One day after his crew was roundly criticized for several controversial calls in the Tennessee Titans-Kansas City Chiefs NFL postseason opening game on Saturday, there’s news that the referee of that game, Jeff Triplette, is retiring.
Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network was first to report the news. Kinkhabwala tweeted that Triplette exchanged “heartfelt hugs” with members of his crew after dinner on Saturday night, embraces that looked like goodbyes.
ESPN reported that Triplette’s decision to retire is not because of his crew’s performance in the Titans-Chiefs game.
An Army veteran, Triplette joined the league’s officiating ranks in 1996, as a field judge. He became a referee in 1999.
Among other things, he is known as the official who threw the penalty flag that struck then-Browns offensive lineman Orlando Brown in the eye during a 1999 game. Triplette immediately apologized, but Brown was left partially blind, and missed significant time because of the injury.
He also was one of the officials fans seemed to dislike most. But he was one of the better referees and helmed one of the better crews this year; the league grades crews throughout the season, and the highest-graded get playoff assignments.
There were a litany of mistakes made in Saturday’s game, and even Mike Pereira, the NFL’s former head of officiating who is now an analyst for Fox, tweeted about the poor job by Triplette and his crew:
Horrible way to start the playoffs. I hate to say it but this was not a good performance by the crew. Teams and fans deserve better.
— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) January 7, 2018
Among the errors on Saturday night: when Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was sacked by Kansas City’s Derrick Johnson in the first half, Mariota fumbled before he hit the ground and the Chiefs clearly recovered the ball. But the officials ruled that Mariota’s forward progress was stopped and the play was dead, though that clearly appeared untrue. The Titans ended up keeping possession and kicked a field goal on the next play; in a game that ended with just a point separating the teams, that was significant.
At another point, a penalty was called on Tennessee’s No. 11; the Titans didn’t have a No. 11 in uniform, since backup quarterback Alex Tanney, who does wear that number, is on injured reserve; they also badly mis-spotted the ball on a Tennessee first down, forcing the Titans to challenge the spot.
Even on a call Triplette’s crew got right, Mariota’s amazing touchdown pass to himself, Triplette’s explanation as to why it was a legal play was wrong. He said it was because Mariota was in the shotgun before the snap, which had no bearing on the play; in reality, once Mariota’s pass was tipped, he was able to recover it like any other player on the field.
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• Manziel trolls Browns as he nears football return
• Eric Adelson: Bortles’ arm isn’t going to scare Steelers