Whats the deal with Malcolm Butler's reduced playing time?
If anyone was to play a game of chess with Bill Belichick you would have lost before you even started playing. He always is 10 steps ahead of any other coach (or person for that matter) in the league and that's why he is the best of all time. This Malcolm Butler saga that started this past offseason is no different.
Butler notably wasn't in the starting lineup against the Saints last Sunday. Everyone who was asked about the lineup downplayed the importance because oftentimes Belichick doesn't always start his best players when matchups dictate so that's not the issue here.
Butler's play has been an issue since this summer and is much more telling than a simple lineup switch. He got absolutely torched all preseason and his play has continued into the regular season. He let up a touchdown against the Saints and hasn't looked like his dominate self yet this season. Lucky for Pats fans, Belichick has reduced his play along with snatching his starting position. He played 75% of snaps this past Sunday which is significantly down after last season. Butler has been an absolute horse for this defense for multiple years now, playing as close to 100% of the snaps as possible. Something is different, but what? This is the chess match that Belichick plays.
Patriots defense snap counts. Only 6 for Alan Branch -- combination of Saints throwing the ball all game, and the doghouse pic.twitter.com/7w5rHixq56
Butler's contract saga this offseason has led right into his piss poor play. His mindset has always been top notch. He shows up everyday, works his ass off and has been a consistently the best player on the field. He deserves more money than he's making this year but Belichick played the restricted free agency game perfectly to lock him down this season under his market value. That's Belicick playing the game better than any other GM.
The attitude that was his strength has turned into his weakness. Butler is merely a man even though some believe he is some sort of telekinetic mind reader when he picked Russell Wilson's pass off in the end zone. He wants the money he deserves and his play is suffering because of it. Stephon Gilmore is making what he believes he should make and Gilmore being around Butler everyday is a reminder of the slight Belichick gave him this offseason. He isn't deliberately playing poorly but his effort isn't there everyday and constant effort in the film room, weight room and meeting rooms is how players succeed in the NFL.
Belichick is for sure not paying this guy what he wants to make. It seems like a bizarre move to play a proven corner less than normal but his play hasn't demanded him top corner snap counts. Belichick has Gilmore playing 100% of the snaps and he's using Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones in situational spots. Jones made a couple of game changing plays last Sunday and is proving his worth and making Butler look even more expendable. Belichick is normally a coach who is constantly in a win-now mindset but it seems as though he is planning for a post-Butler world with Rowe and Jones. The play between Butler, Rowe and Jones is comparable at this point so it's the smart move to be sitting an all-pro corner for cheaper young players. Belichick is 10 steps ahead as always.
This trend may not continue should injuries happen (Rowe hurt his groin) or the play of the other corners dips. Butler still is due for a huge pay day so his elite play will return sooner rather than later. It's piece of mind to know that Belichick sees the future and has some corners in mind who could fill in for a departed Butler next season.
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