One of the biggest mysteries from Sunday night’s Super Bowl was the benching of Malcolm Butler.
The New England starting cornerback who played on almost 98 percent of the regular season defensive snaps for the New England Patriots played zero on Sunday vs. the Philadelphia Eagles.
Butler was reportedly distraught after the game, and head coach Bill Belichick was typically obtuse when explaining the decision.
“We put the players out there and the game plan out there that we thought would be the best tonight like we always do,” Belichick told reporters asking about Butler after the game.
Belichick also said that discipline was not a factor in Butler’s benching.
Belichick addressed the issue again during a Monday conference call, but had little to add.
“I respect Malcolm’s competitiveness,” Belichick told reporters. “I’m sure that he felt like he could’ve helped. I’m sure other players felt the same way. In the end, we have to make decisions that are best for the football team.”
A Monday report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport sheds some light that a rules violation may have played a factor.
My understanding is the benching of #Patriots CB Malcolm Butler happened because of a perfect storm of issues: Sickness, a rough week of practice, and a minor rule violation believed to be related to curfew. A complicated matter. pic.twitter.com/TmUJgkHpsZ
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 5, 2018
Butler did not travel with the team to Minneapolis and missed media day with an illness. According to Rapaport, that illness along with a rough week of practice and a minor rules violation led to a staple of the Patriots defense and a past Super Bowl hero to miss Sunday’s game that saw Eagles quarterback Nick Foles throw for 373 yards and three touchdowns.
NBC Sports Boston’s Michael Giardi, meanwhile, reports that Patriots team captains were aware ahead of the game that Butler was going to be benched.
Pats captains were aware that Butler was being sat. But exactly when they were informed I can't tell you. Must say though, Butler is an emotional guy and he was nothing but happy as hell when we talked with him throughout the week.
— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) February 5, 2018
Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy blasted Belichick on Monday for his lack of transparency over why Butler didn’t play in the most important game of the season.
“The Patriots lost a very winnable Super Bowl Sunday night in some part because Bill benched cornerback Malcolm Butler for some undisclosed infraction or violation of the Patriot code,” Shaughnessy wrote.
With no clear answer still available, Belichick’s decision to bench Butler is still one of the most baffling in the history of the Super Bowl and one that Patriots fans will have a hard time forgetting.