Just prior to the start of the Super Bowl, cameras were focused on a despondent Malcolm Butler. We soon learned that the New England Patriots’ starting cornerback was benched for the game – for disciplinary reasons. There were rumors of a curfew violation, but no specifics. Coach Bill Belichick in fact kept him off the field all game long.
Some Pats’ fans are of course irate, and are blaming the coach for the loss. The very first score by the Eagles was a 34-yard reception by Alshon Jeffery, who was being guarded by Eric Rowe, Butler’s replacement. In truth though, Rowe had very good coverage, but Jeffery made an even better catch.
Playing Eric Rowe in place of Butler was certainly a downgrade. Butler made the Pro Bowl in 2015, was a second-team All-Pro in 2016, and was the hero of the Super Bowl just three years ago, when his last-minute interception at the goal line deprived the Seahawks of the win.
It took only a day until more information emerged. Butler’s ex-teammate, Brandon Browner, took to social media to rip the head coach for benching Butler. Via Instagram, Browner had this to say: “For weed? For curfew? Man, do y’all history. Patriots (are) a team that give guys second chances… Like every job, there’s always favorites, and lil’ bro wasn’t a favorite.”
It seems that overnight before the big game, Butler was smoking weed and had a woman in his room. I believe it’s standard practice around the league to forbid such behavior, and that teams often resort to bed checks to enforce the rules.
When asked after the game why he had been benched, Butler said “I don’t know, but I could have changed that game.”
By Monday Belichick acknowledged there were multiple issues involved. A beat reporter for the Pats also indicated that Butler was demoted earlier in the playoffs, but that happened during the Pats’ bye week, so Butler lost no playing time. Maybe he already had been given that second chance.
In the first Super Bowl game, coach Vince Lombardi could have easily been involved in a similar controversy. Receiver Max McGee, a notorious party boy, was nearing the end of his career, and was not expecting to play in the big game. Due to an injury, however, he was thrust into action, played most of the game, scored the first Super Bowl touchdown ever, and wound up with seven catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns.
McGee, not expecting to see action, was out on the town the night before the Super Bowl. He even confided before the game to starting receiver Boyd Dowler, “I hope you don’t get hurt. I’m not in very good shape,” referring to a raging hangover. Had Lombardi found out about the curfew violation…
Was Belichick’s discipline too harsh? In punishing Butler, did he unfairly penalize the entire organization?
Was it Butler who let all his teammates down by putting his own selfish interests ahead of the team’s interests?
Could the coach have made his point without jeopardizing the big game’s outcome? How about suspending him for the first two games of the 2018 season?
Was Butler out of his mind? Just a day later, he’d have five months of vacation to do all the carousing he wanted. And wasn’t there ample opportunity to have fun in the two weeks leading up to the event, without having to do it less than 24 hours before the game?
Should Belichick have cut some slack on enforcement of the rules postseason versus the regular season?
Had Belichick not taken a hard line, would he have lost a portion of his authority and leadership over the team? Would the team have respected him less if he had compromised his principles?
Should a star player be treated differently than a lesser player?
He literally pulled a McCarthy here. Beyond stupid. Maybe bench him for the first series, but the game? Especially when Rowe is getting torched out there. C’mon man…..
That’s a lot of questions Rob. But i don’t think anyone can answer any of them without knowing all the facts.
I believe it’s much simpler and comes down to this.
The Patriots are a militant team. They have codes, and rules set, if you break them, there are penalty’s. Belichick doesn’t seem to have a huge sense of humor or patience with players that don’t do things the right way.
Yes, i watched the video’s of Brandon Browner shooting off his mouth as if he was there. Kind of hard to understand Browner in a drug induced state. Butler is going to be a free agent, and he’s waiting to finally get paid, so Browner comes to defend him, and what does he do, brings up that Butler is on weed. With friends like that………you can’t fix stupid.
Browner is just another POS. The only thing he led the league in was penalty’s and cheap shots.
PF4L , I don’t get it? Are we talking about Butler? What does how YOU feel about Brown have to do with anything?? You jealous?
Try to pay attention before shooting your mouth off, mkay? He was talking about BROWNER because Browner was shooting HIS mouth off against Belichick for benching Butler.
As a football fan I used to wonder why some players were held to a higher standard when it comes to being held accountable by teams. Status shouldn’t matter if star player vs. scrub, right? Until you start to look at the big picture.
Imagine a team where discipline is meted out evenly/consistently. It wouldn’t take long for guys, like Aaron Rodgers even, to maybe say “Screw it. I’ll violate X rule and force my way off the team into a potentially better situation.” Does taking PEDS, gambling, or smoking weed/drinking warrant the same punishment as beating your kid/spouse? Probably not, unless those behaviors lead to injuring/killing someone while driving under the influence, felony violations of the law, etc.
That’s probably closer to the truth of the “We can’t have the inmates running the prison” comment Bob McNair made last year during one of the owners meetings. The bigger problem seems to be teams awarding large contracts to these kinds of selfish, non-team players for stupid behavior. So you get the Marty Bennett’s of the world devising their own exit strategies when things don’t go quite as well as they would have liked. It would have been nice to see what Bill B. did if Marty pulled that shit on the Patriots.
Belichick is a pretty damn good coach. I don’t see him being “as petty” as our boy McCarthy is. If he decided not to play Butler, there would probably be a pretty good reason for him deciding not to play Butler. It’s a slippery slope no matter what. The truth will inevitably come out, and everyone can second guess the decision at that time. But I’ll defer to the “moron” coach who has been to 8 Super Bowls in the last what, 17 years?
If the Eagles can win
without their star quarterback…
then the Patriots can win
without their star cornerback…
(as they are so lofty above the rest)
It’s wishy washy and indecisive. Bill screwed the pooch on this one by dressing Butler. If he flat out benches him and leaves no doubt there’s not so many questions. But that Butler was available to come off the bench but Belichick decided beforehand that he wouldn’t play…that’s the colossal fuck up. If he doesn’t dress him at all then no one says shit. But to dress him and then use him for one play only is a middle finger to every person in that locker room.
I agree. I was thinking that too. Usually a player who is benched doesnt suit up and sometimes doesnt travel with the team. Butler not only was suited up, but was wearing his helmet. While the game was going, I heard he played on special teams, but not defense. There is another Butler on their team, but he is s lineman.
Butler had one ST snap. It’s possible he might have had more but there were no other punts.
There are 3 sides to every story. The player’s side, the team’s side, and the truth. And the truth shall never be known.