Devin McCourty Says the Patriots Knew All Week Malcolm Butler Wouldn't Start

NJ.com  – Devin McCourty played defense without Malcolm Butler in the Super Bowl, and now he is coming to the defense of his much-scrutinized teammate as the NFL offseason gets underway. …

“As far as I know, [the rumor Butler was benched for disciplinary reasons] is the furthest thing from the truth,” McCourty told NJ Advance Media. “We all knew he wasn’t starting all week. That wasn’t a secret to the guys on the team.

“I get why people are fishing. The guy played 98 percent of the plays. I just hate that for him character-wise going into free agency. It’s just not true. As far as I know — and I was there all week — not one time did anything come up.” …

“It sucked for him,” McCourty said. “He put a lot of time and effort in. However it falls, the last thing you want to do is not play a snap. To me, the worst part was to see all that (anonymous) stuff come out after.”

I’ll pause for a second to give you the chance to say “Looks like you were right again, Old Balls.” Done? OK, now we can proceed.

Here’s what I wrote two days after Belichick left Butler standing on the sidelines shamed, disgraced and humiliated like he was Michael Rappoport:

What could Butler have done that is so egregious that the most bloodthirsty, hyper-competitive leader in the history of organized sport would put him in the Time Out chair in the Super Bowl? The answer is nothing. There is no behavior issue so bad he’d bench a starter to prove some point. …

It’s lunacy to believe Belichick would have 60 minutes standing between him and naming his boat VIII Rings and think that’s the perfect time for some teachable moment. Or to prove some point about how he’s still swinging the biggest dick around Foxboro. But it’s perfectly plausible that he’d find himself with a starter who, for whatever reason, didn’t have his head on straight to play in the Super Bowl and sub in someone he felt he could trust more. Consequences, public opinion and how it played in the locker room be damned.

Of course that went against the grain of everything we were hearing at the time. There were rumors about Butler missing the team bus, missing curfew, getting caught with weed. I just heard one yesterday about him going clubbing back in New England when he was too sick to fly out with the team. But as McCourty confirms, it wasn’t disciplinary. It was the coach’s decision based on what he thought gave him the best chance to win. It wasn’t some snap overreaction made at the last minute or some punitive move just to embarrass the guy. It was a game-planning decision, thoroughly gone over and thought through days in advance. Right or wrong.

I’ll admit it still doesn’t make sense from the outside looking in. The results speak for themselves. The secondary couldn’t have played worse if they’d covered Zach Ertz with a 47-year-old unemployed actor who calls his own audience “idiots.”

But that is part of the mad, diabolical genius of Belichick. He’ll tear up the playbook, go off script and do insane things, and more often then not it works out. Way more often. In “The Two Bills” ep of 30 for 30, they go over some of the postseason game plans he came up with in the Giants Super Bowl runs that his players thought were insane. Playing Man for the first time all season against the 49ers West Coast offense. Showing the Redskins a front they hadn’t played all year. Telling his players the key to beating Buffalo was letting Thurman Thomas have 100 yards rushing, which no running back had done to them. And so on. Schopenhauer said that talent hits a target no one can hit, genius hits a target no one else cans see. It’s just this time, the genius missed the target.

The other part of dealing with Belichick is that he will never explain himself, no matter how much shit he takes. Not ever. The whole world has been pelting him with rocks and garbage ever since the benching. And while there’s probably some explanation he could give that would make him look good, he still wouldn’t say a word. He’d rather take the abuse and stay silent, even at his own expense. For instance, he could say this:

But he won’t. None of this means I agree with the decision. But there’s no one in the history of the human race I’d rather have making it.

@jerrythornton1