To twist a quote from Forest Gump, “NFL officiating is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
In general this principle applies on a week to week basis, and depends upon each officiating crew. With Jeff Triplette? It’s a total crap shoot.
Officiating Crew: Jeff Triplette (referee), Shawn Smith (umpire), Tony Veteri (head linesman), Dyrol Prioleau (field judge), Brad Freeman (back judge), Alex Kemp (side judge), Jeff Bergman (line judge).
Meet Jeff Triplette and his crew of officials. While you may have heard Triplette’s name before as a casual fan of the game, it’s hard for many to tie his name to any particular well known blown calls or game changing calls/non-calls.
And for those who know a little more about Triplette? Let’s pretend we don’t for the time being so we don’t ruin the surprise!
On the surface, Triplette’s crew seems to do things right, and delivers a fairly called game.
Fortunately for us (or at least those of us who get nerdy and like crunching numbers) we can back those claims up with 4 Weeks in the books for the 2015 NFL season, which allows us to start assessing trends and patterns within overall officiating as well as specific crews.
With Triplette’s crew, I used overall league averages through 4 weeks plus a week-by-week basis to compare his crew to the league averages.
Looking at a 4 week comparison, we can see Triplette hangs below the league averages for penalties per game, as well as total penalty yards per game.
While this overall number gives us the bigger picture, to check for any potential patterns or anomalies, I broke it down to a week by week basis, while also including the Ravens penalites per week to see how they stack up as well.
There’s a few noteworthy items here. First and foremost- if you want to know why there’s a fuss about the league having way too many penalities this year, look no further than week 2. The average 18.6 penalties per game is clearly an anomaly, but appears to be trending in the right direction in the past 2 weeks.
The other elephant in the room here- how about those Ravens? They average less penalties per game than the league average in all 4 weeks of the season to date! With two weeks in double digit penalties (that only happened twice in ’14 for Baltimore including playoffs), and two weeks with less than 5 penalties, it’s hard to assess this team and which direction they will head, but hopefully last week’s 4-penalty performance is more indicative of what we can expect.
Back to the officials in question, we can also see that Triplette’s crew falls below the league average as well, which is a good sign for Ravens fans looking ahead to the match up with Cleveland.
Bringing Triplette’s 2015 games into focus, let’s take a look at the breakdown in penalty type overall.
Clearly we can see they’re not much for pre-snap movement calls, however there seems to be a heavy emphasis on holding, whether it be offensive, defensive or special teams.
With that in mind, how do the Ravens stack up in the holding department?
Through 4 games, the Ravens have (8) total holding penalties called against them, for an average of 2 per game. The good news? They aren’t the worst offenders. The bad news? DPI, an extension of the holding penalty, has the Ravens averaging (1) per game, which is (surprisingly) tied for the most in the NFL. If the Ravens continue to grab with the ball in the air, I expect Triplette’s crew to pick up on it, much like they have on defensive holds downfield.
Despite the fear of holding, the Ravens have little to fear this week with the officiating crew. They seem to call a completely fair game (both home and visiting teams averaging the same number of penalties), keep the penalties to a minimum, and they haven’t had any egregiously blown or missed calls this season at all.
Okay, there is one minor gripe about Triplette.
And it’s really nothing, but the sentiment around the league is that Triplette is, for lack of a better word, awful.
Sure, from an officiating standpoint, he doesn’t call excessive penalties, and he knows when to throw the flag, but the bigger issue is his lack of knowledge beyond that.
Historically, it’s been noted that Triplette was a major reason the NFL adjusted the instant replay to include a replay headquarters in New York to provide centralized replay in 2014. Many have speculated the turning point was when Triplette incorrectly awarded Bengals back BenJarvus Green-Ellis a touchdown when he was clearly touched in the backfield and downed before crossing the plane.
Looking ahead to the current season, it’s been noted that in 2 games, Triplette has incorrectly assessed a penalty when a flag had been thrown by a member of his crew. This is not to say the flag was incorrect, as the call was made accurately in both cases; however when Triplette assessed the penalty for said flag, the rule was interpreted incorrectly, and he needed the assistance of other officials on the field to correct his error.
So which version of Triplette and his crew will we see this week when the Browns visit Baltimore? The Triplette that keeps the game in the hands of the players? Or the one will call a false start for 15 yards and loss of down?
Keep your fingers crossed Ravens fans and hope for Dr. Jekyll instead of Mr. Hyde.
BONUS FUN FACT! Remember the referee that accidentally threw a flag in the eye of then Cleveland Browns tackle Orlando Brown? Take a wild guess who did it…