In the beginning of December, Jeff Triplette had back-to-back weeks with controversial rulings for which the NFL was later forced to apologize. There was the Giants-Redskins game in which members of his crew appeared to give Washington a first down in the final two minutes of the game following a Pierre Garcon reception close to the marker near midfield. Even though the chains moved, Triplette insisted that the play resulted in a 3rd and 1 for the Redskins. This forced the Redskins to abruptly change their playcalling, which might have been the reason the would-be game-tying drive was unsuccessful a few plays later. While Triplette’s crew members were to blame for incorrectly moving the sticks, the league apologized for Triplette not taking a break to correct the error.
The following week in Cincinnati, Triplette somehow awarded a touchdown on review to BenJarvus Green-Ellis on a 4th-and-goal carry in which the running back was tripped by a defender. Law Firm’s knee hit the ground before the ball broke the plane. But Triplette claimed Green-Ellis was not contacted before touching the ground, so his second effort into the end zone resulted in a score. Even worse, the play was initially ruled correctly but Triplette overturned it on review. Once again, the league had to apologize.
So here we are, a month later, and Triplette is working Sunday’s Wild Card game between the Chargers and Bengals. Playoff assignments are purportedly based on referee gradings over the course of the full season, so it’s possible Triplette, despite the notable blunders, finished within the top 10 lead officials this season. Of course, finishing tenth still means being in the bottom half of the 18 possible candidates.
Triplette certainly isn’t the only official to have made a noteworthy mistake over the course of the year, but he’s made enough of them – and in quick succession – that it’s surprising that the NFL can’t cobble together enough dependable referees to keep him from officiating a playoff game. Or at least it should be surprising.