Our attempt this year to shine light on the world of NFL officiating has revealed at least one conclusion: Jeff Triplette is the most active referee in the business.
For the second consecutive year, based on ESPN Stats & Information's database, Triplette and his crew led the league in penalties called (accepted and declined). A late charge put his crew at 244 penalties in 15 games, a bit more than the 212 it called in 2012. The chart provides the full breakdown, and to me the most fascinating part is the range. Peter Morelli's crew called 93 fewer penalties over the same time period, demonstrating how different a game can flow based on the assigned crew.
Triplette is one of four referees assigned to this weekend's wild-card playoff games, according to the website FootballZebras.com. Triplette will work Sunday's game between the San Diego Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals, Walt Anderson has Saturday's game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts, Bill Vinovich will work the New Orleans Saints-Philadelphia Eagles contest, and Ed Hochuli will be in Green Bay for 49ers-Packers, according to the website.
You can check the chart for how frequently each crew blew a whistle during the regular season. It's important to note that playoff crews are an All-Star group culled from the highest-graded officials from across the board, so a referee's playoff tendencies are less predictable.
Still, referees set the tone for any crew they head up. So below, I've provided some notes on how each of this weekend's referees called games during the regular season:
2013 range: High was Walt Coleman (52), low was Morelli (19)
2013 range: High was Carlton Cheffers (55), low was Morelli (23)
Offensive pass interference
Range: High was Clete Blakeman (12), low by many (2)
Range: Triplette was high (48), Mike Carey was low (19)
Hochuli: 34 (including NFL-high 10 for roughing passer)
For clarity's sake, a "coverage penalty" includes defensive holding, illegal contact and defensive pass interference. A "sportsmanlike conduct" penalty included unsportsmanlike conduct, roughing the passer, personal fouls and unnecessary roughness.
I'll provide my usual disclaimer: Penalty totals don't equate with quality of officiating. They do, however, provide a guidebook over a sizable time period for how a future game might be officiated. NFL teams routinely study similar data. They know that they're likely to be watched more closely on late hits by Triplette than Vinovich. They also know that Vinovich is less likely to call holding and, if they ever get Blakeman's crew, to be aware of his frequent calls for offensive pass interference.
I'll attempt to provide similar reports for each round of the playoffs.