Reasons for Malcolm Butler benching still aren’t clear, probably never will be

AP

Patriots coach Bill Belichick will never explain publicly why he benched cornerback Malcolm Butler for the Super Bowl. Butler should address it, and maybe he eventually will.

For now, the gap is being filled by those in the know who are choosing to risk incurring the Wrath of Bill by whispering alleged reasons on an off-the-record basis.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media claims that the benching resulted from a “perfect storm” of problems. Per Rapoport, Butler fought an illness last week, he had a rough week of practice, and he committed a minor violation of team rules, related to a curfew violation.

Apart from the fact that the illness may have affected performance in practice, who can forget the tales of Butler struggling to defend in practice three years ago the very play that made him a household name at the end of Super Bowl XLIX? With so much buildup and preparation for the Super Bowl, not everyone is going to execute perfectly when things don’t count. The question is whether they’ll show up when it matters — and we’ll never know whether Butler would have.

Regardless of the reasons, the timing of the implementation of the decision continues to be an issue. Kirk Minihane of WEEI claims that, while the benching wasn’t disciplinary in nature, Belichick made the decision only “a few hours” before the game, caused “many coaches and players” to be shocked and prompting some to be “furious.” Minihane claims that the move “divided” the locker room.

Apart from the less-than-impeccable timing is the fact that Butler’s replacements stunk. The New England defense simply wasn’t stopping the Eagles. And that’s where Belichick’s stubborn refusal to give Butler a rep or two in order to see whether he’d show up when it matters (like he did in Super Bowl XLIX) became problematic for the team. It’s the sweet spot where situational football and emotional intelligence meet. Belichick, who always masters the former, failed as to the latter.

Really, if Belichick didn’t believe in Butler, why wasn’t Butler inactive for the game? Instead, he ultimately played only one more snap than the only guy on the New England 46-man roster who didn’t enter the game at all — backup quarterback Brian Hoyer.

38 responses to “Reasons for Malcolm Butler benching still aren’t clear, probably never will be

  1. The bottom line is this defensive strategy of bend don’t break cost the Patriots bigtime. All year they have been ATROCIOUS on third down defense . We have been fortunate to have a offense , averaging 30 ppg , that made up for the defense inefficiencies . Saying Butler would have a made a difference and the Patriots would have won takes away from the great game the Eagles played. As BB says coaches lose games and players win them. Our coaching staff was out coached bigtime Sunday. Butler wants to get paid and should be but he needs to come clean because BB isn’t saying anything…….Go Patriots

  2. This doesn’t make sense…Rowe and Bademosi looked terrible…how could Butler have done any worse? I msan, not even a few snaps to see if he could help? If they thought he was not able to contribute, there was no point in leaving him active…should have activated a player that could have at least been useful…like Kenny Britt…

  3. I’m OK with benching a player who violates team rules.
    I’m even OK with it in a big game.
    But once he’s been out for a quarter or two, you’ve proved your point. Now you have the opportunity to re-evaluate based on the situation at hand. And the situation was his replacement not getting the job done in the pinnacle of the season. There are no more games. There is no bigger game. Butler and most of his teammates will probably never play in another SuperBowl. So why would you not even try putting Butler out there for a series?

  4. if Belichick didn’t believe in Butler, why wasn’t Butler inactive for the game?
    ——————–
    Because if Butler had been made inactive despite not being on the injury report it would have made the matter very public. But by suiting him up and giving him one snap on special teams covers them both, providing a plausible means of saying it was purely for football reasons and keeps the discipline/transgression/health/status private. If it was discipline I’m with coach – a hot-head might win you a game but won’t sustain a team that in the last 16yrs has won 15 div titles, and reached 12 AFCCGs and 8 SBs and is already the bookies favorite for next year. Instead they’d become like the Steelers.

  5. Bradys performance is being propped up as this legendary game but the truth is did not have as great a game as Pats fans think he did.

    I don’t blame him for the strip sack. Most of the time that’s on the blocker.

    He missed a lot of makeable throws. 500 yards is 500 yards but 20 incompletions says a lot too. Other than the stalled drives in Philly’s end the big one to me was -and it might surprise you- the 50 yarder to Amendola. That was a badly underthrown ball. If that was thrown properly that was an easy TD. Pats got zero on that drive so… there’s your ballgame right there.

    Brady’s game was a lot closer to a B+ than an A+. So yes Pats fans he doesn’t deserve as much blame as that laughable bunch of stiffs you call a defense and your coaching staff… but he certainly should take some of it.

    Thumbs down away. The truth hurts.

  6. People should stop propping up Butler and call out his absence as the reason they lost.

    We aren’t talking about Deion Sanders in his prime, we are talking about an above average CB at best propped up by his coaching and schemes, like most players on a Belichick team, if Belichick benched him for football reasons then I’m sure he had a good reason to.

