Butler’s benching remains a Super Bowl mystery

Staff photo by TOM KING New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler's benching was a mystery in the 41-33 Super Bowl loss to the Eagles Sunday night.

The Malcolm Butler mystery is hanging over the Patriots heads like a sharp sword ready to drop.

Three years ago he was a Super Bowl hero, then he turned that into a starting role at cornerback.

But in the New England Patriots’ 41-33 loss at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles, he was missing in action, the decision of the Patriots coaching staff. He only played on special teams, not on defense, and the Eagles sliced and diced their way through that New England unit to the tune of 538 yards and the Patriots defense helped turn perennial backup Nick Foles into a Super Bowl MVP quarterback.

“They gave up on me,” Butler told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “Bleep. It is what it is.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said there was no discipline involved. Strictly football.

“Yes,” Belichick said. “We put the best players out there and the game plan out there because we thought it’d be the best (way) to win.”

Rowe said he didn’t know he was starting until kickoff. And he certainly didn’t expect Butler not to play. Not a player who missed just 26 defensive snaps in the entire season.

“No, that wasn’t the plan,” Rowe said. “He is an amazing player. … We could have used anybody. Whoever the coaches throw in, obviously, we have full confidence in them to affect the game. We could have used anybody.”

“We were just trying to run some packages we had on defense,” Patriots defensive coordinator – at least until he gets hired to coach the Lions – said. “Those guys that were out there were out there for all the situations we needed them for. So, it kind of turned out that way and the game with the way it went and some of the situations that came up, that was just kind of the way it went.”

It seems that Butler’s illness the last week or so seemed to have an impact.

“Again, we had some guys in different spots that we practiced, and in those spots for a couple of weeks,” Patricia said. “We just felt good about some of those situations out there and some of the matchups that we had that they possessed, based on the skillset that they have.”

Patricia was asked why Butler would even be active if he wasn’t going to play. “I mean, we needed enough guys to be active for the game to play,” he said. “For whatever situation that came up, if he was called upon, he was ready to play in those packages if the situation arose.”

Patricia and Butler likely have one thing in common – they have both appeared in their last game as Patriots. Butler is an unrestricted free agent and it certainly seems as though the Patriots likely won’t bring him back. And after Sunday, it seems he wouldn’t want to be back, anyway.

“Yeah, he is a very emotional guy,” Rowe said. “He has a lot of passion for the game. It’s not often you go to the Super Bowl. I know he has gone a few times, but I feel for him.”

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Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was asked after the game if he was possibly retiring because of the concussion factor. He was in protocol for nearly two weeks after suffering a concussion in the AFC Championship Game.

“I don’t know how you heard that, but I mean I’m definitely going to look at my future, for sure. I’m going to sit down in the next couple of weeks and see where I’m at. … I’m just going to reflect on the season and just see what happens.”

Has he seriously thought about retiring?

“We just lost,” he said. “I just want to sit back, relax the next couple of weeks. Really, I’ve got nothing to say about that right now.”