We don’t know why Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler was benched in Super Bowl LII. We don’t know whether he was benched for football reasons, as Bill Belichick stated, or for disciplinary reasons, as many people are speculating.
But we do know this: Butler becomes an unrestricted free agent in five weeks. And other teams are going to want to know exactly what happened before they invest in him. So if Butler is smart, he’ll get out ahead of the story and explain exactly what happened.
If Butler really was benched for football reasons, he should know what those reasons are. Did he blow assignments in the AFC Championship Game against the Jaguars, leading Belichick to bench him? There weren’t a lot of plays that stick out from that game as bad plays by Butler, although outsiders can’t always tell when a player blows an assignment. If Butler doesn’t know what the football reasons were for his benching, that doesn’t reflect well on him: Coaches aren’t shy about telling players when they don’t play well, and if Butler doesn’t know what he did wrong on the field, that suggests that he doesn’t pay attention to his coaches.
The other possibility is that Butler was actually benched for off-field reasons. If that’s the case, again, he should say so publicly and begin the process of trying to persuade other teams that he’s learned his lesson. If he broke a team rule in New England, other teams are going to want to hear him sound say it won’t happen again, and sound sincere when he’s saying it.
Whatever the reasons behind #ButlerGate, the whole thing is fishy. If Belichick is telling the truth when he says he benched Butler for football reasons, what were those reasons? What suddenly changed about Butler as a football player between the AFC Championship Game, when he played every snap on defense, to the Super Bowl, when he played zero snaps on defense? And why, as the Eagles marched up and down the field against the Patriots’ defense, didn’t Belichick reconsider his “football reasons” and put Butler on the field?
Belichick may never explain, because Belichick rarely explains much of anything. But Butler should explain what happened, from his perspective.