Triplette’s blunder highlights the need for centralized replay review

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As the NFL ponders whether to export the replay function from stadiums to a central location such as the league office, Sunday’s bungling of a Bengals touchdown call provides the best evidence that change is needed.

With less than two minutes remaining in the first half, Cincinnati running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis hit the ground short of the goal line and then skidded across.  Ruled not a touchdown on the field, the replay assistant activated the replay function by buzzing referee Jeff Triplette.

The question then became whether indisputable visual evidence existed to overrule the on-field decision that Green-Ellis was down.  Triplette, who presided over the Week 13 Sunday night first-down clusterfudge in Washington, determined that the call on the field was wrong.

Triplette’s decision seemed to ignore the possibility that Green-Ellis was tripped up in the backfield by a Colts player, causing Green-Ellis to stumble and ultimately fall.  As it turns out, Triplette’s decision did ignore that possibility; Triplette said after the game that he looked only at the end of the play.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told Tom Pelissero of USA Today that Triplette had the authority to review the entire play.  Triplette, however, admitted to a pool reporter after the game that Triplette didn’t.

It was a judgment call,” Aiello explained to Pelissero.  “Jeff determined in the review that the runner was not down by contact.”

But that’s not the standard. The question is whether Triplette detected indisputable visual evidence that Green-Ellis wasn’t tripped up or otherwise touched by a defender on the way to the ground.  Triplette necessarily failed to apply that standard because he didn’t even consider the visual evidence regarding the events that caused Green-Ellis to stumble and fall.

It’s easy to see why Triplette erred.  Efforts to make a detached, clinical assessment of film becomes difficult if not impossible for officials who are attached to the playing field; a voting-booth curtain hardly transports the official to an environment that is conducive to a proper assessment of the video.  These review need to be conducted in a place where reliable, consistent, and efficient decisions can be made by specialists who are sensitive to the applicable standard and in turn equipped to overturn only those rulings that are clearly incorrect.

Triplette’s mistake proves once again that the current system isn’t working.  With replay mistakes being the easiest officiating gaffes for casual fans to identify and criticize, the NFL needs to find a better way to implement the replay system.

Taking it out of the stadiums and sending it to New York is the best way to do that.

69 responses to “Triplette’s blunder highlights the need for centralized replay review

  1. He’s been screwing up since he became a ref. Did you forget that in one of his first seasons he threw his flag right at Orlando browns face? Causing him to lose 3 years of his career.

  2. As a fan, I should never know the names of the referees… other words, I know more ref names this year than ever before and that’s not a good thing.

  3. No, it doesn’t highlight the need for centralized replay review. It highlights the need to fire Jeff Triplette’s worthless fanny. Centralized replay systems will be slower and more prone to problems due to communication issues, and games get delayed enough by replay already. What solves this particular problem is not continuing to employ referees who are clearly incompetent idiots.

    Firing Jeff Triplette is the answer here.

  4. So Triplett had bad judgment in awarding the Bengals a touchdown and momentum, not correcting a down marker mistake by his team in the Giants / Redskins game, blinding Orlando Brown in one eye with a with a penalty flag weighed with ball bearings, then doing the same thing in hitting Aaron Beasley with another flag, etc., etc. etc.

    Why is a man with such continuous bad judgment still the lead official in NFL games. He is the standard by which all other NFL officials can be judged!

  5. lsuzilla:

    Well sarcasm or not, you do raise a good point. It is possible the NFL could take things to NY and it could slow down the game or other problems could arise. In fact, it’s possible to be a mega-disaster. But the fear of failure shouldn’t prevent one from putting forth a good faith effort to do things the best way, or more importantly the right way, or desperately and hopefully in any way that is more right than this current way which is a dead wrong end with no dispute from anybody.

    Plus the new system could absolve the Refs of being on the hook of an error, so there’s that too. And many other potential benefits depending on what else they want to creatively do to make the game better or more professional or more fair. Those seem like good qualities to strive for in a product or service of any type.

  6. Thank God we have the union refs back. They are SOOO much better than those replacement refs who were willing to work for a reasonable wage and benefits. God bless these idiotic unions and the people who support them (and you know who I’m talking about here).

  7. In theory it sounds good, but wouldn’t you also want the referee who saw the play on the field be able to explain to the person holed up in a studio exactly what he saw and why he called what he did? I would think there would need to be some form of communication between the ref on the field, and ref in the studio.

