The NFL finished at an all-time high in overall team scoring, averaging 23.4 points per team per game in 2013. Nine quarterbacks finished with at least 4000 yards passing compared to 11 in 2012 and 10 in 2011.
While the Seahawks did win Super Bowl XLVIII with the help of a staggeringly dominant defense--it's worth mentioning that with an opportunistic defense and a quarterback who took care of the football while posting a high yards per attempt average, the Seahawks didn't win their Super Bowl much differently than most of the previous champs--Denver got there with a record setting offense that accumulated over 600 points and was led by a quarterback in Peyton Manning that broke the single-season mark for passing yards with 5477 to go along with his 55 touchdown passes.
This is why it was a bit puzzling when it was reported on Monday that the league wants its game day officials to place a greater emphasis on watching for illegal contact and defensive holding in 2014 (oh, and offensive pass interference).
Why? Because Seattle won the Super Bowl?
If the Broncos would have won, would there be a greater emphasis placed on pick plays and holding by offensive linemen?
I doubt it.
To me, this amounts to asking your officials to look for something, and, much like any hypochondriac who goes on WebMD to pair the worst possible disease with symptoms he or she might be experiencing, when people are influenced to look for something, you better believe they will find it.
Back to sports.
In 1988, Major League Baseball altered the balk rule ever so slightly (or at least changed the language), and this resulted in a staggering increase as '88 became known as "The Year of the Balk."
Why such an increase in balks that season? It's simple: umpires were now more "aware" of them, which forced an uptick in the number of pitchers getting called for them.
Of course, nothing slows a baseball game down more than a balk, but how could you blame baseball umpires for calling so many when the higher ups obviously placed more importance on them?
When it comes to a fan's sports enjoyment, I don't think he or she really wants an official to decide the game. While we might applaud a call that goes in favor of our team or boo one that goes against it, I think, deep down, we'd rather the players decide the outcome of the game.
In the book Scorecasting, the authors devote a chapter to whistle swallowing by officials at key moments in sporting events, and how certain plays where a judgment call technically could have been made but wasn't (Eli Manning not getting called for being in the grasp late in Super Bowl XLII just before he broke free of the Patriots defenders and unleashed a pass that would find the hands--and helmet--of receiver David Tyree) are remembered more fondly than plays where a technical call was made (the infamous "tuck rule" that was invoked by referee Walt Coleman when it appeared that Tom Brady fumbled, and the Raiders recovered to seal a 2001 playoff game).
Coleman is and forever will be associated with that rule and that playoff game, but I don't know if anyone is aware that Mike Carey was the referee in charge of Super Bowl XLII.
Now that the NFL is placing a greater importance on illegal contact and defensive holding, you know there will be an increase in those penalties (the total of such calls increased from 79 to 191 when these rules were emphasized in 2004), and this can't do anything but make the game less enjoyable.
It would be one thing if the officials were being asked to place a greater emphasis on things that players can really control, pre and post-snap, such as illegal formation, taunting, excessive celebrations and removing their helmets on the field of play. But when it comes to things that require an official's judgment, that's much more nuanced and it's going to create a lot more angry fans, coaches and players.
For the record, I'm not opposed to offense (in the aforementioned book, the authors also devote time to the universal belief in all of sports that defense wins championships, and factually point out that offense is just as important).
If scoring was down, and quarterbacks were throwing almost as many INTs as TDs, I'd be all for an emphasis that could increase offense.
But as I pointed out in the beginning of this article, that's clearly not the case.
It's bad enough that fans have to sit on their hands and wait for a review EVERY time a touchdown is scored. It's bad enough fans have to hesitate before celebrating a game-winning field goal just in case the opposing head coach called a time out from the sidelines.
Now, we have to cringe every time our favorite defense causes an incomplete pass out of fear of seeing that yellow flag fly up in the air?
OK, we already cringe during every incomplete pass, but in 2014, we'll just be placing a greater emphasis on it.