The NFL was unaware until Tuesday of the comments made by Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren one day earlier concerning the officiating in Super Bowl XL, but will "definitely look into" the incident, a league official told ESPN.com.
Holmgren could face a fine for the remarks.
At a homecoming gathering of Seahawks fans at Qwest Field on Monday afternoon, Holmgren told the crowd: "We knew it was going to be tough going against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I didn't know we were going to have to play the guys in the striped shirts as well."
The officiating in the game has drawn outrage from vociferous Seahawks fans, who questioned several of the calls made in the Pittsburgh Steelers' 21-10 victory. On Monday, before departing Detroit for the flight home, Holmgren noted that the penalties were "unfortunate."
"Penalties, as much as anything, were the story of the game, and that's unfortunate," Holmgren said. "It might be the first time I've said that in my entire life."
A league official said Holmgren's initial remarks were "fairly benign," but suggested the rhetoric was turned up a notch when the Seahawks coach got in front of the home crowd. "I'm guessing that part of it was Mike playing to the crowd a little, giving [the fans] what they wanted to hear, but I'm not sure that's an excuse for what he said. We'll definitely look into it."
The official said league management was originally unaware of the remarks because much of the NFL staff was on the road Monday, returning to New York after Super Bowl XL, or headed to Hawaii for Sunday's Pro Bowl game.
The NFL has become increasingly sensitive to public criticism of game officials and fined several coaches this year, including Joe Gibbs of Washington, for derogatory remarks. The league also has become more transparent in recent seasons in acknowledging incorrect calls, as it did after the controversial decision in the Pittsburgh-Indianapolis divisional-round game in which officials ruled on a would-be interception by Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.
Tennessee Titans coach and competition committee co-chairman Jeff Fisher, while conceding that officials did not have a good weekend in the divisional round contests, lauded game officials in general for their work. He noted that the game is so thoroughly covered now by the media that officials have, at times, become targets, and often unfairly.
"When you have the amount of coverage that the game is getting in comparison to 10 years ago, they have to find more and more things to talk about," Fisher said. "Because of the enormous amount of coverage the game is getting, officiating is getting scrutinized now more so than it has in the past."
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.