  8. This isn’t even close to Triplettes second big mistake. I’m sorry this is the real world and he has no business being a NFL official. He should be fired right now. He may be a good person but his officiating is unacceptable. Period without question.

  9. Don’t forget that little HEADS-or-TAILS snafu on Thanksgiving Day game between DET & PIT. It was an OVERTIME coin toss if I remember correctly. Yes, outstanding body of work from this guy.

  10. One set of replay officials instead of 16. Doesn’t make it better, just saves the league money. Which is their ultimate goal.

  11. Let’s see – where is the chorus of indignation from the media about the “integrity of the game” and “unsafe working conditions” and “mistaks that will cost teams games” due to “misapplication of rules” and so on and so on and so on………

    We took a freaking beating over mistakes these guys are making at three times the salary and benefits AND a pension. No one gets fired – ever. What used to be a one year contract every year is now like the Supreme Court. Appointed for as long as you want to stay.

  12. lsuzilla says:

    Well that’s shouldn’t slow the game down even more.


    Welcome to the year 2013 where there are things like laptops, pad and smartphones not to mentioned dedicated lines that allow real time communication with anyone almost anywhere in the world.

    Not only can you communicate you can share video and photos easily without delay.

    Don’t think “slowing down the games” is going to be an issue if they do this.

  13. The game of football that I love has really taken a step backwards with how games are officiated and the type of rules that lead to fines. My last year for Direct TV and the ticket.

  14. db423, how can this be? It is now common knowledge to all, including the guy who made the call, that he was down by contact. You should now go and re-read your past comments on this topic.

  15. Stop with this advocating for a centralized system already!!! Human error is a part of the game, and it will be whether you keep the game how it is, get rid of Instant Replay, or move reviews to the league office. At least now the officials are connected to the game and what the overall balance of the game is – and are answerable to the fans around them. A league office decision won’t fix things perfectly any more than Instant Replay did. But it will do a LOT to undermine the role the officials on the field play. And once you do that, then every year there will be a new scandal about what is or isn’t reviewable. Next thing you know, there will be a break after almost every play as the league reviews whether any penalties should be called, or whether it was actually a catch. And the decisions will be made by underpaid, faceless people who will be easier to bribe.

    The refs get the vast majority of calls correct, in real time, at a speed that is unbelievable. We need to stop blaming them when a questionable call shifts the play of a game. Any team that loses because of one single call didn’t do enough to win the game. Players make mistakes. Coaches make mistakes. Refs make mistakes. That is part of the game. Get over it.

  16. IF the Seahawks make the SB, there better not be another screwjob coming from these buffoons.

  17. There are two problems:

    1. Jeff Triplette should have been fired along time ago he is an embarrassment to his profession.

    2. While there is a standard in officiating the officials rarely are consistent with enforcing them across-the-board.

    If a central location for reviews alleviates most of the problem so be it.

  18. I thought the idiot that hit Brown with the flag was out of football. Not surprising he would still be showing incredibly bad judgment more than a decade later.

    The league needs to get rid of some of these guys. There is no excuse for a replay review to ever be wrong.

  19. The NHL has been doing off-site reviews for YEARS, with all reviews being done in Toronto, Canada. The review is completed almost always in 30 seconds, usually in less than 15 seconds – about the same time it takes for the NFL ref to get to the booth, let alone review the play.

    Also, in the NHL, the review can take place whether any on-ice official OR anyone else in the building asks for one – Toronto can review at will. It usually doesn’t, but it always has the option. Maybe some no-calls in the NFL will be reviewed, and there definitely will tend to be a more consistent call (maybe worse, but probably better). A lot of posters are asking for consistency in NFL penalty calls. Remember, consistency can cut both ways.

    If the review officials, who should be able to demonstrate a knowledge of the rules to get the job, make consistently bad calls, it is much easier to re-train 5 (or fire them) than to re-train or fire 16 head referees (who supposedly are knowledgeable of ALL the rules and the iterations of such rules).

    How many think there should have been an immediate review of the official having to run around Tomlin? Many were saying it should have been a penalty. A review of the play could have, and almost certainly would have, shown that the official (and/or the entire officiating team) blew the call, and the Ravens would have had the ball, not at the 27 yard line, but inside the 15 yard line. Still no guarantee of a touchdown, but a much higher probability of one, or at least a much easier field goal attempt.

    Same with the call in Cincinnati. Same with the down marker call in Washington. Same with the (some call phantom) pass interference call in Baltimore. And those are just in the last couple of weeks. Further back in history? There are those who say calls that shouldn’t have been made, or should have been made but weren’t, occur every week.

