BOSTON (CBS) — It’s been a week since the Patriots fell to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII, and we’re still digging for answers surrounding the game’s biggest controversy.
Why in the heck did Bill Belichick bench starting cornerback Malcolm Butler? Belichick said it was a football decision after the game, and based on what we’ve learned in the days following the loss, Butler was not left on the sidelines for any disciplinary reasons.
But there has to be something more to the puzzling move, one that Belichick stuck with even as his secondary was being torched on the field. ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss is still digging for answers, and has been told by numerous people that it was strictly a football decision based on how Butler was practicing leading up to Super Bowl LII and the macthups the Eagles presented.
Even Reiss finds that hard to believe.
“It leaves you wondering ‘what am I missing here?’ It may have been a football decision based on what we knew going into the game, but as the plan unfolded, maybe you try something different. That would be the one area to question,” Reiss told Steve Burton on Sunday night’s edition of Sports Final on WBZ-TV. “To not even try it for one snap? If you think having Jordan Richards or Johnson Bademosi out there are better options for you, that’s a hard one for Patriots fans, and for me covering the team, to digest and accept if all things are equal.”
After playing nearly every snap during the regular season and New England’s first two playoffs games, Butler saw the field for just one special teams snap in the Super Bowl. He had his share of struggles covering opponents during the regular season, but he’s lauded as one of the better tackling corners in the NFL. Tackling was a major issue for the Patriots against the Eagles, so there’s little doubt Butler could have made a difference on that front as Philadelphia racked up 538 total yards on their way to a Super Bowl title.
“On the surface, it just doesn’t add up. This is a smart coaching staff and that was just so far outside the box,” said Reiss. “Why not [change it up] during the game? That’s the part, to me, that is so surprising.”
Watch the full segment in the video above, and tune in to Sports Final every Sunday night at 11:35 p.m. on WBZ-TV!