  7. I agree the benching is a puzzle, doesn’t seem to make good football sense. But to assume that we have some inherent “right” to know why? We don’t.
    I’m not a Pats, in fact I hope they never win another game. But their internal decisions are just that, theirs. And unless it is a rules violation or somehow impacts the league or other team’s ability to operate, we do not have any right to know why Bill made the decision.

  8. “Apart from the fact that the illness may have affected performance in practice, who can forget the tales of Butler struggling to defend in practice three years ago the very play that made him a household name at the end of Super Bowl XLIX? With so much buildup and preparation for the Super Bowl, not everyone is going to execute perfectly when things don’t count.”

    This says it all.

    As close as the game was, all the Patriots needed is one more stop on 3rd down and they might be SB winners. Belichick outsmarted himself. Guess it just proves that Belichick is human and makes mistakes.

    After his heroics in SB49, Butler deserved to play.

  9. Different rules for different players. We all know if Brady did something like that, he would not be benching Brady. Apparently, Butler’s heroics in the other Super Bowl didn’t cut him enough slack with Belichick. The Patriots can place the blame squarely on Belichick.

  10. I’m okay with never knowing why, but if I were getting paid to scout potential talent, I wouldn’t be okay without knowing why.

  11. If it was disciplinary, then …
    (1) I respect a coach holding his players to a standard;
    (2) But why not call it disciplinary? Was Belichick trying to do Butler a favor by not calling “disciplinary”?
    If it was performance, then …
    (1) You don’t start Butler because you believe Rowe gives you a better chance;
    (2) If Rowe performs below Butler’s level for one, two, or three quarters, then you adjust and insert Butler.

  12. A minor illness, a rough week of practice, a minor curfew violation aren’t nearly enough reasons to keep Butler out of the Super Bowl. That doesn’t cut it, especially when Nick Foles is going up and down the field all night and the defense can’t get off the field. Bench him for a series or a quarter, but the whole game? Clearly, Belichick is trying to stick it to someone, perhaps Butler, perhaps Kraft, and his ego got the best of him. Belichick overreacted in the extreme. There was no time for the players to adjust to Malcolm’s absence. This almost seems like an act of sabotage or insubordination, like Belichick trying to throw the game

  13. Look at it this way Pats fans.

    If Richard Sherman in his prime was on the Pats and he did what Butler supposedly did… do you really think he would be benched for the whole game? Not a chance.

    Truthfully Butler never was all that… and it seems Belichick agrees with me.

  14. But I thought you said yesterday we deserve to know. Make up your mind, but maybe don’t fill the board with all the nonsense in between.

  15. Braz says:
    February 6, 2018 at 7:57 am
    Bradys performance is being propped up as this legendary game but the truth is did not have as great a game as Pats fans think he did… He missed a lot of makeable throws. 500 yards is 500 yards but 20 incompletions says a lot too…Brady’s game was a lot closer to a B+ than an A+.
    —————–
    You’re a totally ignorant hater. For that was 505yds (which beats the previous record, which was also his, by a mile) against one of the league’s top defenses, despite losing his deep guy (Cooks) early and without his other deep threats (Edelman and Mitchell), and without any game balance help from the Pats’ defense or special teams. I’d say there’s a case for an unprecidented SB MVP going to the losing QB, but anyway it was an A+++++ individual performance.

  16. Still looking for a reason why Gronk is considering retiring? Here you go.

    The worst benching in Super Bowl history goes to Belichick here. Agholor chewed up the special teamer at corner. Jeffrey destroyed Rowe before the switch to Gilmore. Another head scratcher, why wasn’t Gilmore on Jeffrey from the get go?

    Belichick had the entire game to make the switch to Butler as the Eagles went up and down the field in the air on them. Chung went out of the game twice, including the play before Ertz touchdown.

    This was all ego. A power trip of epic proportion. Hey Belichick, “DO YOUR JOB”.

  17. streetyson says:
    February 6, 2018 at 9:14 am
    Braz says:
    February 6, 2018 at 7:57 am
    Bradys performance is being propped up as this legendary game but the truth is did not have as great a game as Pats fans think he did… He missed a lot of makeable throws. 500 yards is 500 yards but 20 incompletions says a lot too…Brady’s game was a lot closer to a B+ than an A+.
    —————–
    You’re a totally ignorant hater. For that was 505yds (which beats the previous record, which was also his, by a mile) against one of the league’s top defenses, despite losing his deep guy (Cooks) early and without his other deep threats (Edelman and Mitchell), and without any game balance help from the Pats’ defense or special teams. I’d say there’s a case for an unprecidented SB MVP going to the losing QB, but anyway it was an A+++++ individual performance.

    —-
    I see. So anyone who doesn’t wave the Brady or Patriot pom poms is a “hater”.

    Interesting logic. As is the Pat fan logic that it’s ok to laugh at anyone who talked up Peyton Manning for putting up big numbers even when he didn’t win. But when it’s Brady then stats matter and stats are everything.

    Funny how that works eh?

