Super Bowl LII marked a rare loss on the NFL’s biggest stage for the New England Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick. Years later, everyone remains baffled by Belichick’s decision to bench cornerback Malcolm Butler.
The move to sit Butler in the Super Bowl proved costly. New England lost 41-33, with the Philadelphia Eagles offense erupting for 538 total yards. Nick Foles delivered one of the best performances in his career, throwing three touchdowns with 373 passing yards.
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Butler, who played more than 700 snaps leading up to the Super Bowl, didn’t see the field in the loss to the Eagles. Not listed on the injury report before the Super Bowl, the unexplained benching raised eyebrows. Years later, it seems even long-time Patriots players don’t know what happened.
Appearing on Chris Long’s Green Light podcast, McCourty shared that he was never told why Butler was benched for that game and it remains a mystery to his peers.
“To this day, I still don’t know the exact reason why he didn’t play. When I saw he was coming out with a book and a documentary, I was like, ‘I can’t wait to read that.’ Gilly actually texted me and was like, ‘I’m going to buy this book ASAP.’”Former New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty on Malcolm Butler being benched for Super Bowl LII
As noted by Pro Football Talk, there remains a lot of speculation and rumors over what led to Belichick benching his best cornerback. Some reports indicated Butler got into a shouting match with Matt Patricia but no one ever confirmed the cause.
Speaking to Long in-depth about the moment, McCourty also said that the Patriots’ coaching staff made it vehemently clear the following season that the benching wouldn’t be addressed.
“Think about it: If there was something to know, we’re years past all of those guys on the team, and you haven’t heard anybody (reveal the reason). None of us knew. Matter of fact, the next year, I remember meeting with Flo and Flo was like, ‘Hey, we’ve got to make sure that whole situation doesn’t affect the team this year,’Devin McCourty on the season following the New England Patriots’ benching of Malcolm Butler
Butler spent the next three seasons with the Tennessee Titans before returning to the Patriots in 2022. However, he didn’t long a regular-season snap in New England last season and no additional details were ever provided on what happened years prior.