New England Patriots

As long as nobody gets any solid answers, Bill Belichick will forever face questions for his decision to leave Malcolm Butler on the sidelines in Super Bowl LII. Especially after the Patriots defense had its worst game of the season and Butler’s replacements had no answers for Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles.

It appears that, after sleeping on it, Belichick still won’t shed light on his decision. It will go down as one of his most controversial personnel moves as Patriots head coach, certainly one of his most surprising. But don’t expect any specifics on why he did it, beyond the same generic answers he always gives on questionable choices.

“I respect Malcolm’s competitiveness. I’m sure he feels like he could have helped,” said Belichick during his post-Super Bowl Monday conference call, via NESN’s Doug Kyed. “I’m sure the players felt the same way. In the end we have to make the decisions that we feel are best for the football team. That’s what we did. That’s what I did.”

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – FEBRUARY 04: Malcolm Butler #21 of the New England Patriots warms up prior to Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

After the Eagles toasted reserves like Eric Rowe, Jordan Richards, and Johnson Bademosi up and down the field for the entirety of Super Bowl LII, “best for the football team” is a bitter pill for New England to swallow. The fact that Butler even dressed for the game, instead of simply being deactivated in favor of someone who would actually play, makes the decision all the more puzzling.

The line “I’m sure he feels like he could have helped” also sounds like a direct shot at Butler. To be fair, Butler did not have his best season and was not great in the playoffs either. But it will forever be hard to accept that Butler would not have made more plays than the likes of Richards or Bademosi.

The Patriots defense has a longer list of problems than just the Butler decision on Sunday night. They have personnel issues in the front-seven and depth problems at cornerback that Butler’s benching exposed. But of course, it’s Belichick’s Butler decision that will go down as the most striking in a season filled with head-turning personnel moves, from the offseason all the way through the Super Bowl.

And it’s possible that you’ll never get a definitive answer why Belichick made it.

— By Matt Dolloff,

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at