Malcolm Butler Didn’t Deserve This

Taylor McCloud — Pats Militia

Bill Belichick lied.

He said he made the decisions which gave the Patriots the best chance to win Super Bowl LII, but that was a lie, because when he decided to remove Malcolm Butler from any and all defensive gameplans, he made a decision which negatively impacted the football team. He always says he’s just doing what’s best for the football team. Last night, he didn’t.

Malcolm Butler should have played. He should have started and he should have played his normal role. Eric Rowe should’ve played his standard nickel corner. Jordan Richards and Johnson Bademosi shouldn’t have sniffed the field. But none of that happened. Rowe played across from Stephon Gilmore and the other two traded missed tackles all night long.

All the while, Butler stood on the sideline watching. Not playing. Not helping the Patriots win another championship. Just watching.

I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that, in the biggest game of the year, the second best cornerback on the roster didn’t play a defensive snap. I couldn’t believe that, the guy who lead the team in PBUs and Patriots’ cornerbacks in tackles, couldn’t get on the field. I couldn’t believe that, the player who played 97.8% of all defensive snaps this entire season, was removed from the Super Bowl gameplan. And I REALLY couldn’t believe that, as the game waned away, and it became painfully obvious that the defense was the problem, the coach who prides himself on adjustments, couldn’t make an adjustment to get his second best defender on the field.

I couldn’t believe any of it, but it all happened. Belichick benched Butler.

I know it’s unfair to say the Patriots lost because of the decision, but it certainly feels that way. As Nick Foles sat back and dissected the defense, it felt like Butler could have helped. As Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement ran through defensive backs like they were dead birch trees, it felt like Butler could have helped. And as nearly every wideout on the Eagles’ roster slipped tackle after tackle after tackle, it felt like Butler could have helped.

And that’s because he could have.

I’ll admit it, Butler had a subpar 2017. He didn’t play as well as he previously had. I know it, he knows it, everyone knows it. But there’s no reason he shouldn’t have played. After playing every single defensive snap in the postseason, there was absolutely no reason he should not have played in that game. It can’t be stressed enough how impactful he could have been. Not only in coverage, but as a tackler, too. I included the stat already, but Butler lead Patriots’ corners in tackles and in the past three seasons, he’s proven to be one of the better tackling cornerbacks in the league. There’s no doubt in my mind he would have stopped multiple third down conversions. He would have put the ball back in Tom Brady’s hands. He would have helped the Patriots win that football game. But he didn’t. Or, he couldn’t. Because he was on the bench, rotting away as the Patriots were carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey.

It feels weird to be writing like this. When the game ended last night, I walked two miles back to my dorm. I was pretty calm the entire time. I was disappointed, hurt and sad, but I was calm. Since then, I’ve just been stewing. Everytime I read more about Butler I get a little bit closer to the edge. I’ve felt the meltdown coming, and I think it’s about to hit.

For what feels like my entire life, I’ve subscribed to the Patriot Way. I’ve gone as The Hoodie’s gone. Outside of the Jamie Collins trade, I’ve supported every move Belichick has made as head coach of the New England Patriots. That’s over. I cannot and will not ever support this decision. To me, sitting Butler is the worst decision he’s ever made. Worse than any trade, surprise cut or dropkick. When the chips were down and the Patriots needed their best players to win a Super Bowl, Belichick intervened. He took one of their best players and put him in a box. He said it was for the good of the football team but again, that was a lie. Sitting Butler was absolutely not for the good of the football team. In fact, it hurt the football team. It hurt them so badly that they’re heading home from Minnesota empty-handed instead of with their sixth Lombardi Trophy.

It’s probably foolish that I care this much about a game and a team who’s never going to give a shit about me, but I do. I can’t help it. And I can’t help but believe that Malcolm Butler didn’t deserve this. He didn’t deserve any of this.

After making the greatest play in franchise history to win Super Bowl XLIX and playing two seasons of phenomenal football, Butler did not deserve the 2017 Bill Belichick dealt him. All offseason long, he fucked Butler over every way he could. (I wrote all about it here.) It felt like he was sticking it to him just to stick it to him.

That continued into the regular season. At every turn, Belichick found a way to needle him.

How did Butler respond? Like a man. He laid it all out there for the Patriots. Week in and week out, he did everything they asked. He played 98% of their defensive snaps. He was reliable. He was always there. He was the consummate Patriot. He exemplified the Patriot Way.

Then the Patriot Way fucked him.

I don’t expect to see Butler in New England ever again. Maybe as an opponent, but never in a Pats’ uniform. Not after all of this. If he was frustrated last offseason, he’ll be livid for this one. The team has no stake in him anymore and I doubt they’ll even try to engage in contract talks. Belichick’s done everything in his power to make things as difficult as possible as Butler for four years. I can’t imagine he’d change his tune now.

Follow Taylor McCloud on Twitter @tdmcld