Nobody knows when Bill Belichick will stop having to hear the questions about Malcolm Butler. Why did he bench the cornerback for all of the Patriots’ defensive snaps in Super Bowl LII? It’s obviously a question he seems unwilling to (ever) answer in any fashion. But he wasn’t going to avoid it in his very first press conference of training camp.
So here comes Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe, who was easily the odds-on favorite for the one who would be intrepid enough to step forward and press Belichick on any kind of answer for the Butler benching, easily the coach’s most controversial decision of his tenure in New England. Dan certainly felt he had to Ask The Question™, but even he had to know it was virtually impossible that he’d get anything out of Belichick on this.
Shaughnessy asked Belichick if he will have any fresh explanation for the now-infamous benching, and the coach muttered “I’m focused on training camp.” Shaughnessy then asked if he’d do anything differently, referring to Butler. Belichick responded: “… Training camp? Well, we’re getting started. We’re working on that right now.”
“Not 2017, not 2014…”
By this point, it was clear. Belichick wasn’t addressing anything that didn’t pertain to the 2018 season. Staying true to form, he maintained his usual mantra of focusing on the current season and not what happened in any other year – even the successful ones.
“I’m focused on doing the best I can for the 2018 New England Patriots,” Belichick said. “That’s my job. That’s what I’m going to do. That’s what I’ve always done in the past. Every day that I’ve coached here, I’ve done the best that I could for this football team and I’ll continue to do that, and right now my focus is on the 2018 season. Not 2017, not 2014, not 2007, not 2004, not 2001, not 2000. Not focused on any of those seasons. They’re done.
When asked if it’s important to address the Butler decision with the team, Belichick replied: “It’s important for me to have a good season in 2018. I’m going to do everything I can to do that. Do the best I can for the football team. That’s my job, that’s my responsibility, that’s what I’m going to try to do. … Hopefully you can respect that, but maybe not.”
The focus on 2018 was an unsurprisingly common thread throughout the press conference for Belichick, who also declined to address questions related to former Patriots quarterback, now-49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo. He also wouldn’t talk about anything contract-related with Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski, or anything that happened in the spring with OTAs and minicamp. But those non-answers are more understandable than the others.
Will The Questions Stop?
If he didn’t make it clear enough on Wednesday morning, Belichick is going to stomp out any kind of Butler question you may have. Because it’s not important to the 2018 season, ultimately. But it’s still a frustratingly unexplained decision that played a role in the team losing the Super Bowl, so it’s always going to be hard to shake and it may take a while for reporters to entirely move on from asking about it. Belichick may need another Lombardi Trophy to completely snuff out the stench of that one loss.
The bright side is that, prior to the exchange with Shaughnessy, Belichick seemed to be in a relatively chipper mood. He’s certainly excited to get back to actual football stuff, and seemed overall pleased with how the players handled offseason workouts and their break between those and training camp.
Hopefully, all goes well in the coming weeks. The same critical questions swirling around Belichick for months still don’t appear to be going away any time soon, so he should hope that nothing happens on the field that would reflect or amplify them.
— 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 email@example.com.