Some have suggested in the wake of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady‘s invocation of the Fifth Amendment when asked whether he feels appreciated by the Patriots that it was all a joke. And maybe it was. But here’s the real punchline to “I plead the fifth”: By resorting to humor, Brady avoided answering.
Eventually, he called it a “tough question,” before saying that everyone wants to be appreciated by their employer. So he didn’t say yes. And this is one of those situations in which anything other than yes necessarily means no.
After weeks of speculation about whether Brady is upset with the team and/or openly revolting against coach Bill Belichick, Brady finally had a chance to make it clear that nothing has changed. That nothing is different. That nothing is wrong. And while at times he said some of the right things, his failure to address the elephant in the room means that the thing with tusks and a long trunk still lingers.
Many continue to believe that the elephant emerged because Belichick benched cornerback Malcolm Butler during Super Bowl LII for no apparent reason at the time, and with no explanation provided since then. As Brady said Monday (via Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston), “Malcolm kept coming over to me during the game and he was like, ‘Get ’em, Tom.’ And I’m like, what defense are we in that Malcolm isn’t on the field?”
While the specific circumstances suggest that it was disciplinary, the broad picture points to Butler’s looming free agency, his failure to accept the team’s best offer on a long-term deal, and perhaps Belichick’s reluctance to give Butler a chance to be the star of another Super Bowl, forcing the team to give him what he wants financially or to apply the franchise tag in order to keep him around.
If there’s anything to that, it’s fair for players like Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski to wonder whether Belichick deviated from his “do your job” mantra to allow something other than a laser-focused desire to win a Super Bowl to influence his thought processes. If the Patriots had won (and they nearly did), it wouldn’t have been an issue. They didn’t, and many think Butler’s absence from the game made the difference.
The loss has, for the second time in three years, put Butler in the middle of a Super Bowl hangover (bringing a much different fifth into play). Butler’s interception to clinch Super Bowl XLIX threw the Seahawks into disarray, and Butler’s presence on the sidelines has potentially knocked a dynasty off its axis.