After his team picked up six personal fouls against the Bengals on Saturday night, Jets coach Rex Ryan chose to compliment his team for sticking up for one another rather than castigate them for their lack of discipline.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera is taking a different approach to similar issues with his team. Rivera pulled cornerback Josh Norman from the game after he got into a heated but unpenalized conversation with Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and dressed down wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin after he drew a penalty for head-butting cornerback Chris Owens after a play. Rivera referenced their playoff loss to the 49ers last year, which featured three costly personal fouls against Carolina, as the reason for his reaction.
“What we want guys to understand is that we have to maintain our composure on the football field. That’s why we lost in the playoffs. It started with me. I made the mistake of getting caught up in that emotion. We have to learn how to control that,” Rivera said, via ESPN.com. “If we’re going to be a playoff team, we’ve got to do those things the right way and we’ve got to be able to handle it. When we see it, we pull guys to the side and try to get that corrected. We’re not going to play that way. We’re going to play smart football.”
The Panthers won five one-score games during their 7-1 close to the regular season in 2013, allowing them to win the division, and penalties can be particularly damaging when you’re playing with a small margin for error. You are never going to be able to eliminate penalties completely, but you can address the avoidable ones early and often to make sure players know that they can’t remain on the field if they shoot the team in the foot.