Bill Belichick Lauds Malcolm Butler, Dodges Super Bowl Benching Question

'Malcolm's a great story'

by

September 7, 2021

Over the weekend, we told you about a recent report from Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, who might have gotten us closer than ever before to the truth about the Malcolm Butler Super Bowl LII benching. We told you that, if we ever are to learn the full story, it likely will come from either an NFL insider or from Butler himself, in a post-retirement interview, or something.

That’s because Bill Belichick, as he once again proved Tuesday morning, never will talk about it.

During an appearance on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show,” Belichick was asked two questions: one, is Butler’s Super Bowl XLIX interception the greatest play in NFL history? And two, is benching Butler against the Philadelphia Eagles Belichick’s greatest regret?

The New England Patriots coach used the opportunity largely to focus on the impressive career of Butler, who reportedly is eyeing retirement. He also compared Butler to former Patriots receiver David Patten, who died last week in a motorcycle accident.

“Malcolm’s a great story,” Belichick said. “You’re talking about a kid that’s undrafted, really couldn’t even get into a training camp. And then, when we brought him up here for a rookie minicamp tryout — he wasn’t even signed when brought him up here — to see the fact that he had talent, and to see him grow and develop as a player, as a person when he was here, and what his four years of play here meant to this organization, it’s pretty impressive. There’s not a lot of guys that do what he (did). Although, J.C. Jackson has followed a similar path. But again that’s very unusual, just in terms of playing time and all that.

“I always enjoyed coaching Malcolm, and I have a lot of respect for the way he competed and what he did, very similar to David Patten, coming from nowhere and establishing (himself) and having a really good NFL career. … Business is business and sometimes players move on for better opportunities, like Malcolm did to Tennessee or David Patten did when he signed in Washington.

Finally addressing the question about the benching, Belichick added: “In retrospect, again, looking back, I always try to do what’s best for the football team. And that’s what I’ll continue to do — try to look ahead and not back too much.”

Again, there is a zero percent chance Belichick reveals what truly led to the most controversial decision of his coaching career. Perhaps a better question would be, “In hindsight, do you believe benching Butler was what was best for the team?”

He probably would dodge that, too, but who knows?

If Butler’s NFL career indeed is over, it certainly is worthy of praise. In addition to providing arguably the greatest play in Super Bowl history, the West Alabama product earned one Pro Bowl nod, won two Super Bowls and scored one well-deserved payday over seven improbable seasons.

Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images
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