Posted December 02, 2013

Referee Jeff Triplette tries to explain Sunday night gaffe; NFL admits mistake

NFL
Jeff Triplette (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Jeff Triplette said the chains were moved incorrectly after a second-down catch. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

As the Redskins tried to drive for the game-tying score in Sunday night’s 24-17 loss to the Giants, there was a confusing moment, as Washington believed it had a first down, but the referees didn’t.

After Pierre Garcon caught a second-down pass at the Redskins’ 45-yard line with 1:37 left in game, Washington coach Mike Shanahan thought his team had a first down, and the chains moved forward.

But the referees marked Garcon short of a first down, and two plays later, the Giants had the ball back and were taking a knee to seal the win.

Referee Jeff Triplette tried to explain the referees’ error after the game.

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“We signaled third down on the field,” Triplette told Zac Boyer of the Washington Times. “The stakes were moved incorrectly. After that play, we said it was still third down. We had signaled third down prior to the play starting. The chains just got moved incorrectly.”

Shanahan said he asked for a measurement but an official told him it wasn’t necessary because the play resulted in a first down.

“I saw it as a first down on the other side and he signaled to move the chains on our side,” Shanahan said. “I asked him if it was fourth down. He said he already told me it was a first down. … Then, after I saw it was fourth down I asked him, ‘You already told me it was first down.’ That was quite disappointing.”

Said Triplette after hearing Shanahan’s comments: “I can’t respond to that. I don’t know what happened. I just know that we had signaled third down.”

The play can be viewed here.

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Dean Blandino, the NFL’s head of officiating, weighed in on the play in a statement released Monday afternoon.

“With 2:00 remaining in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s game between the New York Giants and Washington Redskins, Washington faced a second-and-5 from its own 41-yard line with no timeouts remaining. Quarterback Robert Griffin III completed a pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon for four yards. The ball was correctly spotted shy of the Washington 46, bringing up third down.

“Referee Jeff Triplette signaled third down, but the head linesman – with Washington in a ‘hurry-up’ situation – incorrectly motioned for the chain crew to advance the chains, which caused the down boxes to read first down.

“Following a Washington incomplete pass, the chains were moved back and the down boxes correctly reset to fourth down. In this situation where there is obvious confusion as to the status of the down, play should have been stopped prior to third down and the correct down communicated to both clubs. This should have occurred regardless of the fact that Washington had no timeouts and it was inside two minutes.

“Only the referee can rule and signal a first down. The official nearest to the down markers and chain crew, the head linesman, must wait for the first down signal from the referee before moving the chains.

“Instant Replay did not become involved in this situation because the replay official determined that the ball on Garcon’s catch was correctly spotted short of the line to gain for a first down.”


53 comments
Dwayne3
Dwayne3

Patriots get these calls every home game.

Bearsclone
Bearsclone

The entire system of using chains in the first place is a farce meant to obscure the fact that the entire system of measuring distance is essentially using eyeballs for a best guess.  

Think about it.  They make a big show out of stretching the chains, but where are they stretched the chains from?  From another pole 10 yards back.  How do they know that pole is in the right spot?  They eyeballed it from the sideline.  So either way you had to eyeball to a spot on the sideline.  The fact that there's even one poll, much less two polls with a chain between them, is pure show, because if you don't trust some one's eyeballs to line up with a market on the side of the field then your whole system doesn't work in the first place.

Not to mention the fact that in order for the measurement to be correct, the chain has to be perfectly parallel to the side of the field.  Otherwise, you're measuring the hypoteneuse of a triangle, which is always longer than the base.  In other words, you're forcing the measurement to be short.  Well, how do you ensure the chain is perfectly parallel?  Only if you eyeball it, and in this case it's a harder thing to judge because you have to ensure both polls are the same distance from the sideline even though it's the second poll which is going to be lined up with the ball.


