One of the greatest football mysteries that will likely never be answered was New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s decision to bench Malcolm Butler for Super Bowl LII. That decision might have cost the Patriots a sixth Super Bowl, and it certainly burned a bridge with one of the most beloved players in franchise history.
“I ain’t got nothing to say,” Butler said, per ESPN’s Mike Reiss. “They gave up on me. F—. It is what it is. I don’t know what it was. I guess I wasn’t playing good or they didn’t feel comfortable. I don’t know. But I could have changed that game.”
Butler could have an opportunity to change life for the struggling New York Jets.
According to New York Newsday’s Calvin Watkins, Gang Green is showing interest in signing the 28-year-old corner in the offseason.
Hearing Jets will look into signing CB Malcolm Butler. With everything it’s all about the price.
— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) February 27, 2018
Butler joining the Jets would heap more gasoline on the never-ending fire of the Patriots-Jets rivalry. It would also give the former Pro Bowler two shots a year at extracting revenge on Belichick.
Butler helped the Patriots win two Super Bowls, including one where he caught the game-winning interception. He was repaid by Belichick stiffing him on a long-term deal and handing the contract to Stephon Gilmore, who came over from the Buffalo Bills. The Super Bowl LII benching drove the nail in the coffin for any hope of reconciliation.
That isn’t to say Belichick wasn’t justified in his reasons for doing what he did. He’s just so secretive we’ll never know about them.
The Jets are still dealing with a makeover in the post-Darrelle Revis era. They cut ties with the longtime corner last season and attempted to rebuild the back end of the defense. Former Dallas Cowboy defensive back Morris Claiborne was brought in on a one-year deal to ease that transition. The combination of Claiborne and Buster Skrine had its fair share of problems, but it at least provided some stability at corner.
Butler is a scrappy defensive back with a long history of making big plays. The Jets could sign him to a long-term deal, re-sign Claiborne, and move Skrine back into the slot. That unit sounds more formidable than what they had last season.
They’d also have the opportunity to hurt the Patriots in the process.
It’s easy to forget Butler served as the team’s No. 1 corner for the previous two seasons before Gilmore came on board. If he can raise his level of play to 2015 or 2016 form, he’d be a major lift to Todd Bowles’ defense and a perennial thorn in Belichick’s side.