The last time we saw the New England Patriots in a meaningful football game, their defense was getting 538 yards dropped on them by the Philadelphia Eagles in a Super Bowl loss. This all happened while starting cornerback Malcolm Butler, who had played nearly 98 percent of the defensive snaps in the regular season, sat inexplicably on the bench. Head coach Bill Belichick has never offered a satisfying explanation for why this happened, and as a result people have not stopped asking him about it.
During a press conference at training camp this morning, the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy pressed Belichick about the Butler decision multiple times. Here’s the full exchange:
Belichick hardly ever grumbles more than a few syllables when a reporter tries to bait him, but Shaughnessy seemed to actually get under his skin a bit. When Shaughnessy asked him if he cared that fans still want answers about what happened with Butler, Belichick unleashed what qualifies as a rant for him:
I’m focused on doing the best I can for the 2018 New England Patriots. That’s my job, that’s what I’m going to do. That’s what I’ve always done in the past. Every day that I’ve coached here, I’ve done the best I can for this football team and I’ll continue to do that. Right now, my focus is on the 2018 season. Not 2017. Not 2014. Not 2007. Not 2004. Not 2001. Not 2000. I’m not focused on any of those seasons. They’re done.
Normally I’d consider a line of questioning like Shaughnessy’s to be tiresome, obvious grandstanding, but this is a situation in which a months-old coaching decision actually deserves continued scrutiny. Not only did Belichick bench his best and most reliable corner before the biggest game of the season, he then refused to fix his own mistake and put Butler back in while the Eagles continued to light up his secondary. This was an act of coaching malpractice carried out during the goddamn Super Bowl, and Belichick’s refusal to explain why it happened should continue to be called out. I say keep asking him about it until he retires.