  18. Super Bowl XV. Raiders vs Eagles in New Orleans.

    The morning of the Super Bowl, Raiders defensive end John Matuszak is restrained and arrested by at least 10 New Orleans police officers in the French Quarter. Out on bail at 5am.

    Guess what? Matuszak played.

    Al Davis had it right. “Just win baby”.

  19. It didn’t take long for the mob of obnoxious Patriots’ fans to turn on “genius” Bill Belicheat. Last week, he was up there with God, but I guess the fans need someone to blame for Sunday’s total collapse.

  20. Apparently, Butler’s heroics in the other Super Bowl didn’t cut him enough slack with Belichick
    ==============
    That was 3 years ago. Not sure why that would factor in at all. It has nothing to do with this year.

  21. takeyourpunishmentandquitwhininglikeababy says:
    February 6, 2018 at 9:47 am
    It didn’t take long for the mob of obnoxious Patriots’ fans to turn on “genius” Bill Belicheat. Last week, he was up there with God, but I guess the fans need someone to blame for Sunday’s total collapse.
    =====
    Oh you hater! LOL

    Pats fans don’t realize how ridiculous they sound calling anyone who doesn’t drink the Patriot kool aid a “hater”. Seriously… enough.

    And they wonder why America cheered when they lost. Hint: it isn’t so much your team. Look in the mirror.

  22. Instead, he ultimately played only one more snap than the only guy on the New England 46-man roster who didn’t enter the game at all — backup quarterback Brian Hoyer.

    ====
    Let’s not knock Hoyer. I bet even he would have hit Amendola in stride for that TD.

  23. The move was dumb – period – end of story.

    Another dumb move – only getting a second round pick for Garoppolo.

    Belichick didn’t have a great year and not even mentioning he bad Ealy deal. Belichick may be a genius, but it’s nice to have Tom Brady there to cover up a lot of messes by himself.

    He is still the best, but could have had a better year.

  24. Where is this Manning playing well in losses narrative for the postseason coming from? Manning lost 1 game where he threw for over 400 yards in the postseason. He lost 3 games when he threw for over 300. He lost 2 games when when he threw for 3 or more Tds. I dont get this narrative that Manning had big games in the postseason his defense let him down. He had 13 losses and alot of those were due to offensive shortcomings. His defense didnt fail him every time, he failed himself alot of times. 31 points by a SB loser is a record. This is on the defense and Belichick. Butler is a better tackler than Bademosi, had they stopped them from 1 or 2 big gains or some 3rd downs this could be a much different game. Brady missed some throws but still threw for 500+ yards and couldve gone for over 550 had he not gottrn sacked. He cant do it all. Also if Edelman throws that pass, Brady probably catches it but he still shouldve. Either way Pederson exposed a bad Pats D and Foles beat them but Belichick shouldve adjusted but he didnt want Butler to play. Welker was sat but only for 1 drive, I dont get Butler being benched the whole game, before the game it threw off the whole secondary.

  25. It would be ok to hear the story. Whet’s really entertaining is all the fans telling Bill Belichick how to coach. Ok, hun.

  26. thepedestrianoff says:
    February 6, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    It would be ok to hear the story. Whet’s really entertaining is all the fans telling Bill Belichick how to coach. Ok, hun.
    _________________________________________________________

    Belichick is not infallible. His job as head coach is to put the best players on the field. Especially in a one and done game of this magnitude. You don’t get a second chance to win this years Super Bowl.

    For you to lay claim that the special teamer covering Agholor is a better cover corner than Butler. Shows that you don’t watch much football.

    There is a reason why Belichick had Butler on the defense for 98% of the regular season plays. Along with being on the defense for 100% of the plays in the playoffs up til his benching here.

  27. The more I learn about this story, the angrier I become. Malcolm’s benching smacks of pride and avarice. It seems increasingly appropriate that Bill got a winged beat down by a coach and quarterback who smacked of humility and excellence. Malcolm’s benching can only be categorized as a decision whose stupidity is matched only by its arrogance.

    Could Malcolm have changed the outcome of this game? Maybe. Maybe not. It doesn’t matter. Malcolm had long since EARNED the RIGHT to try. Not only did Bill strip Malcolm of the rare and precious opportunity to play in the title game (the SUPER BOWL, man!), but he also strapped a big freaking muzzle over what could have been Patricia’s defining moment as a defensive coordinator before he takes over the dinosaur that is Detroit. Pats D this year was *marginally* adequate this year at best. Why you would then consciously elect to bench one of your demonstrably best weapons for FOUR quarters in a Super Bowl where you were visibly hemorrhaging points to your opponent from the opening whistle is beyond the pale. To what? Prove you are the harbinger of the “Patriots Way?” Maybe your head has finally outgrown your hoodie, Bill.

    Thanks for the great years, Malcolm. #respect You’ll land on your feet. In fact, I hear they are building a legacy from the league’s downtrodden down in the City of Brotherly Love (plus the beer is free); not sure what they’re building in Foxboro these days.

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