How would the Malcolm Butler benching have been viewed in a world of legalized gambling?

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Membership in the group that calls itself the @PFTPMPosse carries with it an important obligation. Via the questions posed for every episode of the #PFTPM podcast, the ever-growing group of loyal supporters introduces concepts and ideas that probably wouldn’t have otherwise entered my relaxed brain.

Here’s a great question that emerged in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision to allow legalized sports wagering in the 49 states that don’t have it: If Patriots coach Bill Belichick had planned to bench starting cornerback Malcolm Butler for the entirety of a Super Bowl (with the exception of one special-teams play) in an environment with widespread legal gambling, would Belichick have been able to keep that to himself?

The people who legally (in Nevada) and illegally (everywhere else) bet on the Patriots to cover in Super Bowl LII surely were miffed and perplexed that Butler didn’t play. If hundreds of millions of dollars legally had been bet on the Patriots and Belichick had made such an unexpected move for reasons that he chose (as he always does) to keep to himself, the reaction may have been far different.

This is just one of the many issues that NFL will have to consider as it braces for the unintended consequences of something that, on the surface, will result in much greater revenue for the sport. And it will be important for the league to anticipate the many unintended consequences and plan for them.

Given the Butler case, the NFL may need to demand a greater degree of transparency not just as to injuries (where there’s currently a very limited degree of transparency, thanks to the bare-bones injury reports) but also as to strategic departures from the reasonably expected status quo. Teams eventually may have to publish binding depth charts within, say, 48 hours before kickoff. Other than players listed as questionable or worse on the injury report, the starters as listed on the official depth chart would then be starting the next game.

But that would have unintended consequences, too, with coaches easily avoiding the spirit of the rule by listing a player as a starter — and then benching him after as little as only one play. So then the question would become whether the players listed as starters would be required to participate in a certain number of snaps barring injury or gross ineffectiveness. Which then would open the door for teams to claim a player was injured and/or grossly ineffective when perhaps he actually wasn’t.

It could quickly become an effort to juggle Jello for the league, with coaches who strive for maximum secrecy (and who already resent having to make basic disclosures about injuries) doing anything they can to find a way to comply with efforts to prevent another Butler debacle while keeping the flexibility to do whatever they want to do without explaining themselves to anyone. But the NFL will have a good reason to come up with something that works, and to compel the coaches to go along with it.

The unspoken nightmare scenario for the league office continues to be the creation of an independent agency charged with overseeing professional football. If enough gambling controversies emerge, whether due to corruption, incompetence, or an awkward intersection between coaches who want to win football games and gamblers who want to win money, the NFL may lose its stubborn insistence to handle its own business.

And if it seems far fetched to think that government would get involved in something like this, consider the overall purpose and mission of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

76 responses to “How would the Malcolm Butler benching have been viewed in a world of legalized gambling?

  1. How about owners holding head coaches accountable for winning games and firing them when they don’t live up to expectations.

  2. Well that did happen in Vegas this past year, and you’re the only one with an issue about it, coaches decision ! But I’m sure Bill had the money line on the eagles a did it on purpose, cause he so loves money more then winning ? Get real you dope ! Seriously !

  3. Well that did happen in Vegas this past year, and you’re the only one with an issue about it, coaches decision ! But I’m sure Bill had the money line on the Eagles and did it on purpose, cause he so loves money, more then winning ? Get real you dope ! Seriously !

  4. What? Hundreds of millions of dollars were legally bet on the Patriots, in Vegas!

    So you’re posing a “what if” question on a situation that actually happened. Then you go on to list several outcomes which in fact did not happen.

    It’s pretty simple, as a bettor you have zero control of the game. If Belichick benches a player, does an inside kick, or punts on 3rd down, this is all ok. Now if Belichick is found to be making these moves for his own financial compensation… Then Belichick goes to jail.

    It’s incredibly dishonest to play the “what if” game about football gambling when it is already very prevalent in North America. In fact NBC shows the betting lines on Sunday night football!

  5. “Binding depth charts”… LOL!

    So you’re now advocating taking away the coaching decisions of a Head Coach. So now we’re to the point of minimizing the Coaches. Well Hell, why stop there let’s play this out to it’s logical conclusion shall we?

    Let’s eliminate the Coaches altogether. Let’s just set up a table and throw a computer on it with the latest i9 processor and run some AI software to do all the coaching. With the AI advancements it should be up and running in 48-hours.

