Malcolm Butler Super Bowl LII benching explained as a 'perfect storm' of issues

The New England Patriots are still asking questions about Super Bowl LII. Or, at least, we're all still asking questions about some of the Patriots decisions in Super Bowl LII. Most notably, why did Malcolm Butler end up sitting out the entire Super Bowl, save for a lone special-teams play.

Former Patriots player Brandon Browner revealed in multiple Instagram posts he believes Butler violated a couple of rules, and rumblings around Minneapolis indicate it might have been a curfew problem for Butler as well.

As it turns out, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, it was basically "a perfect storm" of things from start to finish for Butler in the week leading up to the Super Bowl.

"There are several factors that led Malcolm Butler, one of the team's top defensive players, to not be on the field for the Super Bowl," Rapoport explained. "Among those: he showed up a day later than teammates because he was sick. Remember he was not at Opening Night, that was a factor. I'm also told that during practice this week, he really struggled, had a rough week of practice. Perhaps because of illness, but maybe because of ... other things. That was one thing they had to consider in putting Eric Rowe out there instead of him. I'm also told there were also disciplinary issues. There was a small or minor violation of team rules that happened earlier in the week. Then there's some attitudes, frustrations as well.

"All of this combined to put Malcolm Butler not on the field to win the Super Bowl but on the sideline watching."

The whole thing is wild: Butler played a single special-teams snap that week, punished for the length of the game by Belichick and his coaching staff despite being a player who could have potentially helped to limit the Eagles passing offense. 

Say what you want about Butler's play this season, but he would have been an upgrade on the field. What's the worst-case scenario? The Eagles drop a 40-burger in the Super Bowl with him out there? 

Rumors have surfaced about locker room issues, and Butler made it clear he believes the Patriots "gave up on me." The Eagles were also stunned by the lack of Butler on the field -- he is one of their three or four best defensive players on a unit that isn't loaded with top-end talent.

Butler missed Opening Night because of an illness that caused him to arrive to Super Bowl week late. That in and of itself is not worthy of a benching. But a bunch of different things happening to Butler over the course of the week? It's conceivable it all adds up to being worth Belichick sitting Butler down. 

But Belichick said after the game it was not a disciplinary issue.

"No," Belichick said in his typically eloquent fashion, before responding to a follow-up question about it being simply about football by saying "Yes." 

The Pats coach did say it would take a longer discussion to hash out the Butler issues.

It cannot have been "just about football" though. The Patriots gave up more than 370 passing yards to Nick Foles and couldn't cover the Eagles wideouts. They were gashed in the passing game and with a Super Bowl title on the line, Belichick left Butler on the sideline. 

"We put the best players out there and the gameplan out there because we thought it'd be the best to win," Belichick said when asked why he would start Eric Rowe over Butler. 

It's really hard to take all of this at face value coming out of a brutal Patriots Super Bowl loss where they couldn't slow down Foles. There is bound to be plenty of drama still to emerge, with a pile of issues relating to Butler's benching in Super Bowl LII.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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