The NFL announced yesterday that two of the biggest names of the game are moving on. We know their names about as well as we know the names of many players from other teams, and there is no way to deny that they play a significant role in the games every week: the officials.
And we are seeing the ‘old guard’ move away now, a process that has sped up with the announcement that both Ed Hochuli and Jeff Triplette are calling it a career. Hochuli and Triplette are perhaps the two officials who are best known, especially the latter for his biceps.
They are, of course, being replaced, and one of the replacement is actually Hochuli’s son, Shawn Hochuli, who lacks his father’s toned arms. Alex Kemp is the other new official who will be assuming new roles with Ed Hochuli and Jeff Triplette retiring.
Congratulations to our 2 newest @NFL referees, former BJ Shawn Hochuli & former SJ Alex Kemp. Best wishes to our 2 retiring referees, Ed Hochuli & Jeff Triplette. pic.twitter.com/iEv6xOprkf
— Al Riveron (@alriveron) March 6, 2018
As most are probably aware, the vast majority of officials are actually part-time employees, and only last season did they begin to integrate full-time employees into the fold. Hochuli, now 67, has actually primarily been an attorney, going all the way back to 1983, but he doesn’t get nearly enough air time for his guns in that profession.
As for Triplette, he was a colonel in the Army Reserve and also served in the Persian Gulf while serving with the National Guard. He earned a Bronze Star. He has also functioned in other roles since retiring from service, in the fields of technology and risk management.
Hochuli began in the NFL in 1990, and had already been the longest-tenured official for over a decade by the time he retired. He has worked two Super Bowls and five Conference Championship games. He was also the head of the NFLRA, which is the officiating equivalent of the NFLPA.
Aside from his biceps, Hochuli is best known for his often elaborate and detailed explanations of rules and replay rulings. He once referred to a playing giving another player ‘the business’, and in another example, explained that there was no penalty on a play because the defender was ‘just overpowered’.
Unfortunately for Triplette, he is best known for injuring a player with a flag. The flag hit Orlando Brown in the eye and temporarily blinded him. Triplette apologized but Brown ended up pushing him when he prevented the player from returning to the game.
As for Triplette, he has been in the NFL since 1996, but another ‘highlight’ for which he is known was erringly reversing a ruling on the field in 2013. The league moved to a centralized replay system this past season, which has certainly not been without its due criticism.
The reality is that officiating, human or otherwise, is never going to fully satisfy everybody, partly because we have biases and tend to see things the way that they benefit our preferred outcome. But officials will always make mistakes as well. And the rulings will never be clear enough. That’s just the way it is.