An explosive new book on the New England Patriots dynasty will address one of the biggest questions in franchise history:
Why was Malcolm Butler benched in Super Bowl LII?
ESPN reporter Seth Wickersham writes in “It’s Better to Be Feared” that Butler’s demotion came after a heated altercation with then-defensive coordinator Matt Patricia during practice.
From ESPN’s preview story on the book, which releases Oct. 12:
In the lead-up to Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles, Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia traded heated words at practice over the former Super Bowl hero’s lack of effort. Butler was demoted. At the team party after New England’s loss, Butler responded to teammates asking why he was benched by saying, “These dudes,” referring to the coaches, according to the book, “these mother f—ers.”
Butler famously played zero snaps on defense and just one on special teams in the Patriots’ 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He’d played 100 percent of defensive snaps in 13 games that season — including both playoff games before the Super Bowl — and more than 95 percent in four others.
In his postgame news conference in Minnesota, Patricia continuously cited “packages” as the reason for Butler’s benching.
“We were just trying to run some packages that we had for the game plan,” he said. “Those guys were out there for all the plays we needed them for.”
Butler left the Patriots after that season to sign with the Tennessee Titans. He signed with the Arizona Cardinals this past offseason but retired before Week 1.
Patricia went on to an unsuccessful tenure as Detroit Lions head coach, going 13-29-1 over 2 1/2 seasons. After one especially disappointing loss last September, he defended himself by citing Butler’s iconic interception that clinched Super Bowl XLIX for the Patriots.
“I think I got probably one of the biggest plays in the fourth quarter in the history of the NFL,” he said after the Lions blew a 23-6 lead in a loss to the Chicago Bears.
Patricia returned to the Patriots earlier this year as a senior advisor to head coach Bill Belichick.
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