    But if we’re already breaking the barrier for non-human involvement, it’s only a stone’s throw away to eliminate the players too. We could get those guys from Battle Bots to build us robot players which would also kill any steroid controversies as the robots only need oil and you really can’t ‘roid up motor oil – can you?

    Great article Florio, all you’re advocating is the elimination of the NFL and the promotion of the first RSFL – REAL STEEL Football League!

    Good idea, I’d watch.

  6. Hey, I’m all for legalized gambling, but under no circumstances should the NFL be forced to change the way they do things to accommodate the gamblers.

  7. He’d be, “swimming with the fishes.”

    Or, “wearing cement shoes.”

    “I woke up in the East River…in a SACK!!”

    Something of that nature.

  8. I don’t know what this guy is smoking.

    The league doesn’t owe gamblers anything.

    They bet at their own risk.

  9. The question at the heart of this article is a bit disingenuous, no? Were there no fixes before the recent legalization? The Butler benching could raise questions either way. The only difference is in the parties that might benefit from such a fix, and how close they are to determining the outcome. But it’s a slight difference. The rest is just a perceived difference.

  10. So would the Eli Manny benching fall under this also? Or how about GB playing their crappy back up QB? This is just going to get more ridiculous.

  11. .
    Something to consider:

    Q. If Malcolm Butler went down with a knee injury 3 days prior to the Super Bowl, would the betting line have been affected?

    A. Yes. Astute gamblers would have realized that the Patriots secondary was already wafer thin coming into that game. and the loss of Butler only served to exacerbate the problem. ” Can’t rush ’em. Can’t cover’ em” is not a slogan that inspires confidence in the betting public.
    .

  12. What about “mercy” decisions. Vikings don’t kick final PAT against New Orleans, teams ahead with little time left take a knee instead of adding to the margin.

    My initial thought is “if gamblers don’t like it, bet on something else. Take the mercy factor into your betting calculations”.

  13. “Teams eventually may have to publish binding depth charts within, say, 48 hours before kickoff. Other than players listed as questionable or worse on the injury report, the starters as listed on the official depth chart would then be starting the next game.”

    Uh no. There is no reason to cater to the gamblers. You pay your money you take your chances.

    They’ve had legal sports gambling in the UK forever and they don’t cater to the gambling establishment they way you’re suggesting needs to be done and they don’t have the kind of problems you’re suggesting will arise.

    Essentially what you’re demanding is that coaches give up control in certain areas and not be able to coach those areas as a result of legalized gambling. That’s simply ludicrous.

  14. Well, it’s coming. Florio, I give you credit for an imaginative post. I will forever love pro sports while never gambling and just go to the Las Vegas sports book to watch all the degenerate gamblers make fools of themselves.

  15. Before we go any further please note that they FIXED THE WORLD CUP ! The Nfl pares in comparison so before anyone says it’s impossible……….

  16. This is the kind of thinking that comes from a mind that believes everything should be “fair”, whatever that means

  17. I continue to be amazed about how one defensive back not playing Generates so much attention. Every game played all season one or two starters don’t play or have a really bad game. It’s a TEAM sport, offense, defense and special teams. That’s 33 players and we are still writing and talking about one guy who didn’t play. It’s a looser thing.

  18. How would Goodell’s cheating be seen with 2 free tds by the refs?

    Just curious.

    Go ask Butler why he was benched. He knows. The crying says it all.

  19. Well, it’s likely that if gambling had been legal for that Super Bowl, Belichick would have found a horse’s head in his bed the night before the game if word had leaked out ahead of time about Butler being benched.

    Seriously, gamblers must be prepared for the unexpected. The motto Caveat Emptor should plastered atop of every gambling casino and website. Players get hurt, coaches make changes, stuff happens. Deal with it.

  20. The sharps already know things like this that the general public doesn’t know via team insiders, to think that will change with sports betting being legal is naive at best

  21. He shouldn’t have to say anything. If you’re betting and don’t like it, don’t bet. These bettors aren’t entitled to anything.

  22. The premise of your question assumes that nobody bet on the Super Bowl. Half of my Suoer Bowl party had bets down. Costa Rica had more than $100 billion in sports betting revenue last year. Do you actually think that all came from non-USA bettors?

    I took the Eagles money line btw, and wasn’t surprised when they beat the Patriots

  23. Next up: teams will be required to submit all video/written material used in preparation for each weeks game, including their game plan. That way bettors will have greater confidence in their opinions of how games will go.

    Cut it out. This is something people betting on the Patriots have to be prepared for. Not the first time Bill had done something like this.

