NFL: Does a higer number of declined penalties equate to a higher team strength?

Are the number of penalties a team declines a good [if somewhat unorthodox] measure of how well the team can play the sport*?

  • The rationale here, is that usually the team will only decline, if it means giving up something that is better for the team, than the penalty would afford. Hence, in the face of the penalty, the team must be doing something right, and more power to them for doing it that well, even if being repressed.

One counter point to that is the free play. Like when the QB knows he caught the D offsides and can always take it so he changes to a risky deep heave hoping for a miracle 50 yard catch. Most likely it will not be caught and the penalty will be accepted.

Whereas a less aware crappy QB may not notice and may stick with the called play which if it happens to go for 8 yards will be kept rather than the penalty.

A team doesn’t start accepting bad penalties just because they’re losing the game, and declined penalties doesn’t have any relation to winning or losing a game. The extension of this is that the number of declined penalties doesn’t tell you the strength of any team, it merely tells you how often a team gets into a circumstance where declining a penalty is advantageous. A team could lose every game, and yet decline any number of penalties. There is no correlation between the two. It can’t tell you anything of value about team A because all of the information is related to the play and conduct of team B.

I’d say it works as a real rough measure. If a team averages over 5 yards a play, then it will on average decline more penalties than a team that averages under 5 yards a play. I would say % of penalties declined would be better, since it doesn’t give an advantage to teams that play teams that are penalized a lot. It is still not perfect, since a team that draws a lot of pass interferences will decline a lot less penalties than a team that draws a lot of offsides.

I think there are a lot of variables that would contribute to such a statistic, but the quality of the team on the whole is a long ways down that list. For example, a team that throws a lot or has many long yardage situations might have this scenario happen far more than a conservative running team, but the former tends to imply very little about the quality of a team. Generally speaking you’d be dealing with far too small a sample size to deduce anything reliable.

Are declined penalties kept as stats? I can’t find it anywhere.