It wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to say Malcolm Butler was the difference in the Patriots most exciting Super Bowl victory, and frustratingly gut-wrenching Super Bowl loss this past February. To this point, nobody has gotten a firm explanation about why, despite the atrocious defensive effort against the Philadelphia Eagles, Butler played only a single snap in this most recent Super Bowl.
There are only two people who could answer this question. Butler himself, or head coach Bill Belichick. And as it has been since the night of the Super Bowl, these two have remained tight-lipped about the issue. Bill, as is his typical MO, dodged questions from reporters this week during training camp. And Butler seems content to leave it as an unexplained “coach’s decision“, and that we may want to “hit up” Bill about the reasoning behind the move. The two have (at least appeared to) smooth things over somewhat, as it was reported earlier this week that Bill called Butler to offer his congratulations on his move to Tennessee. Butler added that there’s “no bad blood” between the two of them.
— Boston Globe Sports (@BGlobeSports) July 25, 2018
As a lifelong Patriots fan, I spent a decent amount of my mental faculties trying to figure out why Malcolm Butler would be benched the day of the Super Bowl. Why, after Nick Foles marched down the field looking like Dan Marino 2.0, Butler couldn’t find his way on the field. What did Butler do?
I’ve heard all kinds of rumors since the Super Bowl ended. From his illness earlier in the week, to his lack of preparedness with the game plan, to missing curfew (Butler denies all of this). But, based on the recent developments in this saga between Bill and Butler, I think we have a resolution.
And that resolution is… we are never going to know. If I had to guess, it’s likely something relatively petty. Something that would paint both men involved in a bad light- which could be why both Bill and Butler seem OK with burying the hatchet. Severe enough (in Bill’s mind) to justify the benching, but not so straightforward as to be justifiable in the eyes of the fans and the media. If he had such a reason, he absolutely would have said something. It was a totally personal decision on the part of the coach after a player already on the outs did one more thing to get on his bad side. And whatever happened between them before the Super Bowl, if it truly is this small and personal, it doesn’t matter what it is to me.
Bill Belichick refused to start arguably his best cornerback in the Super Bowl and refused to let him play after the defense faltered drive after drive. There’s no way you can explain to me how that decision was made in the best interest of the team. Bill took us to the promised land several times over, but it doesn’t excuse nor justify his choice. I think he’s trying to gloss over a football move that was more personal than strategic, and as long as Butler goes along with this plan, we will never the reason behind the Patriots’ most infamous coaching decision.
It’s far from a satisfying resolution. But I think it’s as good as it’s going to get.