The Malcolm Butler conspiracy theorists may need to move on.
Bill Belichick famously benched Butler in Super Bowl LII, and it appears New England’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles was Butler’s last in a Patriots uniform, as the free agent cornerback reportedly will sign with the Tennessee Titans.
But those who believe Butler’s benching was caused by any off-field missteps or rifts with the coaching staff are reading too much into it, Peter King of the MMQB reported Wednesday.
“Someone inside the Patriots told me recently there’s nothing deep and dark and secret about what happened to him at the Super Bowl,” King wrote of Butler.
“He’d simply been playing like crap in practice and Bill Belichick did what he felt he needed to do to win the game — put Butler on the bench.”
King’s report isn’t exactly groundbreaking: ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported days after the Super Bowl that Butler’s benching was wholly a “performance-based” decision.
Conflicting accounts from Patriots players about who knew Butler wasn’t playing and rumors about him potentially missing curfew during Super Bowl week led to plenty of speculation, but at the end of the day, it appears Belichick just made a gut call that he’d be better off without Butler in his secondary against the Eagles.
That doesn’t let Belichick off the hook, of course, and King notes that making Butler dress for a game he wasn’t going to play in was “cutting off the nose to spite the face.” But let’s put those conspiracy theories to rest.