  24. Belichick benching Brady would raise eyebrows in a world of legalized sports gambling,

    Butler? Nah not really. 🙂

  25. “The eagles were clearly better””? Seriously ?! TB12 threw for over 500 yards!
    The only thing “clearly better” was the 2 TD’s the NFL allowed That weren’t even legal TD’s!

  26. If you want to play such click-bait “if” games, a better question would be how legalized gambling might view the NFL suspending Brady 4 games after their lawyer admitted to Judge Berman they had no actual evidence, just suspicions and conjecture?

  27. Aside from the issues that everyone else pointed out, we as fans should welcome oversight. Sure maybe the owners don’t like it, but why not? All the concerns about fairness and complaints about Goodell are gone overnight. Not to mention the owners could cut Goodell’a bloated salary!

  28. It’s sinple… I’m betting on a game based on my expected outcome of which I have no control.
    There are many variables. One of those variables is I don’t know what BB might do. Therefore I bet with an expectation that what he tries tends to work (or not work).
    He uses a RB I’ve never heard of, the guy gets 150 yards and is never heard from again. (Except for the people who grab him for their fantasy team and regret it). That worked. Butler ‘didn’t.’

    The decisions of the coaches are part of the bet.
    If the Saints or Cowboys we’re down at the half I’m more likely to bet Peyton making adjustments (or open the second half with an onside kick) to get back in the game then Garrett.

    I hope they don’t have to worry about changing rules to make people who don’t know what they are betting on happy.

  29. Or how about how would the gambling world have reacted to the refs breaking or ignoring rules to gift Eagles 21 points (bobbled TD, illegal formation on the Philly Special, and Hogan & Gronk mugged on the final hail mary). I mean, come on, you want to pick at why the Pats lost the SB then those factors are bigger than Butler being sidelined.

  30. You’re forgetting about the possibility of violence inflicted by traumatized gamblers on coaches that make decisions like that. It happens in the world of soccer. It’s probably just a matter of time that it happens in the football world if there’s widespread gambling, especially with where our society has been headed on a broader scale. I don’t trust people to not do that, and I think this may be a bad idea.

  31. Okay; it’s settled……I won’t gamble with regards to the NFL, even if my State authorizes and sanctions it in the future. Thanks for the heads up Mike.

  32. Gambling is not an institution that should have the ability to force legitimate businesses to cater to gambling’s legitimacy by the business altering its practices to suit, unless said business instigates and/or manages the gambling program.

    For example: I want to bet that on Wednesday Florio wears a shirt with blue pinstripes on it. That doesn’t obligate Florio to reveal his wardrobe to me or anyone involved in my betting.

    As for SEC involvement, institutionalized gambling is not a legitimate form of investing and should certainly not warrant protections as such. Gamble at your own RISK.

  33. Which HC would willingly throw a super bowl?
    Belichick? Not a chance, plus he’s loaded. Offering him a million to throw a super bowl wouldn’t come close, maybe 20 million? Probably not.
    As for other HCs, a Superbowl is a chance in a life time. You would have to pay them 20mm.
    Not happening.
    So making them predetermine any plan is dumb.

  34. Great topic. I wonder what the effect of legalized gambling will have on the focus of officiating’s effect on the outcome of games. In the NHL, where officiating bias is off the charts, does that just become something the bettors have to factor in, or does the league office in Toronto try to clean up it’s act? In the NBA, where virtually everyone agrees games are fixed to a degree for the purposes of marketing $$$$$, do the officials continue to operate like the WWE, to keep the dollars rolling in? When the number of bettors screwed by dishonest officiating increases exponentially, will there be a hue and cry, or will it just still be considered part of the risk, and a big tough luck?

  35. What I wonder about is the NFL owners. They are always looking for ways to increase profits, whether or not it’s good for the game. And you have to believe that gambling is the next frontier for the NFL. State by state decision for legalization. Betting on the game at the stadium. One-armed bandits on the concourse. Lottery drawings at half time. The NFL pays lip service to the integrity of the game, but how can that fly when the league office lacks credibility.

  36. “Well, it’s likely that if gambling had been legal for that Super Bowl”

    Um, it was legal

    You can sign up online with numerous Vegas sports books. Anyone who wanted to bet did so and did so easily

  37. If you re willing to wager your money on the efforts of someone else, that you have no personal control over, you don’t get a say. What’s next, Vegas calling the plays? Fixing the outcome? Where does this line of logic end?

