Penalties – an accurate distribution

It started with me thinking about the holding calls against the offense. How could I incorporate those instances where the holding occurred downfield and the 10 yd penalty applied from there, instead of from the line? But the more I looked into it, the more I realised that all of the penalties needed overhauling. So I looked at the 2013 season (it’s one where I have every playbook), and over a few months recorded every single penalty … 3419 all up.

Some findings:

on pass plays, the most frequent penalties were (cf. APBA’s) …
false start o 21% ( 3%) FAIL
pass interference d 12% (14%)
holding o 9% (14%)
holding d 9% ( 8%)
unnecessary roughness d 5% ( 3%)
neutral zone infraction d 5% (nil) FAIL

this compared with APBA’s (cf. ‘actuals’) …
holding o 14% ( 9%)
pass interference d 14% (12%)
holding d 8% ( 9%)
illegal contact d 8% ( 2%) FAIL
illegal formation o 6% ( 1%)
intention grounding o 6% ( 2%)
offside d 6% ( 1%)
pass interference o 6% ( 3%)
roughing passer d 6% ( 4%)

on running plays, the most frequent were (cf. APBA’s):
false start o 34% ( 3%) FAIL
holding o 20% (25%)
neutral zone infraction d 8% (nil) FAIL
delay o 8% ( 3%)
unnecessary roughness d 4% ( 6%)
encroachment d 4% ( 8%)

this compared with APBA’s (cf. ‘actuals’)
holding o 25% (20%)
offside d 14% ( 2%) FAIL
encroachment d 8% ( 4%)
holding d 6% ( 1%)
illegal block o 6% ( 1%)
illegal motion o 6% ( 0%) FAIL
facemask d 6% ( 2%)
unnecessary roughness d 6% ( 4%)
unsportsmanlike d 6% ( 0%) FAIL

so you can see that the distribution of penalties is way off. In particular, the failure to recognise that the most common penalty – False Start – is not represented appropriately bothered me. Of course a lot of it is a result of trying to squeeze in all the offense and defense fouls into 36 possible outcomes – it’s a hell of a lot better then the previous method which only had 11 outcomes – but it’s still nowhere near close enough (for me).

So how can it be done better? Simple – introduce 1 more die into the penalty roll. Same roll, just with 1 more die. That gives you 216 possible outcomes and you can model the distribution much more accurately.

Another thing I thought a lot about was the pass interference penalty. That 12% included all types of passes – long, medium and short passes – and we all know that there are a LOT more flags thrown on the long ones than the shorter ones. So I introduced different distributions depending on what type of pass you threw:
short & screen (S)
medium (M)
long (L)

so now we have the following distributions for defensive pass interference:
S 9%
M 17%
L 29%

Using these with conventional pass distribution usage will come pretty close to the actual figure.

I’ve looked at all of the penalties and redone them (mostly) with the extra die.

I changed some of the existing penalties to new ones as well:
1.Clipping – Offense is now 1.Facemask – Offense (clipping hardly ever was called, and there was no Facemask o)
5.Grasping Facemask – Defense is now 5.Neutral Zone Infraction – Defense (Facemasks are now 15 yarders when called, and there was no NZ Infraction d)
8.Illegal Block – Offense is now 8.Illegal Block Above the Waist – Offense (this one is 10 whereas all the other illegal blocks are 15 yarders)
15.Ineligible receiver downfield – Offense is now 15.Illegal Use of Hands – Defense (Ineligible Receiver d/f is now a 5 yarder and can be covered by Ineligible Player d/f, and there was no Illegal Use of Hands d)
30. Twisting Facemask – Defense is now just 30. Facemask – Defense (‘cos they don’t differentiate between grasping, twisting, turning, pushing or pulling; since 2008 it’s all just a 15 yard Facemask)

new penalties are:
36.Horse Collar Tackle – Defense
37.Illegal Touch of Forward Pass – Offense
38.Twelve Players on the Field – Offense
39.Illegal Chop Block – Offense
40.Invalid Fair Catch signal – Offense
41.Illegal Substitution – Defense
42.Delay of Game (after play) – Defense
43.Illegal Cut Block – Offense
44.Illegal Peelback Block – Defense
45.Delay of Game (after play) – Offense
46.Tripping – Defense
48.Taunting – Defense
49.Taunting – Offense
50.Offside – Offense
51.Delay of Game – Defense
52.Illegal Peelback Block – Offense
53.Illegal Touch of Kick – Offense
54.Player out of bounds on Kick – Offense
55.Illegal Formation – Defense
56.Illegal Blindside Block – Offense
57.Illegal Touch of Kick – Defense
58.Illegal Low Block – Offense
59.Illegal Low Block – Defense

All of these penalties will now be called more accurately according to their actual distribution.

