Patriots stars still mad at Belichick over unexplained Super Bowl gaffe – report
The New England Patriots are generally regarded as one of the NFL’s fortresses of professionalism, where coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady preside on the sideline and the general response to any controversy usually becomes “on to the next game.”
This offseason, though, that armor looks awfully dented, especially with a new report claiming that Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski are still angry at Belichick for benching cornerback Malcolm Butler during New England’s 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII.
According to Mike Florio of NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk, the benching is a key factor in why neither Brady nor Gronkowski have fully committed to playing the 2018 season.
Florio pointed out that “a full eleven weeks later, coach Bill Belichick still hasn’t shed any light on the decision to use Butler for only one special-teams play and to keep him on the bench even after the Philly offense shredded the New England defense enough to force a change to the dime package during a 30-minute halftime.”
“None of the theories that have made the rounds fully hold water, and as one coach with another team previously pointed out to PFT, the fact that Butler took practice reps during the week before the Super Bowl strongly suggests that the move was disciplinary,” Florio added. “Some have suggested that Butler may have had an unauthorized visitor in his room during the week before the game, but security at the J.W. Marriott at the Mall of America was too high to allow players to sneak someone in.”
What this means is that only Belichick knows how Butler got out of his good graces, and he’s not saying a word.
For a team that couldn’t stop Nick Foles and lost a game in which Brady and the rest of the offense put 33 points on the board, Butler’s benching must naturally stick in the craw of the offense.
It was New England’s next-to-worst defensive performance in their ten Super Bowl appearances, second only to the Patriots’ 46-10 shellacking at the hands of 1985-86 Chicago Bears.
Butler, meanwhile, is no longer in New England, as the Tennessee Titans were more than happy to take him off Belichick’s hands.
Indeed, the Titans, who are coached by former Patriot Mike Vrabel and whose general manager, Jon Robinson, has ties to the franchise, surely didn’t see the $30 million they committed as an undue risk, thus begging the question — what happened between Butler and Belichick?
Brady, for his part, has had beef with his team since Belichick cracked down on the quarterback’s trainer, Alex Guerrero. The fact that Guerrero has apparently become persona non grata in the Patriots’ locker room may just be enough for Brady to decide that turning 41 in August means he should “spend more time with his family.”
And Gronkowski might be setting up for a contract holdout, as he’s set to earn just under $9 million million this year.
Gronkowski may just decide that if the Patriots aren’t going to either pay him what he’s worth or let him walk as a free agent, it might be time for him to invoke the too-many-concussions rhetoric and get out of football before his brain takes any more damage.
Indeed, Gronkowski already decided that “voluntary” team workouts were in fact not just another word for mandatory. The attitude he displayed, saying he’s got “dirt biking skills to work on” when asked about his absence, seems to suggest that football isn’t his first priority.
Once a player reaches that point, it’s usually the end of his days in Belichick’s all-football-all-the-time universe.
So while it’s just the offseason and everything could work itself out over the next few months, some might say this is the beginning of the end of a 17-year era in the NFL.
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