Why Didn’t Bill Belichick Play Malcolm Butler During the Super Bowl?

The benched Patriots cornerback says he doesn't know what he did wrong. "I could have changed that game."

Photo via AP/Steven Senne

Update February 6: Butler has now commented on Twitter about the whole situation, saying his benching had nothing to do with attending a concert or missing his curfew, or “any of the ridiculous activities being reported,” calling the rumors both false and hurtful. He also apologized for the slightly colorful language he used when speaking about the issue on Super Bowl Sunday, and said he can’t wait for the 2018 season to get here.


Losing last night was hard enough, but imagine what Malcolm Butler is going through. For some reason that is still not entirely clear, the Patriots cornerback famous for saving the team at Super Bowl 49 with a game-winning interception was benched for the entire game.

Despite playing in every other match-up of the regular season, he wasn’t on the field for a single defensive snap, and only played with special teams.

After the game, he was visibly dejected.

“They gave up on me. F—. It is what it is,” an “emotional” Butler told ESPN’s 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, who will be a free agent to start the next season and would likely have played his last game ever with the Pats last night, was seen crying during the National Anthem, which some suspected was a sign he’d been told he wouldn’t play. His replacement on the field, Eric Rowe reportedly didn’t even know he was starting until game time.

So what, exactly, happened? We still don’t know.

Asked about the puzzling decision, Coach Bill Belichick said the Butler benching was not disciplinary. “We put the best players out there and the game plan out there that we thought would be the best tonight, like we always do,” he said.

That was echoed by Defensive Coach Matt Patricia, who said the players on the field “were out there for all the situations that we needed them for.”

In expletive-laced Instagram story videos about the decision, former Patriots corner Brandon Browner railed against it, called it a “power trip” and said made it hard to root for his team.

“Man, Bill wasn’t right at all tonight,” Browner said. “I don’t know how to feel watching that shit without my homie playing … whether to cheer for their ass. That dude started every game for that team.

“You play every game of the season but the Super Bowl, I can’t rock with that,” he added. “You divide the locker room when you do that.”

Seriously, what happened?

We may never know. We just hope Malcolm’s OK.