    Would those who are against off-site review (and are not police officers) want a jury of only police officers to sit on their case when they were innocent of the charge? Only doctors when there is a charge of malpractice (and the defendant is not a doctor)? When calls are reviewed, and the call is overruled BY THE SAME OFFICIATING CREW who made the call, it is a wonder of science (and non-ego of the officiating crew).

  20. I can see it now, The Ref turns his mike on and says to the crowd that the previous play is going to be reviewed. However, we are number 4 on the replay reviews!!!!

  21. Errors happen, mistakes happen.. Put it in New York and you will scream accountability from those ppl in the officiating war room and let the eyes in the control room decide the outcome of games.. Because eventually they will make a incorrect or debatable call that’s highly scrutinized. Besides these incidents this year and the Orlando Brown incident anyone else remember a truly horrible call or incident made by Triplette’s crew from past years???? Maybe 1/2 at max and that’s with you having to dig thru the archives out of his 15 or so yrs as a referee.. So go somewhere with this sanctimonious article Florio and shame on the sheep who’s following with pitchforks shouting to the rooftops that Triplette be fired..only way you eliminate errors in officiating is to have no officials and have it run by computers, etc.. Then you people will cry about no human element in officiating to make judgment calls. Everything looks easy in you armchair stuffing your face.

  22. As a Bengals fan…. I have to admit it was a terrible call…. but…. not nearly as bad as that patriots sham call.

    That said…. the Colts Offense wasn’t doing anything…. UNTIL… that call lit a fire under them.

    Unfortunately for the Colts…. they still got beat by 14.

    The Colt’s last touchdown was scored with the Bengals playing prevent defense with a 21 point lead.

  23. Just as long as the airplane I’m flying in has a live pilot, I’m good.

    I need a pilot who shares the same fate as me.

    No centralized pilots flying commercial passenger drones. No sir.

  24. I’m a bit confused by Triplette’s explanation and I’m a Bengals fan. I was told to enhance the in stadium experience, starting this year we get to see on the jumbotron exactly what the ref is reviewing under the hood. So what “I” saw was that he was looking at the knee going down a few times, THEN he took 2 looks at what happened in the backfield where the touch happened and then went back to look at the goal line area again. So by my view, HE DID LOOK AT THE BACKFIELD TOUCH. So why after the game did he say he only looked at the goalline area?

    I only ask so that hopefully I won’t have to see him again doing the upcoming playoff games in Cincy. WhoDey!!!

  25. “Taking it out of the stadiums and sending it to New York is the best way to do that.”

    Because people in NY never screw up? There is zero benefit from having the play reviewed in another city.

  26. As a Bengals fan, it was odd to see us get that touchdown. As a fan who has seen the Bengals go through terrible seasons, I know how the other team felt to get hosed, and I can honestly say I felt bad. I am happy they won by more than a touchdown so that it didn’t completely decide the game. Obviously it was early and could have provided a complete shift in momentum, but I am willing to take the odds.

  27. and there will be ratings, marketing and p.r. consultants supervising this new york officiating outfit and we will be one step closer to a major corruption scandal

  28. I think centralized play review would be a disaster. I don’t want anyone group in New York (or anywhere else) making decisions on every critical play for every game that is being played.

    It would feed the conspiracy theorists. You’ve heard them, I certainly have.

    “It’s all rigged anyway”.

    Secondly the coordination required for multiple games running at the same time begs for a situation FUBAR.

    I was following the Drive Chart of the game tonight on There was a point when the chart stalled as the game progressed. Suddenly a message appeared on the screen:

    “We are experiencing technical difficulties.”

    No sir, I just don’t like that idea.

  29. Bill Levy handed the Stealers a Super Bowl in 2006 and still has a job.
    Triplette isn’t going anywhere.

  30. “The question is whether Triplette detected indisputable visual evidence that Green-Ellis wasn’t tripped up or otherwise touched by a defender on the way to the ground.”

    Finally, THIS is what make his decision so terrible.

    I’m sorry but I have to conclude that Triplette threw the game, there’s no other possibility to me.

  31. Just crowd source it and let fans vote by text message. Fifty million drunks in a bar can’t be wrong.

  32. All they have to do is put the booth in any sports bar…..everyone knew right away it was not a TD. Makes one wonder who is getting paid off and you think some of the NFL games are not rigged?

