Report: Malcolm Butler benching was ‘strictly performance-based’
The controversial decision Bill Belichick made to bench Malcolm Butler in the Super Bowl had nothing to do with breaking curfew or violating any other team rule, according to a report.
In an appearance on WEEI’s “Kirk & Callahan Show” Wednesday morning, Adam Schefter of ESPN revealed that he was told by sources that Butler’s benching was “strictly performance-based” and had to do with the way he has played this year and the way he practiced leading up to the game.
Adam Schefter says on @KirkAndCallahan he's been told the decision to bench Malcolm Butler was "strictly performance-based." Butler reportedly "hasn't practiced well, hasn't played well."
— Boston.com Patriots News (@BDCPatriots) February 7, 2018
Assuming that is true, you could easily make the argument that it was the biggest mistake of Bill Belichick’s Hall of Fame coaching career.
Butler had a down year in 2017, and even he admitted that leading up to the Super Bowl. It seemed obvious that New England’s decision to sign Stephon Gilmore to a $65 million contract had an effect on Butler’s focus level at the start of the season, though he seemed to play better down the stretch. Several reports have indicated that he doesn’t always practice well and has frustrated the coaching staff, but why wait until the Super Bowl to make such a massive change to your defense?
At the very least, Belichick should have swallowed his pride and put Butler into the game when it became clear Eric Rowe and the rest of New England’s secondary could not stick with the Eagles receivers. Belichick always says he makes decisions that are best for the football team, and it should have been obvious by halftime that benching Butler was not one of them. If the previous reports about Butler breaking team rules are accurate, it makes sense. But if what Butler said in his statement about the situation is true, Belichick owes Patriots fans more of an explanation for why he may have cost the team a sixth Super Bowl title.