Referee Jeff Triplette is set to retire from the field after a 22-year NFL officiating career, having called his final game in Saturday’s Wild Card Playoff game, according to a report by Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network. This is consistent with some of the discussion in officiating circles that Football Zebras was aware of, but could not confirm, entering Week 17.
Triplette joined the NFL in 1996 and worked as a back judge. He became a referee for the 1999 season, replacing the retired Jerry Markbreit. Ending with the Titans-Chiefs playoff game, he worked 11 postseason games, including 6 Wild Card Playoffs, 4 Divisional Playoffs, as well as the 2007 AFC Conference Championship. Triplette served as the alternate referee for Super Bowl XLI. He also was the referee for the 2010 Pro Bowl.
In his first season as a NFL referee, Triplette was involved in an accident that tested his faith and resolve. On Dec. 19, 1999, Triplette called a false start penalty and threw his flag. The flag accidentally hit Orlando Brown of the Cleveland Browns damaging his eyesight. Triplette immediately apologized to Brown. A few moments later, after realized he was blinded, Brown became enraged, pushing Triplette to the ground. Triplette properly ejected Brown for contacting an official.
The Brown incident happened shortly before halftime. At the half, Triplette’s crew held their halftime meetings and allowed the new referee to collect his thoughts after the traumatic events. Triplette told Referee magazine in a later article that he spent halftime praying for Brown. A few years later, Brown and Triplette reconciled after Brown made a come back to pro ball.
Triplette is the CEO of Arbiter Sports, a web service for assigning and handling service fees for officials of all sports to high school and college games. He has also served on the board of directors for the National Association of Sports Officials. He resigned as president of the NFL Referees Association in the middle of last season. As head of the union, Triplette was a key negotiator during the 2012 labor dispute.
Prior to ArbiterSports, Triplette worked in the insurance and risk-management sector for many years.
On the field, there is no ignoring that Triplette was a lightning rod of controversy. Of note, after a controversial replay decision by Triplette in a 2013 Bengals regular season game, he was assigned to a Bengals Wild Card game, a controversy that the league office would tend to avoid when making assignments. In light of the controversy, Dean Blandino, who was the vice president of officiating, took the unusual step to be present in the replay booth to monitor the game and consult or intervene if necessary. This was seen as a precursor to officiating executives being involved in the replay process, and ultimately centralizing the replay operation at league headquarters.
Triplette has served his country in the United States Army. He is a retired U.S. Army National Guard and Reserve colonel with the North Carolina Army National Guard. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for service to his country in the first Persian Gulf War.
This now means a new official will be promoted to referee this offseason, with several candidates in the pipeline.