MINNEAPOLIS -- Say this for Bill Belichick: He's consistent. It's the quality that many players, including Tom Brady, reference first when explaining what makes Belichick as effective as he is as a head coach.
On a Monday morning conference call after his team's 41-33 loss to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII, Belichick remained consistent in his message when asked why Malcolm Butler did not play a single defensive snap in the game.
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"I respect Malcolm's competitiveness," Belichick said when a reporter noted Butler's emotional postgame response to the benching. "I'm sure that he felt like he could've helped. I'm sure other players felt the same way. In the end, we have to make decisions that are best for the football team."
Butler had played all but seven Patriots defensive snaps since Week 2 of the regular season, including playoffs. That he was sidelined for the entirety of the game, aside from one snap on New England's punt-return unit, prompted multiple questions as to why that was best for the team.
One follow-up mentioned fans who invest emotionally were still curious about the decision.
"I appreciate the question," Belichick said, "but it would be a much longer discussion. There are a lot of things that go into that. In the end, the final decision is what I said it was."
The Eagles threw for 374 yards and four touchdowns in the game. The 538 yards allowed by New England's defense were the most ever surrendered by a Patriots unit coached by Belichick -- one more than the 537 surrendered to Kansas City in the season opener.
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Belichick and Matt Patricia utilized their safeties heavily in the contest, keeping Devin McCourty (73 snaps), Duron Harmon (64) and Patrick Chung (61) on the field for the majority of the game. Jordan Richards played 15 snaps in the contest.
At corner, Stephon Gilmore (73) never came off, and Eric Rowe played the vast majority of snaps (70). Even seldom-used corner Johnson Bademosi (10 snaps) saw time over Butler. Bademosi was inactive for the Divisional Round game against the Titans, and he did not play defensively in the AFC Championship Game.
Asked what made Bademosi the choice in three-corner sets over Butler, Belichick replied, "[Bademosi] practiced it the most."
By the time the call ended, questions about the situation lingered, but Belichick had held firm. In his mind, benching Butler was best for the team. We still just don't know why that is.