As it turns out, the last two weeks have been a more trying time for NFL official Jeff Triplette than we could have imagined. During the same stretch that he was busy blowing a clock call in the New York Giants' 24-17 win over the Washington Redskins on Dec. 1, and busy blowing a red-zone call that gave the Cincinnati Bengals a gift touchdown in their 42-28 win over the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday, the league's most bumptious ref was also dealing with some serious corporate issues.
Triplette is the president and CEO of Arbiter Sports, a Utah-based company that deals in the organization of officiating crews, the assignments of officials and the payment of those officials for multiple sports at the high school and collegiate levels. On Dec. 10, everyone who had contracted the company's services received this e-mail:
Dear Valued Customer,
On Sunday, December 1st and again on Wednesday, December 4th our company suffered major computer hardware/system failures. These failures caused our website to be inaccessible on Sunday for several hours and created unacceptable performance issues on these same systems Wednesday afternoon. Email notifications were also intermittent throughout the week as a result. Acceptable operating levels have been restored at this time.
Immediately after service was restored we set out to ensure our clients are not impacted in the future by events similar to this past week. Over the next 60 days, with the help of several outside consultants and newly hired expertise, will be completely overhauling our system infrastructure and fail-over platforms. The resulting system will not only prevent events similar to this past week, but will also significantly improve the responsiveness, constancy and overall user experience of the website going forward.
As we move to these new systems, we will work diligently to limit any impact on you by performing as many of these upgrades during non-peak use hours as possible. When we must take any of our systems off-line to perform any of these upgrades, we will communicate with you BEFORE it happens.
We know that you have time-sensitive responsibilities and that your ability to serve your clients is adversely affected when our website is inaccessible or unacceptably slow. We apologize for the events of the past week as well as the slowness of the website at times during this past fall. We are working tirelessly to remedy the situation, exceed your expectations and maintain your trust.
Please do not hesitate to contact either of us or anyone else on the ArbiterSports team if you have questions or concerns. Again, we value each of you as a customer and want to ensure your interaction with ArbiterSports is a rewarding one.
Chief Executive Officer
Chief Operating Officer
"Unacceptable performance levels?" "Fail-over platforms?" Sounds a bit like Triplette's career as an NFL official, which dates to 1996. The blown call in the Redskins game came about when one set of chains was moved to indicate a first down following a Robert Griffin III pass to receiver Pierre Garcon. Head coach Mike Shanahan was told by the crew that he had a first down when he didn't, which affected the play-calling, and the Redskins' drive ended on a turnover. Not that the turnover was the fault of Triplette's crew, but Shanahan's explanation after the game certainly cast doubts on the handle Triplette had on the game.
“I said I wanted a measurement,” Shanahan said after the game. “He said, ‘No, you don’t have to. It’s a first down.’ I saw the first down on the other side and he signaled to move the chains on our side. And then I asked when it was fourth down. I said, ‘You already told me it was a first down. I want a measurement.’ Anyway, that was disappointing.”
Triplette told a pool reporter that “We signaled third down on the field. The stakes were moved incorrectly ... I feel like we signaled third down.”
NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino said that Triplette and his crew blew this one on several counts -- including Triplette's refusal to stop the game to get the down right. Triplette said that he didn't do so because the Redskins had no timeouts remaining, and stopping the clock would have given them an unfair advantage.
"In this situation where there is obvious confusion as to the status of the down, play should have been stopped prior to third down and the correct down communicated to both clubs," Blandino said in a statement. "This should have occurred regardless of the fact that Washington had no timeouts and it was inside two minutes.
"Only the referee can rule and signal a first down. The official nearest to the down markers and chain crew, the head linesman, must wait for the first down signal from the referee before moving the chains."
The call in the Bengals-Colts game was equally confounding. Triplette reversed a no-touchdown call for Cincinnati running back Benjarvus Green-Ellis after reviewing the play because, “After review, the ruling on the field is reversed. The runner was not touched, and [went] into the end zone. It is a touchdown.”
Well, not really. Green-Ellis appeared to be touched by Colts defensive tackle Josh Chapman at the Indianapolis 4-yard line, and his knee hit the ground before he broke the plane. After the game, Triplette told a pool reporter that there was discussion about whether the runner touched the goal line or not, implying that this was the only aspect of the play that was reviewable. When asked about Chapman possibly getting Green-Ellis, Triplette appeared a bit confused.
"I don't know about that, what position ... there was nobody that touched him at the goal line."
Blandino had to clarify and correct this one, as well.
"No, it wasn't a correct call. I'll start with that," Blandino told the NFL Network on Tuesday. "There was not enough evidence to overturn the ruling on the field. The call on the field was that he was touched and he was down by contact with the ball short of the goal line," Blandino said. "In order to overturn that, there has to be indisputable visual evidence that the call on the field was incorrect. That's the standard.
"When we look at these angles, it's close -- don't think it's definitive either way -- and when it's not definitive either way, that means the call on the field should stand. So, we made a mistake here. This should not have been overturned."
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told USA Today's Tom Pelissero that Triplette could have reviewed all aspects of the play, not just whether Green-Ellis had broken the plane, even if that was the original call. We might be able to excuse Triplette's two weeks of blunders on all fronts if he didn't have a long record of blowing calls that any half-baked Pac-12 official should get right. More and more, one must wonder why the league continues to employ this official.