I realize that this topic is not related directly to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it does tie into not only the most recent NFL game played, but also the biggest from the past season. And it involves the team we all love to hate, the New England Patriots.
You probably recall that Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick made the decision before this past season’s Super Bowl to bench starting cornerback Malcolm Butler, instead favoring Eric Rowe. It ended up being the second-highest-scoring Super Bowl in NFL history with the most yardage in any NFL game ever.
Butler was playing the 2017 season under a first-round-level restricted free agent tender, meaning that there was an excellent chance that he would be playing somewhere else next season. This was something that was pretty much already known in New England’s locker room.
And Butler reserved comment about Belichick’s decision to bench him—outside of addressing his claim that it was in some way tied to discipline for violating team rules—until he actually signed with another team, which he provided to Sports Illustrated and was discussed in other venues.
“There was times when I was on the sideline, I just wanted to go up and say to Belichick or Matt Patricia, and just say, ‘this how we’re gonna end this?’”, he said. “I grew up in the Patriots system, you know, and I’m a man of God. I respect my authority and I just couldn’t ask them for something they didn’t want to do. I just was doing my job”.
Butler, who recently rejoined his former cornerback partner Logan Ryan after signing with the Tennessee Titans as the latter did the offseason before, clearly seemed to lack a proper understanding for Belichick’s decision. He and Rowe (and the rest of the team) were only informed of this decision on the day of the game.
“I was close to going up there and saying what I wanted to say to Matt or Belichick, but I just stayed in my lane and just did my job. And I really wanted to go ask him, but I didn’t”.
Butler did offer at one point that the only possible explanation he could come up with was because he became ill leading up to the Super Bowl to the point that he spent time in a hospital. “They probably thought I was kind of late on the game plan; I wasn’t as locked in as I should be and could have been a matchup deal. It could have been anything”.
Still, I have to wonder how many other coaches would make that same decision for a fourth-year veteran who has spent most of his career as a full-time starter. And I can’t help but wonder when Butler will ask Belichick himself. The Titans do play the Patriots in 2018, in Tennessee, though the exact date is not set yet.