Polian through the competition committee asked the league to make defensive contact a league-wide point of emphasis, so that every single crew called it closely.

Until that point, each crew "called their own strike zone" so to speak. Unfair or not, in a game the same call was consistent. That is the difference.

With regular, competent refs, teams still knew things like "this crew calls it tight on offensive holding" or "this crew will allow incidental contact" and yes they game-plan accordingly. As long as during the game the calls are consistent, the players and coaches never complain.