In 2013, the Denver Broncos fielded one of the most high-powered offenses seen in recent history. Led by the cybernetically repaired Peyton “MF” Manning, the Broncos rode a massive onslaught of scoring to the Super Bowl. Since that time, despite a successful repeat visit to the Super Bowl, we have seen an on-going erosion of the offense. I wanted to take a look and see if I could quantify the drop, and see if we can pick out a pattern from the numbers.
While football fans have always been quick to see errors by the officiating crews, recently there has been a much more serious tone. Fans in Denver are upset about Bill Vinovich’s officiating in Bronco games, and Eagles fans are incensed with Pete Morelli. Eagles fans point to the horrible penalty disparity, while Broncos fans point to an anomalous win/loss ratio. The fan bases feel betrayed by the officials.
The concerns have generated some responses from higher up. Mike Florio addressed conspiracy theories by superciliously dismissing them, the NFLRA issued a statement to refute them, and Nick wrote an excellent post summarizing the main arguments. Unfortunately the arguments tend to be either appeals to authority or arguments from incredulity, both of which are the same as the uncritical denunciation of the officials. As a scientist, I wanted to get past the emotional and look at the actual data to see if there were discernable trends that would point to some sort of bias.