Reimer: Malcolm Butler interest from Bill Belichick disciples offers strong rebuke of Super Bowl benching

Alex Reimer
March 14, 2018 - 9:12 am

Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

We will probably never know the full story behind Malcolm Butler’s surprise Super Bowl benching. But the free agent interest Butler attracted from some ex-Bill Belichick disciples offers a strong rebuke of the Hoodie’s decision. Clearly, the rest of the league doesn’t view it as a big deal. 

Butler reportedly agreed to a massive contract with the Titans Tuesday, signing for five years and $61 million with more than $30 million guaranteed. The former Popeye’s employee and West Alabama University grad is now one of the 10 highest-paid corners in the NFL. It was a good day for him. 

In the days following Super Bowl LII, Butler released a statement denying reports he was benched for disciplinary reasons. He hasn’t addressed it since, and doesn’t have to, either. The contract speaks for itself –– as does the praise Butler's ex-teammates, ranging from Tom Brady to Devin McCourty, have heaped on him. 

The three teams who were reported to be pursuing Butler hardest all boast ties to the Patriots and Belichick. Titans general manager Jon Robinson worked in the Patriots front office from 2002-2013, serving as the club’s director of college scouting for the final four years of his tenure. Robinson’s background implies he ascribes to some of Belichick’s player personnel beliefs, or at least understands his evaluation methods. Yet, Robinson felt comfortable giving Butler the third-most guaranteed money out of any corner in the league, even though the Patriots reportedly low-balled Butler last offseason. 

Robinson isn't the only member of the Titans organization with Belichick ties. Mike Vrabel, of course, is Tennessee's new head coach. 

Even before the Super Bowl, it was apparent Belichick doesn't view Butler as an elite cornerback. Instead of paying Butler last year, the Patriots opted to give Stephon Gilmore $40 million guaranteed. 

The MMQB’s Peter King reports somebody “deep inside” the Patriots organization told him Butler was “playing like crap” in practice and Belichick thought he was better off benching the cornerback. If that’s the case, Lions head coach Matt Patricia saw those crappy practice performances, too. But that didn’t seem to scare him away. The Lions reportedly chased Butler as well.  

Patricia’s supposed attraction to Butler is telling. As the Patriots’ defensive coordinator, he was probably closer to Belichick than anybody else during Super Bowl week. Patricia likely knows everything that Belichick does. It did not impede him from pursuing Butler. That should speak volumes.

The Texans, who are led by ex-Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, reportedly were interested in Butler, too. 

Belichick is usually proven right when he makes unorthodox player personnel decisions. Robinson, Patricia and O’Brien are well aware of that. They also know Belichick’s thinking better than most, considering they all worked alongside him.

But that knowledge didn’t stop them from chasing Butler. On this one, it appears as if Belichick is on an island.