So you've got to do really 3 total eyeball measurements instead of just one, which makes the process much less precise than if you never bothered with the chains, and yet this is supposed to be MORE precise than the alternative.



cardogpush
cardogpush

manufactured story ... they attained a 1st down on the next play and the wr fumbled away any chance they had left.

 move along 

BlueZoo
BlueZoo

Okay.  The refs screwed up.  What about the Redskins' coaches?  Don't any of them pay attention to what down it is?  How about the team?  How do you call plays if you don't know what down you're on?  What about the scoreboard?  Doesn't anyone ever look at it?  It shows the downs in enormous glaring numbers!  As for spotting the ball, why can the television instantly put up that yellow line showing exactly where the ball came down but that can't be used in the NFL unless a replay official calls for it?  Replay officials can be bought off!

Cool
Cool

I have always said one of the most glaring flaws in football is how a first and ten is decided.  Think about this a second.

1) Moving the chains requires men standing on the sideline to "eyeball" where the ball is placed this suddenly becomes "the" spot everything else is measured from.

2) The official "eyeballs" where he believes the ball landed to end the play, and then places the ball there.

3) After all the "eyeballing" and judgement placing of the ball, everything reverts back to number one.  Now if the ball is short be even an inch... well it was the football teams fault for not making it to the magical spot, and has nothing to do with where the officials spotted it during that play or previous plays.

If you are going to make "eyeballing" the standard for determining where a ball is placed, it should also be determined to be a first down by simply eyeballing it.

Look at it this way... You are a carpenter and you are asked to build a deck, you get to the job and the guy has everything roped off as to where he wants you to build it.  He then takes away all your measuring tools and tells you he will watch you cut and hammer and nail everything together and no need to worry.  You work the whole day working with his oversight and when you think you have completed the task, he pulls out the tape measure and says..."Well, sorry, you were off by an inch there.. I guess I will have to call someone else to get this job done."

JeffG3
JeffG3

Agreed, the refs blew the call.  But that did not cost the Redskins the game.  On each of the next two plays the Washington receivers failed to catch a ball that hit them right in the hands past the first down marker.  Had either of those two receivers held onto the ball, it would have been first down and this discussion would have only received a passing mention.

effeweall
effeweall

just like pet rocks and beeny babies, the mobile QB fad has dissapeared into history

jhymas25
jhymas25

Is there something that does not allow refs to man up and say that they made a mistake and they regret doing so? Perhaps it is written in their contract; never admit to being wrong or you will be assigned Browns games for the rest of your career. 

Seriously though, everybody else can see a mistake was made, it's hard to believe Mr. Triplette doesn't know. 

el-cid
el-cid

“We signaled third down on the field,” who exactly is we?  Does we include the guys moving the chains and whoever told the Washington coach it was a first down?

tom o
tom o

It all sounds like a "oops, no big deal, sorry" when in fact when it occurs when it does it DOES DECIDE A GAME and that is unforgivable and Triplette needs to be fired.

Chip
Chip

To pick a nit ... there's only one "referee" on the field. Everyone in the group is called an "official," and they each have specific roles (such as "referee" or "umpire" or "side judge" or "back judge" ... ). Only one is the referee - the guy with the white hat. I'd hope that SI would know this, and not mislabel everyone as "referees." Sheesh.

That said, the stripes really botched this call. Getting the down and distance correct is one of the most basic things for the officiating crew to do, and they screwed it up.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

Maybe Goodell is still mad at Washington for their 'crime' of exceeding the nonexistent cap a couple of years ago. He told the refs to 'make them pay'.

Okay, I'm not really serious, but the refs screwed up badly.

