Details are beginning to emerge about Bill Belichick’s decision to bench Malcolm Butler for all but one special teams snap in Super Bowl LII. The latest reports suggest that it’s more than just one issue that led to the coach’s controversial move.
The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted on Monday that he’s learned of a “perfect storm of issues” and a “complicated matter” that caused Belichick to bench Butler for the Super Bowl. As was already known, the cornerback had been battling an illness leading up to the game. That reportedly caused him to arrive a day later than the team, and also have a “rough week of practice.”
Additionally, Rapoport cites a “minor rule violation” related to curfew. In a video for the NFL Network, he says Butler attended a Rick Ross concert during Super Bowl week. That would likely be the curfew issue. Ultimately, Butler’s confluence of problems apparently forced him to watch almost all of Super Bowl LII on the sidelines.
“A Perfect Storm”
Belichick denied after the game that Butler’s absence on defense was related to discipline. That would run counter to the reports of the minor curfew issue.
Even if Belichick benched Butler purely because he felt he would not play well in the Super Bowl, that does not explain why Butler remained on the bench for every defensive snap as Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles carved up the Patriots defense for 538 total yards.
According to the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe, Foles went 6-for-7 for 137 yards on third downs, a major situational problem for the Patriots throughout the game, while targeting Eric Rowe, Johnson Bademosi, and Jordan Richards. It’s hard to believe that a sick or sloppy Malcolm Butler would have been any worse.
Also according to Howe, some of Butler’s teammates unsurprisingly questioned Belichick’s motivation to bench Butler. The cornerback had previously played nearly 100 percent of the team’s defensive snaps leading up to the Super Bowl, including every defensive snap in both the Divisional Playoff against the Titans and the AFC Championship Game against the Jaguars.
This is likely not the end of the reporting on the Butler situation. And unfortunately, there may never be an acceptable explanation for Belichick’s decision to leave him on the sidelines for essentially the entire game. Regardless of what’s reported in the coming weeks, it’s a choice that will hang over the team’s Super Bowl loss forever.
— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.