As we learned two weeks ago tonight, a bad explanation from a referee can be even worse than a bad call.
After Sunday night’s “first down . . . psyche!” maneuver, referee Jeff Triplette provided a confusing and incomplete explanation to pool reporter Zac Boyer of the Washington Times.
“We signaled third down on the field,” Triplette said, via the transcript circulated by the Redskins. “The stakes were moved incorrectly. After that play, we said it was still third down. We had signaled third down prior to the play starting. The stakes just got moved incorrectly.”
No big deal. The stakes got moved incorrectly. You know, the stakes everyone relies on when determining down and distance. The same stakes that then had to be clumsily repositioned one play later.
It gets worse. Triplette said he didn’t call a time out to fix the obvious blunder because stopping the clock would have helped Washington too much.
“[T]here are no timeouts in this situation,” Triplette said. “We just didn’t shut it down in that situation because that would have given an unfair advantage.”
So instead of giving a potential unfair advantage to Washington, Triplette gave the home team a clear unfair disadvantage, by leading everyone falsely to believe that a first down had been gained, via the giant orange stakes shuttling down the sideline.
Triplette also was unable to address coach Mike Shanahan’s contention that one of the other officials told Shanahan that a first down had been gained.
“I can’t respond to that,” Triplette said. “I don’t know what happened. I just know that we had signaled third down on the play at the sideline, made it third down.”
Sorry, Jeff. But that’s not nearly good enough. You’re the spokesman for the crew in that setting. If you don’t know whether one of your colleagues told Shanahan that a first down had been earned, you need to go find out and then continue the interview.
So, yes, the crew committed a clear blunder by telling the sticks to move when they shouldn’t have moved. And Triplette made it worse by failing to fully embrace or explain the error, essentially taking the position that no mistake was made because third down was signaled on the field.