Cool
Cool

It was second and five and the ball moved from the 41 yard line to the 46... and according to the NFL official, this is a gain of 4 yards.   I get it.

dudedadesq
dudedadesq

How about when the Skins punted.  Bad snap, bad kick, which was good for the Giants.  The Skins were called for holding.  My understanding is that the Giants could have accepted the hold, pushed the Skins back 10 yards and had them punt again, or decline and accept the ball where it was...but the ref said that they would tack on the 10 yards to the place spot where the ball was downed.  Anyone explain that one to me???

evil.aaronm
evil.aaronm

When my son wrestled in high school, I managed the score book for his team.  There were times, especially during flurries of action, where the refs would indicate scores so quickly that the three of us at the scoring table weren't sure what the score actually was.  I had no trouble signaling to the ref that we at the table needed clarification - who got what points? - and, when the match hit a lull, the ref would stop the action to address the issue.  Never had a ref or a coach who had a problem with that.  Sometimes the ref needed to "catch up" to what he thought he said, and no ref wanted a kid to lose because the ref effed up the scoring.  If we could get it right at the high school level, how are these highly paid professionals not able to?

twrdh
twrdh

First of all yes this was a terrible mistake by the officials. With that said people are blowing this way out of proportion. This had zero influence on Garcon getting stripped and handing the game over to NY.

Fifilo
Fifilo

I really do think in this case it was a gaffe. But I don't doubt that most fans believe, with resaon, that different teams and players receive different 'interpretations' of the rules.

Turf62
Turf62

his money was on the giants...

Oldtimeduffer
Oldtimeduffer

I can't believe it, you mean an NFL referee actually made a mistake??  Are pigs going to fly next?

WayneLanning
WayneLanning

I can not understand why the NFL does not get full time professional referees . These part time guys are just not up to it.

Richard1215
Richard1215

Both teams are crap. Good controversy to make a boring game meaningful. At least for a day.

DougBeers
DougBeers

Seems like all year long these real refs have been making a case for the replacement refs to come back.  They're sure not helping there negotiating leverage for the next round of bargaining with all these on field mistakes, and the way they're compromising the game.

SteveS1
SteveS1

The explanation is exactly the same as the penalty called on the Patriots against the Jets (still the only time in the history of the NFL that penalty has been called) -- "Both New York teams suck and we can't have that, so we will help them win any way we can."

DennyCrane
DennyCrane

I think it safe to say that Triplette and crew will not be working the SB this year. Total screw up that may have cost the skins the game and might put a few skin coaches in the unemployment line. At least they'll get healthcare cheap.

Cool
Cool

Mr Triplette,

The question was not how many fingers you held up, the question was 1)Why didn't you allow a measurement if it was a close call? 2) Why didn't you stop the game and have to chains moved back?  3) Why don't you just admit that you made a bad mistake and fess up instead of making excuses...it is on video afterall?

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

The refs had a breakdown in communication. No doubt about it.  But what are the odds that it made the slightest difference? Washington is terrible. Shanahan will fired at the end of this season, and if they had won last night it would make any difference. He is toast. 

lumpy701
lumpy701

Triplette may have signaled third down by holding up three fingers, but the linesman at the bottom of the screen clearly waved the chain gang forward and indicated first down to them.  I don't know whether Triplette is using the imperial "we" or he did not check with the rest of his crew, but there was definitely a failure to communicate.  Kind of makes you wonder whether the replacement refs were all that much worse than these guys.  

RandallAllen
RandallAllen

Mr. Triplette, you should have looked across the field to make sure the down box was set correctly.  Since it wasn't, you could have briefly stopped the game, made sure everything was correct, then re-started the clock.  Major gaffe.  I'm sure you and your crew will be downgraded on that one.

