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Shutdown Corner

Jeff Triplette continues to amaze by calling bizarre false starts on Philip Rivers

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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This man is frequently confused by life. (Getty Images)

Here at Shutdown Corner, we've documented the bizarre exploits of Jeff Triplette, the NFL's worst non-replacement ref, for quite some time. There was the "Monday Night Football" game last season, when Triplette started making stuff up on a call/no-call in a game between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. To be fair, Jeff, it's tough to know the difference between a hold and not a hold when the signals you're getting from your home planet are interfering with the frequency of your wireless microphone.

And of course, you remember his handiwork in this season's Week 4 game between the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints. In this game, Triplette completely lost control of the action with a series of strange calls that would embarrass a Pac-12 official.

In Monday night's game between the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos, Deputy Dawg was at it again. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was called for two false starts in the first half -- once for barely moving his hands pre-snap in a shotgun formation, and once for moving his head under center pre-snap. Atlanta Falcons president and NFL Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay recently said that pre-snap quarterback movement would be a greater point of emphasis this season, but anyone would have to agree that this was a bit much.

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Referred to as the "Peyton Manning Rule," it's a recently spotlighted potential penalty against quarterbacks who try to draw defenders offside with movements instead of hard counts. But Triplette, as is his wont, took things too far. Perhaps he was confused by the presence of Manning in this game, and figured -- what the heck!

"I've never seen that called twice in a game in my life," ESPN's Jon Gruden said. "I'd be interested to see what Jeff Triplette is seeing here."

"I know the emphasis is on the hands, but the [hand movement] has got to be more exaggerated than what we saw, in my opinion," said Gerry Austin, ESPN's roving officiating expert and a former Super Bowl referee himself. "And also, I didn't think the head bob was sufficient. I think [the defenders] are jumping on the hard count."

Rivers has long been a master of the hard count; his ability to draw defenders offside is an important color in his palette. It's interesting to note that before Monday night's game, Rivers had no false start penalties in 2012 ... or, in 2011, 2010, 2009, and on and on. In fact, these are the first false start penalties of Rivers' career, and he's been in the league since 2004. So, there's no actual precedent, and no specific rule interpretation -- point of emphasis or not -- that would lead a reasonable and qualified official to throw those flags.

"This wasn't a rule change, this was a point of emphasis this year," McKay said in September. "[Simulating a snap] could include a tight end, a running back and, in this case, the point of emphasis was on quarterbacks and their use of thrusting their hands and making quick and sudden movements.

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"The reason was they drew some offsides penalties last year that defensive players and defensive coaches, rightly, said crossed the line. We emphasized that you are not allowed to have a sudden movement, and you are not allowed to simulate the start of a play.

"We were very focused as a league in allowing quarterbacks to execute the silent count. What you saw people doing was raising their leg once, then raising their leg twice, and ways to communicate so defenses couldn't just tee off on the offense. But what happened, you started seeing quarterbacks move their hands forward, and a lot of different things that we sudden movements [sic] that were not allowed under our rules."

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