Also I’ve done a ‘Special Penalty’ table for offensive holding, illegal-use-of-hands, and illegal block penalties, as well as live ball Personal Fouls, Unnecessary Roughness and Unsportsmanlike penalties by the offense. This table can be used when these penalties are called on running plays, passing plays for gain, and punt & KO returns, where the foul occurred either over the line or during the return. In these situations, the penalty is assessed from the point of the foul, not the line of scrimmage or point of possession. These are all based on the actual statistical spread of penalty enforcement locations.

And, I’ve introduced a No-Penalty result on kickoffs, because there just aren’t that many flags on the kickoff. Including kickoffs-out-of-bounds, I counted just 46 penalties all 2013 season on KO’s (I’m not talking about returns here, just the KO part). With 2684 kickoffs and (typically) 3 penalty numbers on KO cards, the cards would otherwise produce over 220 penalties for the season!

Similarly, on punt returns, the opposite occurs – there are actually a lot more penalties than the cards can produce. Typically there are 3 penalty numbers on PR cards, but there should be more like 7 to reproduce the actual number of penalties. I fix this by rolling an extra die on the punt return roll. If it is a 1, there is an automatic flag on the play. This would result in a 24% penalty percentage – that’s too high (it should be about 20%), so I introduce some No-Penalty TQ rolls to correct the percentage to reproduce the actual figure of just under 20%

I also separated KO return penalties (as TKO) from TK because they were completely different in their type & distribution. And with typically 3 penalty numbers on KO return cards, they also generated too many penalties.

Lastly, you may notice that I do pass interference penalties different to APBA and others. First, I think you should be able to decline the penalty and accept the completion. I don’t believe it skews the stats that much and it’s much more intuitive to me. Second, on incompletions I use the interception identifier columns to determine where the pass interference occurred. It seems more logical to me to do it this way.

Hope you find these useful. Feedback (and corrections) welcomed.


Version 2.0 Released

Added 10-June-2018: I have now released version 2.0 of the charts. I’ve revised them based on more research – specifically another full season, this time 2015.

This has resulted in me splitting TQ and TK into their own charts, and some changes to punt return procedure – now you ignore the penalty numbers coming from the returner’s card, and just rely on the third die you would roll to generate the penalty. Same with onside kickoffs – ignore the penalties off of the kicker’s card, and just rely on the third die you would roll to generate the penalty. There were just so many penalties on these plays that it was simpler just to do this.

Another change I made was to get rid of the Personal Foul penalty. In 2015, they only had Unnecessary Roughness and Unsportsmanlike fouls, with no Personal Fouls. So I followed suit. To be honest, I could never understand why we needed 3 types of personal fouls anyway.

The other significant change I made was to the Special Penalty Chart for fouls by the offense. I researched more thoroughly the types of fouls, when they occurred, and the typical distance applicable.

Feedback and corrections welcomed

New Penalty Charts v2.0

New Penalty Charts v1.0 now superseded by v2.0


thanks, Phil

Introducing – Phil Molloy

I would like to introduce the newest “author” and final member of the team, Mr. Phil Molloy. Phil has been a fixture in APBA Football for several years and I consider him one of the finest innovator’s this game has ever seen. It was Phil who first created and posted the “Dice Range Calculator” that has been a staple of my replays for many years. Are you looking for an alternative for fumbles or new play boards for surprise on-side kicks, Hail Mary, and a variance for special team’s plays? Look no farther, just click on the “Phil Molloy” widget under the Categories section of the site. In the summer of 2013, I enlisted Phil’s assistance to create an innovation for the “Read Option”. I told him that I wanted it to be triggered off the inside run, work in conjunction with “fletch67” and require only one additional dice roll. Phil didn’t disappoint, in my humble opinion, it’s his finest innovation to date.

I’m so happy that Phil finally accepted my invitation. Phil’s life in the Australia is quite hectic, so he will contribute whenever his schedule allows him to. Whenever that time is, I know the APBA Football community will be the beneficiary.


“Read Option” Solution

It still remains to be seen if NFL defensive coordinators have solved the “Read Option” dilemma, however, thanks to Phil Molloy, APBA Football players now have a solution.  I asked Phil to create a system for solitaire play that was triggered off the “Inside Run”, worked in conjunction with “Fletch67” and only required one additional dice roll.  After a little back and forth, it was decided the system must provide a “quota” that accurately reflects real-time usage of the “Read Option” and the flexibility to work even if the Game Company gives more scramble numbers to reflect the additional runs from the option.   

