The world may never know why Patriots coach Bill Belichick decided not to give cornerback Malcolm Butler a single defensive snap on Sunday night. Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston has an unequivocal opinion as to what it all means.
“You know it, I know it, the country knows it — and most importantly, the Patriots themselves know it — that keeping Malcolm Butler on the bench cost them Super Bowl LII,” Curran writes.
It’s hard to disagree with Curran, as much as I’d like to. It would have been very different if the Patriots had been getting it done defensively without Butler. But they weren’t. At some point, Belichick should have turned to Butler and said, “Get in there, 21.”
The fact that Butler didn’t know he’d be out — and Eric Rowe didn’t know he’d be replacing him — until shortly before kickoff suggests that something happened on Sunday or Saturday night. Whatever it was, it prompted Belichick to opt for sending the kind of message that jeopardized further cementing his legacy as the best coach of all time, in any sport.
For Butler, it’s obvious that he’ll become a free agent in March and leave New England. Before anyone signs him, however, it would be wise to know exactly what prompted the strange move that kept the Patriots from matching the Steelers with six Super Bowl wins.