Report: Bill Belichick never gave Malcolm Butler reason for his benching
Bill Belichick may have had an understandable reason for not allowing Malcolm Butler to play a single defensive snap in the Super Bowl, but it seems clear that the Patriots coach could have done a better job of communicating it to the team.
After their 41-33 loss to the Eagles, New England players gave inconsistent answers about whether or not they knew Butler would be benched. Eric Rowe, who started in place of Butler, said he found out right before kickoff. Devin McCourty indicated that he knew on Saturday night, which could mean Belichick told his team captains but not the entire team. But what about Butler himself?
According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, Belichick informed Butler before kickoff that he would not play, but he did not give the star cornerback a reason for the decision. Sources told Howe that everyone — players included — has been left guessing after Belichick claimed the decision was strictly related to football, which led to tension in the locker room.
While Belichick has said Butler was not benched for disciplinary reasons, reports indicate the 27-year-old broke a team rule related to curfew and had some other issues throughout the week. Michael Giardi of NBC Sports Boston told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich Show” on Tuesday that Butler broke curfew in Minneapolis. Former Patriots offensive lineman Dan Koppen, who is now Giardi’s colleague, told Giardi that curfew is one rule Belichick takes seriously and will not make exceptions with.
If you’re looking to blame either Butler or Belichick for the cornerback not playing, you may have trouble justifying pointing the finger at just one of them. Assuming Butler did break a team rule, you can understand why he didn’t play. However, there would be no reason for Belichick to not explain that to the team if that’s what happened, as the move had a huge impact on the game and may have been the difference between winning and losing.
The way Butler ripped Belichick after the game made it seem as though he was not guilty of violating any team rules, but that could be because Belichick didn’t offer him an explanation. Again, it feels like someone — especially the guys who were preparing for the biggest game of the year — should have been given one.