Patriots cornerback was controversially benched by Bill Belichick for Super Bowl LII, playing solely on special teams in the 41-33 loss to the Eagles.
The reasons for this were shrouded in mystery on Sunday but stories are now beginning to emerge that suggest a number of issues throughout the week led to the decision.
According to NFL.com Insider Ian Rapoport, the decision to bench the team's best cornerback cannot be pinned on one particular issue. Rather, a series of minor problems throughout the build up to the game led Belichick and his staff to confine Butler to special teams action.
Butler had told ESPN's Mike Reiss that the team "...gave up on me." and whilst there is clearly some substance to his claims, the actions taken by the Patriots certainly don't seem to be unwarranted.
Rapoport stated that he was benched due to "a perfect storm of issues" including the 27-year-old arriving a day late to Minneapolis due to illness. Butler reportedly struggled all week in practice and violated a team rule which is believed to be in relation to team curfew:
"There was a small or minor violation of team rules that happened earlier in the week that is one thing. And then there are some attitudes, frustrations as well. All of this combined to put Malcolm Butler not on the field with his teammates trying to win the Super Bowl, but on the sideline watching."
The former pro bowler was upset in the locker room after the game, telling Mike Reiss: "I don't know what it was. I guess I wasn't playing good or they didn't feel comfortable. I don't know. But I could have changed that game."
Butler played nearly 98% of New England's defensive snaps all season and whilst he wasn't having an outstanding year, his competitive instincts and big game experience could have been valuable in a game where one defensive stop would've drastically changed it's course.
His defensive abilities were sorely missed in the first half in particular as the Eagles' smart play calling took advantage of favourable matchups out wide. Alshon Jeffery dominated his one on one battle with Eric Rowe early on, forcing Stephon Gillmore to switch on to him.
However, stand in corner Johnson Bademosi was then targeted a number of times in space and the void left by Butler was clear to see.
Belichick stood by the decision though, saying: "We put the best -- the players out there and the game plan out there that we thought would be the best tonight like we always do."
Former Patriot corner Brandon Browner didn't hesitate to criticise his old coach's decision, positing an expletive-laden rant on Instagram in Butler's defence.
The 583 yards given up by the Patriots defense on Sunday were the most in any game in the Belichick era. Nick Foles and the Eagles offense torched them in every possible way on the way to an impressive first Super Bowl win for the franchise.
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