It’s one of the NFL’s greatest mysteries: Why did the Patriots bench cornerback Malcolm Butler for Super Bowl LII, and keep him on the sideline for the entire game while Eagles backup quarterback Nick Foles picked apart their secondary?
Among those who still can’t answer is one of the members of that secondary, Devin McCourty, who said on Chris Long’s Green Light podcast that he still wonders why Bill Belichick kept a healthy Butler on the bench for the whole game.
McCourty said when he heard Butler plans to write a book about his experiences, he told another player in that Patriots’ secondary, Stephon Gilmore, that he wanted to read it. Gilmore replied that he too is still wondering why Butler didn’t play a single snap on defense in that Super Bowl.
“To this day, I still don’t know the exact reason why he didn’t play,” McCourty told Long, via MassLive.com. “When I saw he was coming out with a book and a documentary, I was like, ‘I can’t wait to read that.’ Gilly actually texted me and was like, ‘I’m going to buy this book ASAP.’”
Various reports have surfaced over the years that Butler had somehow misbehaved to draw Belichick’s ire, including a report of a shouting match with then-Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia during Super Bowl week, but that has never been confirmed by Butler, Belichick or Patricia, and it’s worth noting that Belichick did not suspend Butler and in fact Butler did play one snap of special teams in the Super Bowl.
It’s also worth noting that although Butler left New England in free agency after that Super Bowl, he re-signed with the Patriots in 2022 and spent five months on their roster during the offseason, so Belichick wasn’t totally opposed to having Butler on his team again. (Patricia was a Patriots assistant when Butler was in New England all offseason and there were no reports of any animosity between the two of them. There were also reports that the Lions considered signing Butler when Patricia was their head coach.)
Butler’s benching is a mystery that Belichick may be the only one who can solve, and Belichick is famously tight-lipped when he doesn’t want to give away information, so we may never know. But Eagles fans will always celebrate, as the Patriots’ secondary played its worst game of the season while Butler stood on the sideline and watched the Eagles win the championship.