By MyFM's Jake Archer - I honestly have held off on writing about this because I just don't entirely know where to go with it. We don't have all of the information and it's become quite a mystery why Patriots star cornerback and Super Bowl 49 hero Malcolm Butler did not play one defensive snap in Sunday night's Super Bowl 52 loss.
Here is a quick rundown of what we know right now...
- Malcolm Butler and the Pats have been at odds over contract issues for a few years now and he was clearly upset with the team paying Stephon Gilmore instead of him. This led to him almost being traded to New Orleans last offseason.
- Butler did not have the best year on the field in 2017 and seemed to be unhappy off of it.
- We were heading for a breakup with Butler signing somewhere else this offseason, in all likelihood.
- Butler found out just before kickoff of Super Bowl 52 that he was benched. He was visibly upset on the sideline.
- Butler denies any wrongdoing to get himself benched and all but said goodbye to New England in a social media post yesterday.
- His teammates, both past and present, seemed to support him through the media and on social media.
- Bill Belichick and the coaching staff will not tell us why Butler did not play.
Those are the things that we have as fact, or on pretty good authority. Now, there are a lot of rumors floating about the extent of Butler's unhappiness all year and how he acted around teammates and coaches. Sticking to just the past two weeks though, it was reported that Butler was sick and did not travel with the team to Minnesota, instead coming later that week. He told the media he was "good to go" midweek. Then, after the Super Bowl with everyone wondering why he did not play in the game, reports came of several different reasons for the benching.
Some said that Butler was out late past curfew during the week, was caught at a concert or a club, was in possession of drugs, screamed at coaches and skipped/missed practices and walkthroughs. Butler refuted all of those in his social media post yesterday which was "liked" by many of his teammates including Tom Brady. Brady also offered words of encouragement in a comment on the post which fueled speculation about whether he was simply supporting a teammate or choosing sides in a battle between coaches and a player. Many other players have told the media that they don't know why Butler did not play and that he "could have helped" or should've been out there.
Former Patriot defensive back Brandon Browner took to Instagram to post many different times about Butler being wronged and the coaching staff making a mistake. Several current Patriots, including the leader of the defense Dont'a Hightower, "liked" these posts that were decidedly anti-Belichick. The situation looks rough, and we know we'll never get a real explanation out of Bill or any of the coaches. All Belichick and then defensive coordinator Matt Patricia would say is that they did what was best for the team, which seems silly considering the defense got gashed and they let a Pro Bowler stand on the sideline fully healthy and dressed. I just wonder what Robert Kraft has to say about all of this and what Tom Brady is thinking.
This has created a lot of intrigue around the Patriots and lended some credence to the reports of dysfunction in the building. I'd find it hard to believe that Brady would be okay with losing a Super Bowl because of this decision, as he did everything in his power to win and didn't deserve this. A lot of fans are preaching that we must continue to "Believe in Belichick" which I agree with mostly. He's very rarely wrong and does some things that look ridiculous in real time before looking genius down the road. I'm hoping that this is one of those things.
But, if all the information out right now was all of the information, I'd side with Butler. Even if he committed all of those infractions, I would still say Bill messed up and his ego got the best of him. I don't care how tight of a ship you want to run, you don't blow a Super Bowl over it. Believe me, this decision blew the Super Bowl. A bunch of minor infractions over the course of the season and the last two weeks or a "perfect storm" as some are calling it just means they didn't have one good reason to give us for this. If it's not egregious enough to send the guy home and he's standing there in pads, he's got to play. Bench him for the first half if you want to prove a point, but once you see you need him you have to let him out there. I don't know, it feels silly to tell the genius Bill Belichick what to do and that's why I'm just so confused on this whole ordeal.
Regardless, what a weird month or so it's been for the Patriots and what a weird season it's been for Bill Belichick. You also can't tell me any player has ever had a stranger tenure on a team than Malcolm Butler on the Patriots. The man goes from winning a Super Bowl to basically losing one (he's not without blame if he did act up). Yikes. We'll see where this all goes from here.