New England Patriots: The curious case of Malcolm Butler continues

New England Patriots Malcolm Butler
New England Patriots Malcolm Butler /

Just when the Malcolm Butler drama was beginning to quiet down, New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty added more fuel to the drama. 

Did New England Patriots players know Malcolm Butler was not starting in Super Bowl LII?

According to starting safety and captain Devin McCourty, players knew that Butler’s role would be limited the week leading up to the big game. His revelation in theory further solidifies Bill Belichick’s claim of not starting Butler as a football decision.

"“We all knew he wasn’t starting all week.  That wasn’t a secret to the guys on the team,” McCourty told"

I say in theory because moments following the 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, cornerback Eric Rowe said he did not know he was starting in place of Butler till moments before the game.

Unless the rest of the team somehow forgot to tell the man starting in the biggest game of the season, McCourty’s claim that all the players knew doesn’t hold much weight if Rowe claims he was surprised himself.

Plus, we all witnessed Malcolm Butler crying before the game.  Unless he was emotional for other reasons not connected to the team, it is hard to believe something didn’t transpire between Butler and the coaching staff that played a role in him not playing a defensive snap at all.

And it is because Butler played 97.8 percent of the snaps during the regular season and playoffs prior to the Super Bowl that has inquiring minds curious as to what caused the benching.  Devin McCourty understands the fact, but still dispelled any truth to the rumors that has been swirling surrounding Butler being possibly disciplined.

"“I get why people are fishing,” McCourty said.  “The guy played 98 percent of the plays.  I just hate that for him character-wise going into free agency.  It’s just not true.  As far as I know – and I was there all week – not one time did anything come up.”"

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While it sounds like McCourty is trying to protect Butler, his revelation just adds to the mystery.  Please note, he makes it clear in his interview with that the players knew that he wasn’t starting, but did not know he wasn’t going to play.

The veteran safety went on to applaud Malcolm Butler as a “great teammate” and talked about how he watched the 27-year-old cornerback grow over the past three seasons.

Possible backlash?

Devin McCourty’s statement didn’t sit well with “First Take” host Stephen A. Smith.  The ESPN analyst said in a segment of the show that he did not believe McCourty’s claim that the other New England Patriots players knew.

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He also took a moment to go off on Bill Belichick once again.  Describing the Malcolm Butler benching as “an exercise in cruelty,” the outspoken “First Take” co-host questioned whether free agents would actually go play for Belichick after witnessing his treatment of Butler during the Super Bowl.

"“And as far as I’m concerned, any player should think twice about going to play for this man after a move like that,” Smith said, as transcribed by WEEI.  “Because if I can bust my tail and put my health on the line all year long, and then we get to the biggest moment that’s possibly imaginable, and you can sit up there and get rid of me at that particular moment in time?  What incentive do I have to want to play for you?”"

While Smith makes a point, he does not know exactly what went on between Butler and Belichick up to that moment.  None of us know, which is why this story is intriguing.  The coach isn’t offering anything up and neither is the player.

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Stephen A. Smith and any other person throwing names and making assumptions at either party should hold off until some truth is revealed.  Perhaps, the truth has already been revealed.  It could’ve been a football decision that didn’t work in Belichick or the New England Patriots favor.

It does happen.