But I studied the last five years of the least penalized teams and the most penalized teams and was surprised by the results. It turns out that penalties don't have much bearing on a team's record. In 2009, three of the five most penalized teams in the league posted 11-5 records and went to the playoffs (Dallas, Green Bay and Philadelphia).
Sometimes penalties mean you're playing aggressively, especially on defense. Twice this year, Seahawks penalties saved touchdowns.
Early in the year against Pittsburgh, Brandon Browner was flagged for a pass interference penalty on a busted zone coverage that eventually led to a dramatic goal-line stand, turning the Steelers away with no points. Against the Cowboys, Earl Thomas' face-masking penalty saved a DeMarco Murray touchdown and led to a stand by the Hawks D that resulted in three points instead of seven.
Certainly the false starts and off-sides penalties need to stop NOW. I believe that is something that can be fixed in practice. But I don't want the Hawks to fix penalties like Kam Chancellor's hit on Anquan Boldin on Sunday. The second that Chancellor passes on hits like that, allowing receivers to catch passes up the seam, he's done as a player.
Chancellor's penalty was his third this season for playing football too roughly. What a crock. Once again, the NFL is very clear on what you CAN'T do but they've yet to explain to defensive backs and linebackers what they CAN do when it comes to tackling receivers.
If you ask me, the quarterbacks need to be penalized for creating the entire situation in the first place. You could argue that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco put Chancellor and Boldin on a collision course the second that ball left his hand. As it stands, there's very little risk in throwing that pass. There's either a completion or a penalty.
Joe Paterno is just a man
Here's what we can learn and what can be done in the future to avoid the disaster that is the Penn State scandal: As Mike Salk said so well during his "Salk Talk" segment on NWCN, "We need to be more comfortable as a society talking about sexual abuse."
It's a crime that is tragically under-reported because no one wants to face it. It's the monster that we all know exists, yet we sweep it under the rug because it's too difficult to talk about. There's no un-doing what has been done, but if we all, in our own small way, can find the courage to talk about it more openly we can change the culture of silence that surrounds this horrific problem.
Secondly, we've become a society of hero-worship. Joe Paterno is just a man. He was a football coach for 46 years and won a lot of games, but he's just a man. He's no better than you or me and every bit as fallible.
This fascination that we have with idolatry and blind admiration is dangerous and can lead to acts of hubris, similar to what occurred in the athletic department at Penn State University.
It's unhealthy and wrong. No one is above the law and all must be held accountable to the same standards. Here's an idea: Let's take all of the zeal and enthusiasm we dedicate to idolizing our sports heroes, movie stars and favorite politicians and channel it into protecting children.
As for Paterno, when I look at him I am reminded of a scene from one of my favorite Stephen King movies, "The Dead Zone." Christopher Walken's character wakes up from a coma with the special ability to know what people are thinking by touching them.
While working on a case with the police to catch an elusive serial killer, he follows the suspect to his house where he lives with his mother. When the mother tries to protect her son, he grabs her hand and suddenly gets a glimpse of what is in her mind. His eyes widen and a disgusted look of realization sweeps over his face.
"You knew ... you KNEW!"
That's what I think when I look at Paterno. "You knew"