MartinDavidMcCoy
MartinDavidMcCoy

@BlueZoo That last comment, on the replay officials being bought off, shows a very ignorant person. First of all, what happened had NOTHING to do with the replay officials. They did nothing to do with that play, it was human error on the part of the field officials. The refs made a mistake, but to try to say it was crooked is as stupid as anything I have read in a while. As for the rest, you really need to listen more and talk less. It shows your intelligence. Which is really zero!

beakt
beakt

@Cool There is virtually no eyeballing involved. There is a clip they place on the chain to line it up precisely with one of the yard markers (such as 30, 35, 40). There is even a little dial on the clip that you can set it to indicate which yard marker you line it up with. Then, if there is a measurement to be made, they move the ball parallel along the along its position on the field to the nearest hash mark.  This is the only part that requires anything close to eyeballing, but it's easy.  You can just pace the distance of the ball to the nearest yardline, then pace back from the intersection of the yardline and hash mark.  Then, you bring out the chains, run it parallel to the hash mark, position the chain so the clip is right on the yard line, and stretch out the chain from there. Perfect measurement.

MartinDavidMcCoy
MartinDavidMcCoy

@Cool It is amazing how little people know about the NFL referees job. First of all, the chains move ONLY at the direction of a field official, They don't just move as they "eyeball" it. The side judge (who tells the chain gang where to move, is the one who "eyeballs" it. Now,  you don't like where they move it, but these men are the best in the world. They are, nonetheless, MEN and they can make mistakes. They did make a mistake here, but it was not a game altering mistake. The Skins had another play and if they had made that play,they possibly could have won that game. Refs are doing the best they can and, to make it even more difficult, the offense is in the two minute drill. Sure, mistakes are made, just as a QB throws and interception or a running back fumbles. It is then up to the team to overcome those mistakes and it goes to character.

BY
BY

@JeffG3 Not a fan of either team. The refs blew this call. The Skins played like dog poo for much of the game. We'd like for the refs to be perfect....and I'd like my old waistline back too. Waaaaaay too much is being made of this.

Cool
Cool

@JeffG3 You are assuming that they would have used the same plays if they had known what down it really was.  The plays are usually determined by what down it is and the yardage needed to attain a first down, so your assumption is wrong.

anon76
anon76

@effeweall 

Just like the ivory billed woodpecker, a species repeatedly declared extinct was sighted just last night and seemed to be doing just fine.

MartinDavidMcCoy
MartinDavidMcCoy

@jhymas25 UH, I think that Triplette did that in his comments. Also, the head ref did too. Did you read the body of the article or just the headline?

anon76
anon76

@twrdh 

Actually, they were forced into a 4th and one, do-o-die situation that could have been avoided if they had correctly understood the down and distance on 3rd and 1.

I'm not going to say it caused Washington to lose the game- it sounds like they did plenty for that on their own account- but you can't say it had no effect on the outcome.  The route that Garcon ran, and RGIII's imperative to throw, were both a result of the blown call by the refs.

thb
thb

@SteveS1 You're joking, right? This is the first season where the rule has even existed, and the call was correct as written in the rulebook. I'm not sure where the issue is.

MarkSweetipo
MarkSweetipo

@Rickapolis >Shanahan will fired at the end of this season

Not before he permanently hobbled RG3.  Washington will be regretting that hire for quite some time to come. 

oldguy68
oldguy68

@lumpy701 Can't you imagine how the writers would be screaming if that had been replacement refs?

JarrodHubbard
JarrodHubbard

What crack are you smokin? Where in this comment does Triplette take accountability for anything?

twrdh
twrdh

@anon76 @twrdh Actually I can say that because the route and the throw had nothing to do with Garcon not being able to hold on to the ball. So no it didn't effect the outcome. Garcon had the first down and the drive could have continued but he was stripped of the ball. The refs and the chain gang did not punch the ball out of his hands and give it to NY.

PatrickForan
PatrickForan

@MidwestGolfFan @MartinDavidMcCoy @Cool And receivers are paid to hold onto the ball and the Washington receiverd didn't. He made a mistake, RGIII thre a pick, but wasn't paid to do that. Errors are made - holds, clips and illegal formations are missed also - all part of the game.


jhymas25
jhymas25

@Oldtimeduffer @DougBeers I believe the "their" was for "their negotiating leverage," (replace "there") in which case, the correction would be appropriate.