I wrote a giddy post-Super Bowl post last year. This year, my favorite sportsball team was back in the big game, but this year they came up short. And although my sons are now, through osmosis I suppose, getting into football and spent last Sunday wailing at the TV, flipping tables, or throwing hats on the floor, I was calm about the entire affair.
Well, I was suspenseful during the game. But once the outcome was certain, I was fine with how it ended. This is partly due to the fact that my employer has headquarters in Philly and half our team, whom I love dearly, resides there. I was very happy for them to enjoy their first Super Bowl championship. And it was also due to the fact that the Eagles coaching staff, Doug Pederson specifically, called a brilliant game. You have to give them respect for their approach.
And last, with 8 Super Bowl appearances and 5 wins in the big game, I have very little to complain about as a fan. But that won’t stop me from focusing on one aspect that turned me off on Sunday.
There was one thing that had me shaking my head. The view of Malcolm Butler standing on the Patriots sideline (aka the bench) not playing a single defensive snap. If you’re not familiar, this is the same Malcolm Butler who made the Patriots as an undrafted free agent out of college in 2014. He finished that season with the game-sealing nail-in-the-coffin interception of Russel Wilson the waning moments of Super Bowl XLIX (that’s 49 for you millenials who did not learn Roman numerals in grade school). The same Malcolm Butler who became one of the top players at his position in the NFL, despite being undrafted and lacking the size and traits that are prized for NFL cornerbacks.
There are times when Belichick’s schtick feels old. Even for a hard-core long-time Pats fan like me. Only Bill knows why he chose to sit Butler for the entire game. But as a fan, seeing one of the heroes of your team be treated this way doesn’t sit well. There is always some speculation and “inside sources”, but we know so little from the outside.
Regardless, absolute authority will bring skepticism. When one person wields that power and keeps things bottled up, you open yourself up to scrutiny. To date that has worked because the Pats have so much success.
But when that success stops, there will be only so much patience for that type of leadership. Even from the fans.