Football Zebras exclusive
Nearly six months off his retirement, Jeff Triplette is slated to join ESPN as a rules analyst along with newcomers Joe Tessitore and Jason Witten in the Monday Night Football booth, according to officiating and network sources. Football Zebras has also learned that the NFL specifically steered ESPN to hire Triplette. He will be replacing former referee Gerald Austin, who has served on the MNF team since 2012.
An ESPN spokesman declined to comment.
Triplette worked in the NFL for 22 seasons as both a back judge and referee and worked his final game, the Titans-Chiefs Wild Card game, last season.
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 and was the referee for the 2010 Pro Bowl.
On the field, Triplette was not immune to controversy, even among casual fans. Notably, after a controversial replay decision by Triplette in a 2013 Bengals regular season game, he was assigned to a Bengals postseason game, which thrust Dean Blandino, who was the vice president of officiating, into the replay booth to monitor the game and consult or intervene if necessary. This was seen as a precursor the eventual centralization of replay at league headquarters in New York.
His final game was also not without controversy; his former boss Mike Pereira reluctantly criticized the crew for its performance in the game.
Triplette is the CEO of Arbiter Sports, an online portal for high school and college officiating coordinators that streamlines the assignment and payment of officials. He is a retired Army Reserve colonel and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal during the first Persian Gulf War. Triplette was also the president of the NFL Referees’ Association, the officials union, from 2013 to 2017.
ESPN reports that Austin is joining his former MNF compatriot Jon Gruden, as a consultant with the Oakland Raiders. Austin is expected to remain the officiating coordinator for Conference USA.
Ben Austro contributed to this report.