It took until the long walk to the team bus, but Malcolm Butler did not mince words about his bizarre benching from the Patriots Super Bowl defense.
“They gave up on me. F—. It is what it is,” Butler told ESPN’s Mike Reiss after the Patriots’ 41-33 upset loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII.
Butler, the New England Patriot’s top cornerback the last three seasons after his game-winning interception in the Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks 3 years ago, did not end up on any game time injury report for the Patriots, official or otherwise. Yet, the former Super Bowl hero and starter for most of the season did not play a single defensive snap for the Patriots. Instead, he was relegated to sparse special teams use, a job most would agree is a huge demotion.
Butler was caught on camera crying during the national anthem.
Belicheck benched starting DB Malcolm Butler. Butler hiding tears during anthem. Defense got shredded. Pats lose. Matt Patricia repeats same nonsense answer in post-game. Bizarre self-sabotage. What’s the truth? 🤔 #SuperBowl pic.twitter.com/gjSVt4w5vt
— Dan Starkey (@danstarkey19) February 5, 2018
When asked whether Butler was benched for discipline reasons, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, in his usually expansive fashion, responded “no.” Belichick cited game planning for the Eagles as the reason for the move.
“I made the decisions that give us the best chance to win,” he said. But that may not be the popular opinion following the Patriots’ defeat.
The Patriot’s defense, it should be noted, gave up 538 yards of total offense, and 374 passing yards and 3 touchdowns from backup quarterback Nick Foles. Foles ended up being the victorious Eagles’ game MVP.
In fact, the Patriots 2nd and 3rd corners were doing such a poor job against Alston Jeffrey specifically that the Patriots chose to have their top corner, Stephon Gilmore, shadow Jeffrey the entire second half. Though somewhat successful, this then allowed the rest of The Philadelphia pass catchers to run rampant against the other DBs.
Although it is not a sure thing that the Pats’ defense would’ve faired better with Butler on the field, it’s hard to imagine that a former pro bowler and proven big game player like Butler would not have been an upgrade over at least one of the porous group of cornerbacks the Patriots fielded.
The benching and subsequent bad blood it’s no doubt fostered probably put an end to Butler’s career with the Patriots.
Butler will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and it’s hard to see him returning to New England after how these events played out. Butler should have plenty of suitors from teams in need of secondary help, places where he no doubt would not be told to sit on the sideline during the biggest of games.
Needless to say, this may be one decision that eats at Bill Belichick and the rest of the organization with the golden touch for years to come.
As for Butler, he knows what could have been. “I could’ve changed that game,” Butler told Reiss. I think he’s right.