Jeff Triplette has been one of the most recognizable and consistent presences in the NFL over the course of the past two decades. You may know him by name, you may not, but you would know his face if you saw a picture of him, because it’s doubtless one that you’ve seen many times over the years.
Along with Ed Hochuli, the two most well-known officials in the NFL elected to retire heading into the 2018 season (though Hochuli’s son is among those replacing the old guard). After revealing that he would be retiring from the NFL, Triplette spoke to Monday Morning Quarterback about a number of topics, which included touching on the future direction of NFL officiating.
One thing that he seemed to be pleased with as he heads out the door is what he sees as the league walking back some on its usage of instant replay as a second level of officiating rather than as something of a quality control mechanism.
He talked about former New York Giants General Manager George Young, who was known always to be resistant to replay, and his team always voted against its expansion “because we’re replacing one person’s judgment with another person’s judgment”, as Triplette said.
“I think we’re getting back now to thinking about replay as fixing the obvious error”, the veteran official continued. “It’s not meant to fix minutiae. Just as players make mistakes, officials are going to make mistakes and coaches are going to make mistakes”.
The wording in the official rulebook had recently deviated from the “indisputable” standard for overturning a call on the field via replay, exchanging it for the seemingly comparable “clear and obvious” verbiage, yet it didn’t seem to play out in that manner on the field.
“This is not a video game”, Triplette said. “It is a game played, officiated and coached by humans. It is what it is. We need to think about replay as something that makes sure we get the obvious error corrected but not destroy what is the game by making it a video game”.
It is worth noting that this past season was the first in which the ultimate decision on replays came down not from the on-field official but from the league’s officiating headquarters, usually with head of officiating Al Riveron directly behind the calls. The NFL received widespread criticism for some of the overturned calls this past season and they seem to be retreating from that front.
For those who don’t know anything about him, Triplette is actually a pretty interesting guy, and officiating in the NFL is just one small sliver of his live. He was a decorated veteran of the Gulf War, for one thing, an economics major, a risk-management advisor, and other roles. He has his iron in a number of fires, making the interview a worthwhile read.