Column: A plague of penalty flags rains down on the NFL

Side judge Tom Hill, left, throws a penalty flag as Titans cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson (25) breaks up a pass intended for Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) in a preseason game on Sept. 3.

Side judge Tom Hill, left, throws a penalty flag as Titans cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson (25) breaks up a pass intended for Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) in a preseason game on Sept. 3.

(Mark Zaleski / Associated Press)

Bad weather has yet to hit NFL games this season, but yellow flags have been raining from the start.

There were 884 penalties called in the first three weeks of games, an NFL record. Oakland and Tampa Bay are tied with the most flags, 33, and Arizona has had the fewest, 17. The most common offense so far? Offensive holding, which through Week 3 had been whistled 154 times.

But Hall of Fame Coach Bill Parcells said all the penalties are having the biggest effect on defenses.


“Defense is just a rumor in the NFL these days; they’ve made the rules that way,” said Parcells, who called the recent rash of flags “ludicrous.”

“There are too many rules,” he said, taking particular exception to those aimed at reducing the number of helmet-to-helmet hits, but doing so in a way that’s especially subjective and sometimes debatable.

Parcells said officials should be able to use the eye test to determine which hits are dirty, then flag them accordingly, rather than applying a complicated algorithm to every collision.

“Every single guy that ever played football knows what unnecessary roughness is,” he said. “When we see it, we know it. We know it because we see malicious intent, late and violent, cheap hits. Why don’t they make all that stuff unnecessary roughness, instead of helmet-to-helmet, defenseless receiver… That defenseless receiver is the worst rule I ever saw. Because if a receiver’s doing what he’s supposed to do, he’s always defenseless.”

Then he stopped himself.

“But you’re talking to a dinosaur,” he said. “You’re talking to an extinct species. I still love football, I love it, but it [ticks] me off.”

Pick on somebody your own size

The NFL has fined New York Jets linebacker Demario Davis $8,681 for his body slam of Philadelphia running back Darren Sproles during the second quarter of the Eagles’ 24-17 victory last Sunday.

Davis, who was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the play, received the minimum prescribed fine for a late hit by a first-time offender. At 6 feet 2 and 236 pounds, he’s significantly larger than the 5-6, 190-pound Sproles – then again, so is just about everyone on the field.

The speedy Sproles is easily tough enough to handle the garden-variety body slam. But his father, Larry, told The Times last year that his son has a particular fear of running near the sideline, as he has since he was playing Pop Warner football.

“He loves to run in between the tackles; that’s his main thing,” the elder Sproles said. “His body of work since he’s been in high school and college is living between the tackles. He hates sweeps. He hates pitches. You can see when he gets a pitch, he’s always looking for the cutback. He’s seen too many people get hurt getting hit out of bounds and getting up under the bench. That’s what he fears.”

Race to the bottom

There are some uneasy coaches in Indianapolis and Miami in the wake of 1-2 starts by the Colts and the Dolphins.

By all accounts, the tension has been building for months between Colts Coach Chuck Pagano and General Manager Ryan Grigson, and everything points to Pagano being on the hot seat.

But he might not be the first to lose his job. According to a Miami Herald report, the Dolphins might fire Coach Joe Philbin if the team suffers a blowout loss to the Jets on Sunday in London. Previous speculation had swirled around the job security of Miami’s Bill Lazor, the offensive coordinator, and Kevin Coyle, the defensive coordinator.

Still kicking

Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski is on the verge of franchise history. When he plays at Chicago on Sunday, it will be his 240th game, tying receiver Tim Brown for most games played in club history.

The Raiders play Denver the following week, and Janikowski could claim the record on his own, with more games in Silver & Black than Hall of Famers Brown, 240, Gene Upshaw, 217, Art Shell, 207, and Ray Guy, 207.

Janikowski already has a more dubious record. He has played for 10 Raiders coaches, the most ever by an NFL player who has been with one club his entire career.

A Charmin trait

For their trip to London, the Jets packed 350 rolls of toilet paper to replace the thinner version that’s more common across the Atlantic. The British press was amused, and maybe somewhat insulted, by the bit of information.

“We’re the best organization in football, man,” linebacker Calvin Pace explained. “Sometimes you guys write articles about us that don’t say that, but this place they’ll do anything for you. I mean, who brings toilet paper? Little things like that make your trip easier. It’s a good thing for us. If it helps us win, I’m all for it.”

No question, the Jets are on a roll.