Jeff Triplette and Marvin Lewis shared more than just the field on Sunday afternoon. Triplette’s had as troublesome of a year officiating as Lewis has coaching. I’m cognizant of his struggles because I know his name. Officials prefer invisibility.

Like offensive linemen, we only know their names after they get called out for screwing up. In Week 15, he ignored the indisputable evidence rule and went underneath the hood to award Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis a touchdown, though he was correctly ruled down at the one. He was also on the Sunday Night Football crew that inadvertently signaled a first down conversion for the Redskins in Week 13.

Triplette’s inclusion on the Bengals-Chargers officiating crew confounded FOX’s Mike Peirera. Lewis has been getting a similar pass for over a decade.

There are three central characters in the Bengals tragedy. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, Andy Dalton and Lewis who is the longest-tenured member of the current coaching staff.

Sunday’s loss put cap on Marvin Lewis’ 11th season as the Bengals head coach. Sunday’s loss leaves him without a playoff win in that span.

Lewis was the sixth African-American head coach in NFL history when Mike Brown scooped up the Redskins defensive coordinator in 2003. Lovie Smith was the seventh.

Since Lewis was hired, Smith was plucked off of the St. Louis Rams coaching staff by the Chicago Bears, advanced to a Super Bowl, was fired, took a year off and has been re-hired by Tampa Bay.  

It’s really quite remarkable how well Lewis been able to retain his job while unemployment has dipped and Smith has been through the ringer.

Lewis is the defensive architect, but the other Gruden is responsible for breathing life into the offense. Before the 2011 NFL Draft, Lewis and Brown gave the rookie defensive coordinator final say over which quarterback they’d select in the second round of the NFL Draft.

Reportedly, he was also leading the Washington Redskins’ head coaching shortlist. Andy Dalton may have thrown him out of the running after the pair were unable to uncover a solution to heavy blitzes Chargers defensive coordinator John (the other) Pagano unleashed upon the Bengals quarterback.

The blitz has been bewildering Dalton all season. When teams sent extra pass rushers, Dalton threw more interceptions (7) than any quarterback not named Eli Manning (10).

Dalton was the quarterback Gruden campaigned for before the second round three years ago. This week, during an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer, owner Mike Brown revealed that Colin Kaepernick was his preferred quarterback.

However, Dalton was a better fit for his offense so they selected him 35th allowing Kaepernick to fall all the way to San Francisco one pick later. Sam Wyche and Ken Anderson, they are not.

Watching Kaepernick and Dalton in college, it was obvious which one had the highest upside. Dalton was the safe pick though. His throwing motion was more refined, but he hadn’t shown much moxy as TCU’s game manager.

In three playoff appearances, Dalton hasn’t even eclipsed the 13-point threshold.

Watching Dalton and Kaepernick both play back-to-back on Sunday, it’s clear the Bengals bungled. It’s too late for Cincy to amend that error. Watching Kaepernick snatch Aaron Rodgers’ soul had to make Brown’s blood boil in the 45 degree southern Ohio temperatures. Buoyed by so much talent, the Bengals should be better.

The Bengals are in danger of squandering a talented roster on a coaching staff that’s stuck in the mud, lacks creativity and has pinned their future on a quarterback that has thrown one touchdown and seven turnovers in three playoff games.

However, just because Cincy made the playoffs doesn’t mean Lewis and Gruden should be given immunity. In 2007, the 14-2 San Diego Chargers dismissed Marty Schottenheimer after another premature playoff exit. Schottenheimer was underachieving with the talent they had at their disposal.

Complacency is the enemy of progress in pro sports. The Bengals have let Lewis and Gruden get too comfy and they're continuing to suffer the consequences. Something’s got to change in Cincinnati.  Andy Dalton's contract year in 2014 will serve as his waterloo. At the very least, Lewis and Gruden’s fate should be attached as well.