There's no question that the NFL has had an officiating problem all season. More than ever, crews are making strange calls, and more than ever, VP of Officiating Dean Blandino has to go on the NFL Network and explain how yet another crew blew another call. Many believe that the ever-increasing complexity of the league's rule book is the culprit, but there are also times when a ref just loses his bearings and completely blows a call despite having all the time and technology anyone could ask for at his disposal.
And more often than not, when that happens, the referee in question will be one Jeff Triplette, who has been a professional referee since 1999, and a game official since 1996. This despite his long and undistinguished history of mauling calls that more qualified officials would nail nine times out of 10.
Triplette's latest victim was the Indianapolis Colts, who were playing the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday afternoon in a game that had serious playoff seeding implications for both teams. Putting a guy like Triplette in charge of such a game is like having Deputy Dawg guard the Mona Lisa, but the NFL will do what it does. With 1:14 left in the first half, Bengals running back Benjarvus Green-Ellis took the ball at the Indianapolis 1-yard line, and though he came close the end zone, the replay official ruled that Green-Ellis fell short of the score.
Green-Ellis certainly appeared to be tripped by Colts defensive tackle Josh Chapman at the Indianapolis 4-yard line, and though he made a football move after that, he lost his footing, and it looked as if his knee was down before the ball crossed the plane of the end zone. Triplette went under the hood and botched the call as only he can.
It would be excusable if this had been a bang-bang-play, but Triplette was able to rewatch the play for a good long time (at least as long as it would take to watch half of a Hee-Haw episode). After the replay consultation, Triplette came back out to the field and made his ruling:
"After review, the ruling on the field is reversed. The runner was not touched, and [went] into the end zone. It is a touchdown."
Former NFL VP of Officiating Mike Pereiera, now an analyst for FOX Sports, was not impressed.
In CIN, it sure looks to me like he was touched by #96. Certainly can't prove he DIDN'T touch him.
— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) December 8, 2013
Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf, who were calling the game for CBS, appeared to be as confused as everybody else.
"Are you kidding me? Not touched?" Gumbel asked in amazement. "What did he think he tripped on back there?"
It's a common question for this particular official. If the NFL has decided to dock the Steelers a draft pick based on Mike Tomlin's sideline shenanigans because it could affect the Baltimore Ravens' playoff picture, what should the league do to Triplette? He's done playoff games before, so it's pretty clear that whatever downgrading system is in place for officials doesn't apply in this case. TheMMQB's Peter King, who did a marvelous series on Gene Steratore's crew that ran last week, has as much respect for the tough jobs officials have as anybody.
What did Peter think of Triplette's call?
The overturn by Triplette in Cincinnati: disgraceful. Indefensible.
— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) December 8, 2013
Exactly. It's also disgraceful and indefensible when referees who are clearly not qualified to do their jobs are allowed to keep doing them.
After the game, Triplette tried to explain the reversal, and just created more confusion (via Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star).
I gotta work so I'll let you guys make what you will out of this: pic.twitter.com/sV2hPxc8Jo — Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) December 8, 2013