clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Willie Taggart’s teams have had 3 horrendous penalty seasons; All have come in Season 1

The FSU coach’s teams have otherwise been fine in the penalty category throughout his career.

NCAA Football: Florida at Florida State Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State fans lost their mind Saturday with all the penalties FSU committed against Florida.

Penalties weren’t the reason FSU lost. Getting physically destroyed by Florida’s defensive line was by far the biggest cause (FSU failed to gain a first down on 8 of its first 10 drives).

Yet FSU still committed 10 penalties, which is a lot.

And while penalties have little correlation to winning, most of the viewing public does not realize that.

Plus, it creates a stoppage, so announcers harp on it because they have time to do so. Especially if they are lazy, since it doesn’t require much knowledge of the game or the ability to analyze in real time.

FSU finished dead last in penalties in 2018.

Penalties do have some correlation with winning and losing. Committing them as often as FSU did is not going to facilitate wins.

The goal is to not be at either extreme end. Teams that are the most penalized in the nation are most likely overly sloppy, like FSU was in 2018.

But teams that are rarely penalized are almost certainly not getting away with enough flaggable conduct, which hurts them.

It’s like managing a portfolio. Super conservative and super risky are both bad.

A good goal might be to be between 20th and 110th or so, which is about the middle 70 percent.

The types of penalties also matter.

Penalties for which a player is getting away with beneficial conduct if it is not called, like pass interference, holding, etc., are much more acceptable than things like too many men on the field, illegal formation, or illegal shift penalties. Also personal foul penalties of the dead ball variety (not unnecessary roughness during a play, but, for instance, taunting or very late hits) are also bad.

False starts are sort of in a different category, especially for a team like FSU facing a murderous schedule of defensive linemen. FSU’s linemen are so bad, they likely know that they have very little chance to block their opponents if they don’t get a jump.

FSU had far too many of the bad penalties against Florida. It was a sloppy performance.

This isn’t the first time a Willie Taggart team has had a horrible finish in Year 1

At Oregon, Taggart’s team finished 130th. We don’t know how his team would have done in his second year, because he left for the Florida State job.

But we do have data on his teams penalty profiles at USF and Western Kentucky.

At South Florida, his Year 1 team finished 2nd to last. (124th out of 125)

But in Year 2 at USF, his team was 81st. In Year 3, it was 62nd. In year 3, it was 79th.

81st, 62nd, and 79th are totally fine finishes in penalties.

And that Year 1 finish at USF is a clear outlier against the next three seasons of data.

It’s especially encouraging given that in Years 2, 3, and 4, USF was running an aggressive tempo offense, meaning there were many more plays (opportunities) for the refs to throw a penalty, both on offense and defense. On a rate basis, USF was committing penalties less frequently every year Taggart was on staff.

Taggart’s USF teams were less penalized each successive year.

So on the one hand, it has to be encouraging for FSU fans that Taggart’s USF program showed an immediate and extreme correction in Year 2, and successive improvement each of the following years.

On the other hand, FSU fans are right to be annoyed with the extreme level of the penalties in Year 1, and that Taggart didn’t find a way to fix them faster in Year 1.

A good goal for next year would be to commit a penalty no more than every 20 snaps. That seems like a lot, but that would have FSU even with the Florida Gators in the penalty/game rankings, at 109th.

Understanding the Western Kentucky data.

In 2012, Taggart’s final year at WKU, his team was 70th in penalties/game. Florida State, for the record, was 2nd to last in the nation.

In 2011, Taggart’s WKU squad was 107th.

Obviously, there was major improvement from 2011 to 2012.

In 2010, Taggart’s Western Kentucky was 76th. From 2010 to 2011 is the only time I could find in which a Taggart team regressed season over season from a penalty perspective.

What I don’t know is whether, because it was WKU’s first year in the FBS (it was an FCS program through 2009), officials might have been taking it easy on the WKU program as it got absolutely crushed in that season, winning only two games, with results like losing to a bad Kentucky team by five touchdowns.

Willie Taggart has coached 8 seasons. The three times his teams have had horrendous penalty performances have all been in Year 1 on the job.

If FSU improves to that 20th to 110th range, fans will still complain, but those complaints will be much less warranted.