Think the New England Patriots might have won Super Bowl LII if Malcolm Butler hadn’t been stapled to the sideline? Butler agrees.
During an episode of “SI: Under the Cover” that chronicled Butler’s free agency, the now-former Patriots cornerback said he would have made a difference in New England’s 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I never missed a game,” Butler said. “Never missed practice or anything like that. Would we have won if I played? Probably. Maybe. I’m not sure. But I would say we were short about one or two plays, and I saw a couple plays out there I could have made.”
After leading the Patriots in defensive snaps during the regular season and not leaving the field during the two preceding playoff games, Butler did not play a single snap on defense in Super Bowl LII. That proved to be his final game in a Patriots uniform, as he signed a five-year, $61 million with the Tennessee Titans one month later.
“There were times that I was on the sideline that I just wanted to go up and say to (Bill) Belichick or Matt Patricia and just say, ‘This is how we’re going to end this?’ ” said Butler, who became a Patriots legend with his game-sealing interception in Super Bowl XLIX.
“I grew up in the Patriots system, and I’m a well-mannered guy. I respect my authority. I just couldn’t ask them for something they didn’t want to do. I just was doing my job. I was close to going up there and saying what I wanted to say to Matt or Belichick, but I just stayed in my lane and just did my job, man. I really wanted to go ask them, but I didn’t.”
“Under the Cover” offered a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at Butler during the six weeks between Super Bowl Sunday and the day he signed with the Titans. Some other highlights:
— Butler said he had hoped to finish his career with the Patriots, but that he did not want to play for a team that did not want him.
“I wanted to go out like Kobe Bryant,” he said. “Now, I might not be Kobe Bryant or never be Kobe Bryant, but I always told myself that I always wanted to finish my career on one team and just go out like that. But no one wants to be somewhere where they’re not wanted.”
— The documentary showed a phone call between Butler and running back Dion Lewis, whom the cornerback sought out for advice as both navigated through free agency.
“I’m in a similar boat right now,” said Lewis, who enjoyed a career year for the Patriots in 2017. “… I thought it would be a lot easier.”
Both players wound up signing with Tennessee, where they’ll rejoin ex-Patriots teammate Logan Ryan.
— According to Butler’s agent, Derek Simpson, the Titans, Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans and Detroit Lions showed the most interest in Butler. Chicago made a contract offer of three years, $30 million, and the Saints were interested in offering him a one-year deal.
“That’s a trial contract,” said Butler, who played on a one-year, $3.91 million tender in 2017.
The Titans initially offered Butler a five-year contract worth $11 million per year before returning with a five-year, $61 million offer that he gladly accepted.
“Most people know me for Super Bowl XLIX and, of course, Super Bowl LII,” Butler said. “What will I be known for next? A great Tennessee Titan player. … You’ll see a better Malcolm Butler on and off the field.”
— The episode closed with a phone conversation between a newly wealthy Butler and his mother.
“Hey Ma, you ready to go to Nashville?” Butler said. “I signed a $61M deal with the Titans. Yeah, yeah, stop screaming, Ma.”
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images