So before we can simulate Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris executing the “Read Option” from our tabletop, we must establish the quota.  Using the “Read Option” tab, you must enter data into the following cells:

  • M2 – Total runs by QB per game (actual stats)
  • M3 – Scrambles by QB per game (actual stats or assumptions)
  • M4 – Designed bootleg runs by QB per game (actual stats or assumptions)
  • M6 – Pass attempts per game by QB (actual stats, not counting sacks or scrambles)
  • M7 – Total sacks sustained by QB per game (actual stats)
  • M8 – Total scramble numbers (26/27) from QB’s card

Using RG III as an example:

  • M2 – RG III averaged 8 runs per game
  • M3 – In accordance with an article from the USA Today, 70 of RG III’s 120 total runs were designed runs resulting in 50 QB scrambles (3 per game).
  • M4 –  I will leave this at “1” since APBA considers this a “Trick Play”
  • M6 – Pass attempts divided games played (393/15=26.2). Enter 26.
  • M7 – Times sacked divided by games played (30/15=2)
  • M8 – If APBA gives RG III five scramble numbers his quota would be “5”.  Four scramble numbers would be a quota of “7”.  Three scramble numbers would be a quota of “9”

Hypothetically, let’s say APBA gives RG III 5 scramble numbers (quota of 5) and he is facing a defensive unit with a run rating of 37.   Using the “dice chart” tab, the gamer would find column 5 from the quota per game (top row) and 37 from the run defense total (left-side) and locate the intersection to determine the dice roll (56-66).  Armed with this knowledge let’s go through the sequence of the “Read-Option” using the above RG III/Alfred Morris example.  In your mind’s eye, picture RG III calling an inside run for Alfred Morris, breaking the huddle and lining up in the “Pistol” formation.  If Fletch67 determines the defense is in “G’ alignment, RG III hands the ball off to Alfred Morris and the play result is determined by his card. If the defensive alignment is either “S” or “D”, roll the dice and if the result is 11-55 the defender maintains outside containment resulting in an inside run by Alfred Morris.  If the dice roll was 56-66, the defender crashed down the line of scrimmage resulting in RG III tucking the ball and running outside.   

I used this system during last night’s game between the 2011 Denver Broncos and New York Jets.  Tim Tebow’s card is unique (4-6-8-15-17-19) to replicate his style of rushing inside from the shotgun formation; however, he did have success running outside with the “Read Option”.  Tim averaged 8.7 carries per game in real-life, during last night’s replay he rushed 7 times (1 scramble, 2 called inside runs and 4 “Read Option” outside runs).    

I want to sincerely thank Mr. Phil Molloy for his time and efforts; I believe this is his greatest innovation to date and will enhance the gaming experience while maintaining realism.

Read Option Solution

Performance of “Dice Range Calculator” (Receptions)

The “mean” average of the difference between actual and replay statistics was 6.75.  This is an acceptable difference, especially since only a single dice roll is required to determine the intented receiver compared to potentially needing multiple dice rolls to identify a starting receiver using the locator columns.  In addition, compare the average of “Yards per Reception” to see the full benefit of using Mark Zarb’s “Yard per Catch” innovation.









Jimmy Graham NOR





Darren Sproles NOR





Greg Jennings GNB





Calvin Johnson DET





Steve Smith CAR





Roddy White ATL





Matt Forte CHI





Brandon Pettigrew DET





Jeremy Maclin PHI





Jason Witten DAL





Tony Gonzalez ATL





Hakeem Nicks NYG











Graham NOS






White ATL






S. Smith CAR






Johnson DET






Sproles NOS






Pettigrew DET






Gonzalez ATL






Nicks NYG






Witten DAL






G. Jennings GBP






Macklin PHI






Forte CHI






Phil Molloy Innovations

Phil Molloy is an avid player of APBA football who has created several outstanding innovations over the years. His dicerangecalculator offers a great alternative to the Locator columns (page B-13 of the Master game booklet) for determining receptions, interceptions and sacks.  This innovation renders outstanding results, speeds up replay time and accurately reflect substitutions and personnel packages used during the course of an actual game.  Just type names and statistics into columns A and B to generate dice roll numbers.  In the event of an injury and a reserve player (non-starter) is awarded the reception, sack or interception, refer to the “Substitution” table (tab located in new_plays) to determine which code number the reserve player was occupying prior to checking the injury table (B-19). For example, 1998 NY Jet’s reserve outside linebacker, Chad Cascadden, is awarded the sack; I will check the “Substitution” table to determine if he is at d6 or d7. 

Phil has created several new plays (QB sneak, Hail Mary, & surprise on-side kick), alternative for blitzing, and variances to special team’s plays (touchbacks, maximum rush to block a punt, & punts land within the 9-yard line) that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed for several years now.