It’s been more than 36 hours since the end of the Super Bowl and we’re still no closer to solving the biggest mystery of the game: the disappearance of Malcolm Butler. It wasn’t an actual disappearance. Butler was really there. And he was really on the sideline. And the reasons are really unclear.
Bill Belichick said was asked yesterday about the decision and his response was: “I appreciate the question, but it would be a much longer discussion. There are a lot of things that go into that. In the end, the final decision is what I said it was.”
If you’re concerned about taking up everyone’s time with a long answer, I don’t think any Patriot fans would have a problem with it. They’ve got all off-season to wonder about it. Taking a couple minutes now to have the discussion will save everyone a lot of time.
And as for the idea that the final decision is what you said it was, what you previously said Sunday night was: “We put the players and game plan out there that we thought would be the best, like we always do.”
That didn’t pass the smell test then and it still doesn’t. Butler played nearly 98 percent of the plays this year. You really thought you’d be better off without him on the field on Sunday? Sure you don’t. If you wanted the best players out there why did you leave Eric Rowe out there to get abused by Alshon Jeffrey? Rowe isn’t one of your best players. And he’s not better than Butler. If you want to bench Butler, bench him, just don’t say you did it because you went with a better player, because you didn’t.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported as much, saying the benching was a “perfect storm” of issues: “Sickness, a rough week of practice, and a minor rule violation believed to be related to curfew”
If he was sick and physically couldn’t go, that would make total sense. Except nobody’s saying that. If it’s about a rough week of practice, how rough does it have to be for the guy who played 98 percent of your defensive snaps to play 0 percent of your defensive snaps in the biggest game? Dude would have to be tying his own shoes together and falling on his face for that to make sense. And if it was a “minor rule violation believe to be related to curfew,” then that is just the dumbest thing ever. A minor rule violation. Didn’t Aaron Hernandez used to play for Belichick?
College coaches benching a player for the first series is the dumbest punishment ever, but benching a star defensive player for the entire Super Bowl for a missed curfew is officially the dumbest punishment ever. If it really was a missed curfew, and we don’t know that it was, but if it was, that’s hitting a fly with a cruise missile.
I know Belichick is a rules guy. And a “do your job” guy. And that an alleged curfew violation is breaking the rules and definitely not doing your job. If Butler did that, he shouldn’t have and he should know better. But are you really going to bench a guy for the entire game for that in the biggest game of the season? This isn’t a preseason game. This isn’t a September game against the Jets. It’s the Super Bowl.
I don’t know what the reason is, but I know it’s not what Belichick has said. There is no way that Butler’s sitting on the sideline because he didn’t fit the game plan. And if he was, maybe when your secondary’s getting torched, you change up that genius game plan. Maybe sub in the guy who was good enough to cover Antonio Brown and see if he can help.
And as for the possibility that it was Stubborn Bill being stubborn, even that doesn’t make sense. Were you looking to send a message? To who? For what? It’s the last game of the season. The roster’s going to change between now and the start of next season. Is it about showing how tough and badass you are that you’re willing to bench a key contributor in the Super Bowl for a minor rule violation? Congratulations, you just played yourself. If it really was that, I hope that drawing that line in the sand was worth it, because if it really was that, it was the single dumbest decision of Belichick’s career and may very well have cost him, Tom, and the team ring number six.