Jeff Triplette Won't Adversely Affect Sunday's AFC Wild Card Game

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 4, 2014

October 15, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; NFL referee Jeff Triplette reviews a play during the San Diego Chargers game against the Denver Broncos at Qualcomm Stadium. The Broncos won 35-24. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESS

How many more screwups does Jeff Triplette have left this season, really? It's not like he can be much worse, so what's the big deal?

The NFL created a stir when it announced Triplette would be refereeing the AFC Wild Card game between the Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers. ESPN The Magazine joked that both head coaches are already preparing to dispute plenty of calls.

It was a decision that had Fox Sports' Mike Pereira to scratch his head.

Fans of both teams are worried that Triplette will end up costing their team a win by making one or more stupid mistakes. He's built a bad reputation and is regarded as one of the worst refs in the league, so the nightmare scenario is that he has another blunder that swings the game one way or the other.

While it's not unfair to be skeptical of how Triplette will perform, much of the concern is unfounded. His performance shouldn't be all that worse than we have come to expect from NFL officials this year.

The fact of the matter is, no NFL referee is perfect, not even Ed Hochuli. They all make bad decisions occasionally that give one team a slight advantage. It's bound to happen with the game moving so quickly and with so many moving parts.

When was the last time everybody agreed the refs did a great job in a game? It never happens because when a ref does well, it's expected of him. That's his job.

The only time referees are talked about is when they mess up. Picking out their mistakes is much easier than highlighting all of the good things they did, so that's why Triplette has become such a punching bag.

And this season, he has made news for all the wrong reasons.

In Week 14, he awarded the Bengals a touchdown after it looked like BenJarvus Green-Ellis was tripped up short of the goal line. The initial call was that Green-Ellis didn't score, but Triplette reversed the decision after a video review.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King didn't hold back in his criticism.

That followed the debacle that was the Washington Redskins-New York Giants game when Triplette retracted what the Redskins had thought was a first down after another play had been called.

And it's not as if those were isolated incidents. Triplette has made it a habit of being bad at his job.

Since it's the playoffs, you'd like to have the best people refereeing the games. The NFL has spoken, though, and there's no going back.

At the end of the day, Triplette's officiating will be as much of an issue as fans and teams make it.

If people come to see that teams ultimately win games and not officials, then nobody is going to care too much about how well he and his officiating crew fare.

Whether it's Triplette, Hochuli or somebody else officiating the Wild Card game, bad calls are bound to happen. Rather than focusing on how well he'll perform, everybody's time is better served thinking about how well the players on the field will do.