When the new NFL season begins, Malcolm Butler will no longer be on the New England Patriots roster. After signing with Tennessee, it is time to take a look at the impact the all-pro cornerback had in his four years with the team.
On the day before the official start of the 2018 NFL season, Butler agreed to terms with the Tennessee Titans.
A long time coming
After Butler was benched in the Super Bowl for what is still a little bit of a mystery, not one soul expected the four-year Patriot to stay in New England. As far back as last offseason, it seemed like Butler was halfway out the door.
The Patriots front office did not view Butler as a long term number one cornerback. After just one season at the number one spot, New England shopped him around and nearly completed a trade with New Orleans. Then, after things fell through, the Patriots signed Stephon Gilmore to a four-year deal and tendered Malcolm Butler. They refused to commit to the young defensive for an extended period of time.
That uncertainty to start the year led into just an average season for Butler. No longer was he the up-and-comer, the young bull who was hungry. He was second fiddle to Gilmore on an underperforming defense. The fire was gone. Butler simply blended in through the regular season and into the postseason. Then came the infamous Super Bowl Mystery.
The nail in the coffin
Malcolm Butler played no defensive snaps in Super Bowl LII. At first, no one could understand why he was benched. Why would Bill Belichick sit his second-best cornerback in the most important game of the season. What did Malcolm Butler do? Why was he crying before the game?
Then, rumors started to come out. “I heard Butler was late to a team meeting”. “No, I heard he was caught with weed”. “Actually, I think he was just sick”. “Maybe it was all of these things combined?”
Whatver caused Belichick to sit Butler was the final chapter in his time with the Patriots. Once the Patriots lost without Butler getting on the field, he might as well have cleaned out his locker early.
Many thought Butler could have made a big difference against an Eagles offense that was never slowed down. Instead, Butler’s benching started to divide Patriots fans. Did Belichick make a mistake? Is it Butler’s fault that he made too many dumb decisions? We may never know.
A legend in my book
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Still, no matter what happened, Butler will live in Patriots lore forever. I, and hopefully many other Patriots fans, will always think of one moment when the name “Malcolm Butler” is spoken. He is responsible for, if not the greatest, one of the greatest moments in Patriots history.
In ten years, when Butler is out of the league and Tom Brady wins his ninth Super Bowl ring, don’t think of the time Malcolm Butler sat on the sidelines for the entirety of Super Bowl LII. Don’t think of the offseason when Butler was nearly traded to New Orleans.
Remember where you were when Malcolm Butler stepped in front of Ricardo Lockette for a goal line interception and clinched the Patriots’ fourth Super Bowl. Think back to when you first saw Tom Brady jumping up and down and Richard Sherman’s horrified face. When you reflect on Malcolm Butler’s time in New England, think of how many extra memories an undrafted rookie out of West Alabama gave an entire fanbase.
I will always wear my No. 21 Malcolm Butler jersey with pride and satisfaction. For the rest of time, I will remember jumping up and down, screaming at the top of my lungs when I watched the Patriots win the Super Bowl for the first time. I will remember watching a 24-year old undrafted rookie crying tears of joy on the sidelines after making the play of his life.
Malcolm Butler will always be a legend in New England. Nothing can change that.
Goosebumps every single time.
Thank you, Malcolm Butler.