Ouch. You hate to see this. While you were reacting yesterday to the Patriots annual loss of some other franchise’s September Super Bowl and celebrating Bill Belichick dropping the Gordon Stone into his Receiver Infinity Gauntlet, you might have missed this little metric. That Malcolm Butler is being targeted. That he’s given up the most yards in the NFL and the most touchdowns. It’s bad. And getting worse.
And while it’s hard to blame this touchdown completely on Butler because it looks like Mike Vrabel had his team in pattern match coverage, where he was playing DeAndre Hopkins in man until he slid toward the middle and then released him to the inside defenders:
… this is not the kind of space you want to see your star corner give one of the best wideouts in the game:
Though to his credit, Malcolm Go has learned the veteran move of broad, physical gestures to let the stadium and TV cameras know it was somebody else’s fault:
What you can’t excuse or point away is when it’s one-on-one coverage and your assignment takes a flamethrower to you. Like that Kenny Stills TD in Week 1::
Or this Will Fuller V bomb Sunday:
Yeah, you hate to see that. That is not what Jon Robinson spent $61 million for. You invest that much of your salary cap expecting to get a corner who can shut down another team’s top wideout. Period. He’s doing the opposite. There was nothing complex about those coverages. No reads, combo routes, picks or double moves. Just receivers lining up against Malcolm Butler, mano-y-mano. Showdowns. Knowing they can run 9-routes against him and he doesn’t have the physical skills to keep up. Coordinators and quarterbacks have this on tape now and are targeting him. And it’s sad to see.
I have my faults, but ingratitude isn’t one of them. Butler will forever hold a special place in my heart and if any man allows him to reach for his wallet in any bar, restaurant or coffee shop in New England the rest of his life, he should be shunned by society. All I’m saying is that, if you think Malcolm would be the answer to the Patriots problems in the secondary against Jacksonville, I’m afraid you’ve got another thing coming. He is a bad cornerback right now and it’s only getting worse.
Belichick is a man of many genius-level talents, but none more so than his ability to know when he’s gotten the best out of a player and it’s time to move on. Celebrate what Butler did in XLIX, always. Appreciate how good he became after that. Remember fondly the second ring he won in LI. Mourn his absence from LII. But if you think the Patriots would be better off if they locked him up for 5 years with $30 million guaranteed like the Titans did, you’re delusional.