How many referees' names do you actually know? In an ideal world, it'd be Ed Hochuli, and that's it. But the name Jeff Triplette has popped up a few times this year, and not for anything good: Triplette's crew had major game-changing screw-ups in consecutive weeks. And what do you know? Triplette's working a playoff game.
Football Zebras has the ref assignments for this weekend's wild card slate, and there's the veteran Triplette, heading up Chargers-Bengals. That's heartening for the Bengals, who were the recipients of a gift touchdown from Triplette's crew in Week 14. The naked eye appeared to show BenJarvus Green-Ellis tripped up shy of the goal line on a fourth-down carry, and replay did too—but the officials inexplicably overturned the call on the field and awarded Cincinnati the score.
The NFL admitted the call was wrong, just as it had to do a week prior, when Triplette's crew was responsible for one of the strangest screw-ups in recent memory. Triplette failed to call for a measurement on a possible first-down, stood by idly as his linesman ordered the chain gang to move, failed to stop play and alert both teams that it wasn't actually a first down, and refused to answer questions about it afterward.
So why is Triplette working the postseason? The NFL's playoff assignments are solely merit-based—officials are graded after every game, and the highest-scoring ones get the plum January jobs. (And paychecks! Never forget that these are part-time employees.) So, presumably Triplette was among the best refs in the league in 2013. Without being privy to the NFL's grading rubric, this might be foremost an indictment of the rest of the zebras.