Former Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler didn’t play a single defensive snap in Super Bowl LII, which may explain, in part, why New England gave up 41 points to Philadelphia. To put that number in context, the Pats had allowed more than 24 points just once since Week 4.
Bill Belichick claims that Butler’s benching was not discipline-related. Should we believe him?
“No, I believe this story is multi-layered,” NBC Sports Boston’s Patriot Insider Mike Giardi said on The DA Show. “I think this was a culmination of a variety of things that have popped up with Malcolm over the course of this season and maybe even others in the past. I think that clearly, to me, based on reading the tea leaves with Malcolm himself, once he got into Minnesota – he was sick and he wasn’t able to fly with the team. As far as I’ve been told, there was no B.S. there. He didn’t miss the flight. That was, ‘We’re quarantining you because we do not want you in that little tube with everybody else.’ He was in a phenomenal mood. Knowing Malcolm the way I know Malcolm, he’s an incredibly emotional kid. There was no way in hell that he would have been able to hide that he was not part of the plan when we talked to him Wednesday and Thursday. It’s not in his DNA at all.”
Butler was seen with his hand over his eyes during the national anthem Sunday. He was likely hiding his emotions about being benched.
“I definitely feel like that was, ‘I can’t believe this is likely my last game with the New England Patriots, and I’ve been informed that I was going to be a part of the plan last week, and now I’m being informed that I’m not part of the plan for the game day,’” Giardi said.
Butler, though, played special teams in Super Bowl LII. It seems odd that he would play on one unit but not another, no?
“If he violated team rules, why isn’t he just sent home?” Giardi asked. “Talking to a couple of ex-players, if you violate the rules, you’re gone. It doesn’t really matter who you are. I think bottom line is if they didn’t dress him, they would have had three active corners on the roster, and they didn’t feel like that was smart business against that team that lines up with at least three wide receivers on almost every single play. If something were to happen to Stephon Gilmore or Eric Rowe or Johnson Bademosi, you can’t turn around and throw Danny Amendola out at cornerback in the Super Bowl. I think Malcolm was a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency player on that day.”
DA wondered if Butler was punished for, say, using marijuana or missing curfew the night before the game – something more serious than, for example, being a few minutes late to practice.
“As far as marijuana goes, I’ve had different people say yes, no – so I’m not reporting that,” Giardi sad. “I’ll just say this: When it comes to marijuana, I don’t think it’s a big deal. I don’t think it’s a big deal for the team. It is part of the NFL culture. It’s actually part of a lot of the sports’ cultures, and I don’t think that would be something that would lead them to say, ‘You’re not playing.’”
But what about missing curfew?
“The curfew thing is real,” Giardi said. “I don’t know how dramatic the curfew miss was, but I will tell you that in talking to players both current and past that Bill has a few rules, and that is a big one. There is a no tolerance for missing curfew, just as if there’s no tolerance for having (non-team members) on your floor during game week. Nobody’s supposed to be up there. That is a team space and it’s for team personnel and players only.”
Giardi believes the true story behind the benching will come out.
“For sure,” he said. “For sure. First of all, I think there are too many good reporters who have been already burning the midnight oil over here the last 24 hours to find answers, and we’ve gotten pieces here and pieces there. I think the other thing, too, is Malcolm is someone that has frustrated them for a long time. I think that contributed to the fact that they weren’t willing to extend him to the length that he wanted to be extended to at the end of last season. I think that’s what prompted them to go out and get Stephon Gilmore. I think his response to Stephon Gilmore’s signing sort of hammered home the point to them that there’s at times a lack of maturity with Malcolm and that they felt good about their decision to not do that.
“And just listen to Malcolm himself,” Giardi continued. “We’ve sat here and criticized him for the better part of the year for being on a roller coaster all year, and he finally straight up admits on Thursday that ‘I’ve had a bleep season.’ Well, yeah, no kidding – I think in part because you were distracted at times. He’s always been someone that they’ve had to put in extra work with to get him to be part of the program, to participate in the program the way they wanted him to participate in the program. I think this is a culmination of a lot of events and a lot of frustration that, unfortunately for him – and unfortunately, I guess, for the team – reared its head Super Bowl week.”
It appears some Patriots are frustrated that Belichick would take such a hard line with Butler during the Super Bowl, while others are frustrated that Butler couldn’t maintain order for one last game.
Said Giardi, “I think the frustration is kind of split down the middle.”