promise you that.”
In all, 43 players have accounted for the penalties, including Terrelle Pryor, who committed a false start to negate his only play all season. Jackson also has a penalty for challenging a scoring play in Week 2 at Buffalo, which is against the rules.
Cornerback Stanford Routt has been the most penalized player in the league with 16 — one more than the entire Green Bay defense. Offensive linemen Khalif Barnes and Jared Veldheer are next with 10 apiece, followed by defensive tackle Richard Seymour with nine.