  38. This is purely an issue for the gamblers and bookmakers, not the NFL. The NFL, nor any other sporting league, have any obligation whatsoever to cater to an external enterprise that profits off of their product. Especially not one that has historically been involved in the fixing of games and the tarnishing of leagues’ reputations. Give them nothing and make them like it. Gamblers and bookmakers don’t deserve a thing.

    As irritating as it can be, the vagueness of injury reports is fine by me, and if anything should be even more vague. People shouldn’t have their medical records or situations made public without their consent, period.

    And coaches decisions? If those suddenly are required to be run past gamblers then I for one am done with professional, and semi-professional *cough* NCAA *cough*, sports altogether.

    I’ve had enough of this ‘Oh it needs to be disclosed, think of the gamblers!’ garbage. Who cares about gamblers, other than the gamblers themselves? Do other gamblers care if another one made an ill-informed bet? No, they don’t. So why should anyone else?

  39. lanman11 says:

    May 20, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    You’re forgetting about the possibility of violence inflicted by traumatized gamblers on coaches that make decisions like that. It happens in the world of soccer. It’s probably just a matter of time that it happens in the football world if there’s widespread gambling, especially with where our society has been headed on a broader scale. I don’t trust people to not do that, and I think this may be a bad idea.

    =================================

    Game officials too, maybe even more so, could be enticed or threatened. The Donaghy scandal in the NBA seems like it should have been a bigger story.

  40. screw vegas, screw the league, screw the know-nothing, second guessing sports media and couch potatoes! belichick will run his team his way and just does not care. i love it.

  41. This is why so many have been opposed to gambling (and Fantasy Football, for that matter). Gambling concerns should never, ever, ever supersede any game related decisions by the actual team playing. Sports do not exist for gambling and they don’t need outside interference dictating game decisions.

  42. The author is obviously too dense to realize that Vegas did have to deal with the Butler fallout. But don’t let facts get in the way of your need for attention

  43. I seriously don’t understand all of this hand wringing when it comes to legalized gambling, because if you weren’t aware, gambling was 100% legal already.

    They may be making it EASIER to gamble legally, but it’s always been there with a trip to Vegas or by doing a little “work” and getting yourself setup online with a sports book.

    There’s really nothing to your Chicken Little scenarios about the world ending now that you can bet legally, since it’s always been there and the world continues on.

  44. BB sitting Butler to purposely throw the game is just ridiculous and we have talking heads (aka idiots) on local radio who still suggest it from time to time.

    With that said, you could aruge a fix was in last year’s SB when every single close call did not go the Pats way. Including 2 TD’s that could’ve easily been ruled the other way. I don’t think a fix was in, but with the refs you really never know.

    The refs have enormous control on the games whether people want to admit it or not. I remember watching KC at OAK last year and Derek Carr getting 6 tries to throw a last minute TD lol.

    The NFL is wise not to demand an integrity fee. They need to up their game before demanding anything. Hopefully full time refs will help.

  45. I’d be all for full time officials hired by the Securities and Exchange Commission. At least it would be out of the BFL’s hands, which seems to think the right model for officiating is the NBA.

  46. I’d be more concerned with reporters and web sites moving the betting line by pushing certain stories about players and teams this way or that way.

    There should be a law that anybody who covers any sport that can be bet on has to disclose their tax returns. It’s only fair.

  47. ramrene says:
    May 20, 2018 at 10:48 am
    “Binding depth charts”… LOL!

    So you’re now advocating taking away the coaching decisions of a Head Coach. So now we’re to the point of minimizing the Coaches. Well Hell, why stop there let’s play this out to it’s logical conclusion shall we?

    Let’s eliminate the Coaches altogether. Let’s just set up a table and throw a computer on it with the latest i9 processor and run some AI software to do all the coaching. With the AI advancements it should be up and running in 48-hours.

    But if we’re already breaking the barrier for non-human involvement, it’s only a stone’s throw away to eliminate the players too. We could get those guys from Battle Bots to build us robot players which would also kill any steroid controversies as the robots only need oil and you really can’t ‘roid up motor oil – can you?

    Clearly you don’t follow racing.

  48. Sounds like the football episode of the “Jetsons” with the “Statue of Liberty” play.

  49. Besides Future Bets, I rarely bet besides that. Lebron and/or Patriots in the Eastern Conference Finals/ AFC CHampionship game 8 straight years is it??? Easy money!!!!

  50. How much would I have to gamble to be deemed “too big to fail”? I’m pretty sure a lobbyist could make it happen, same as they’ve made it happen for Wall Street and Banks. It’s easier than ever under Trump. Regulations are for losers! Government Bailouts are fun!

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