  33. I understand bringing this up, but the official’s mistakes during the Ravens game and the Patriots game were game changing. This was not. The Bengals won by two scores, and one of the Indy touchdowns was a gift from the Bengals in garbage time.

  34. C’mon guys, it’s not that big of a deal. All Triplette did was likely cost one team a game and affect the playoff seeding in the AFC. So what?

  35. seahawksbmx says:
    Dec 9, 2013 10:35 PM
    IF the Seahawks make the SB, there better not be another screwjob coming from these buffoons.
    If they make the Super Bowl, there’s gonna be a major backlash on the NFL for allowing a team to cheat like that and get away with it.

  36. Terrible call by Triplett? God yes. Deciding factor in the Bengals game? God no. Not even close. The Bengals had an answer for the Colts every single time they scored. No way the Colts were going to catch up. Tell your Colts to play better defense. Don’t blame your loss on the refs. Momentum my backside. Bengals won fair and square.

  37. craigmaitland says:
    Dec 10, 2013 1:44 AM
    Full time refs?


    Tripplett being full time isn’t going to cure his incompetence.

  38. I’m a Bengals fan and that call during the Colts game was question. But for anyone to think that it was a deciding factor in the game, I’m sorry but they are just a handful of poor loser Colts fans, Period! Even if that call had not been made, based on the way the Colts defense was playing throughout the whole game, they didn’t have a chance anyway. Every team gets bad calls during a game. As far as moving the replay to a central location, what do we REALLY think that will solve. It will just be some other idiot miles away making another bad judgement call. IMHO, the refs need to be held accountable and fined when they blow there assigments. Aren’t we held accountable in our jobs everyday? They should be no different! If I’d had screwed up as many times as Triplett over the years in my everyday job, I’d have been in a soup line long ago. They should be fined heavily when they blow a replay review. It’s one thing to miss a call on the field during play, everything is going so fast. But when you’re the only one under a hood looking at the same play that everyone else can see on the jumbotron, and you can’t seem to see what everyone else just did, then you need to lose a large amount of money from your check. 1st offense should forfeit half of you paycheck, 2nd offense you lose the whole check, 3rd offense take a hike because any monkey can do as good a job as you are. If they’re not held accountable, this will never end. After a few of these guys watch their counterpart sign up for unemployment, they’ll step up their game, so to speak. Sending the replay elsewhere is not the answer in my opinion.

  39. p31squared says:
    Dec 10, 2013 7:20 AM
    C’mon guys, it’s not that big of a deal. All Triplette did was likely cost one team a game and affect the playoff seeding in the AFC. So what?


    Oh come on. Cincinnati dominated that game. Triplette did not cost the Colts that game. Their lousy defense got them that game.

  40. If Triplette doesn’t call it a TD then the Colts get the ball on the 6-inch line. If they avoid a safety then it’s likely they punt it back to the Bengals anyway.

    Bengals won time of possession almost 37:45 minutes to 22:15 & that’s with even playing spotty ‘prevent’ in garbage time.

    Hard to rationalize this call came anywhere close to costing the Colts this game … the better team won

  41. Bengals catch a break……….

    Good Breaks for Bengals since 1987……….1
    Bad Breaks for Bengals……..6,250

  42. Remembering Tim Donaghy, a 13 year NBA ref who was caught fixing games, seeing many more dollars swirl around the NFL than the NBA and seeing that the average NFL referee salary is only $173,000, the cynic in me starts to wonder if the reason for all these incorrect momentum changing calls is something other than just incompetence.

  43. contract says: “Taking it out of the stadiums and sending it to New York is the best way to do that.”

    Because people in NY never screw up? There is zero benefit from having the play reviewed in another city.
    I thought Mike Pereirra lived in LA ??

  44. It’s hilarious seeing all these delusional Colts fans who are so in denial that they think that one call would have changed the game. I’m sure the Bengals would be happy to play you again any time so their offense can run all over your sad defense.

  45. It’s easy to jump on Triplette here, but I find it odd that the NFL doesn’t address why they only watched the goal line action, and why down by contact now seems to be the only call that doesn’t require a ref to be specific about what they saw.

    Two referees missed the backfield action and thought they saw #52 touch BJGE down at the goal line. They reviewed that and saw that he missed. If they go back to the backfield action, they can’t see BJGE get touched. Call reversed.

    Otherwise, refs can just make a call that every running play up the middle is down by contact, and many will be uphed because you can’t see enough to overturn. Guilty before being proven innocent.

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