Cornerback Malcolm Butler found out about his Super Bowl benching right before the National Anthem. That explains Butler’s fresh tears during Pink’s rendition. Butler played most of the New England Patriots’ defensive snaps in 2017. To most of the world, Bill Belichick’s decision to not play Butler makes zero sense. The cornerback intercepted Russell Wilson in Super Bowl 50, which sealed the Patriots’ fourth win. Did Belichick sit Butler to retaliate against Robert Kraft and Tom Brady for the Jimmy Garoppolo trade?

Butler put up solid 2017 stats

Malcolm Butler had a solid season with the Patriots.

He made 55 tackles, defended 12 passes, and hauled in two interceptions, as stated by Pro Football statistics. When comparing him with fellow cornerback Stephon Gilmore, Butler’s numbers are better. Despite Belichick stating that not allowing Butler to play on defense was a football decision, there is no logic for the choice. Having Eric Rowe take his place did not work out well. The Patriots’ defense gave up over 500 yards and lost the Super Bowl 41-33 to the Philadelphia Eagles. With Belichick stressing that he put players in that gave them the best chance to win, the Butler decision still does not make sense. Butler could have made some game-changing plays.

Is Belichick getting even?

When the Patriots traded back-up quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers, Bill Belichick was not happy about the trade, as stated by CBS Sports.

Belichick had worked hard to develop Garoppolo, and supposedly wanted him to be the future franchise quarterback. Many sources, including CBS Sports, state that GM Robert Kraft forced his hand to trade the back-up quarterback. Rumors circulated that Brady had a private meeting with Kraft about the G.O.A.T’s future before the trade.

Kraft has said several times that Brady is his fifth son. Hence, a trade of Garoppolo is not surprising. Shortly after the trade, Belichick banned Brady’s trainer Alex Guerrero from the Patriots’ plane and from the sideline during games. The timing of this move suggested a heated power play between quarterback, coach, and GM.

Perhaps Belichick resented having his power stripped away from him.

How defense has propped up Brady

Tom Brady has never blown out a team in the Super Bowl. Two Super Bowls have been won with kicker Adam Vinatieri’s foot. Super Bowl 51 was won with Brady’s comeback and a stalwart defense in the second half against the Atlanta Falcons. Malcolm Butler saved the day for the Patriots when he picked off Wilson on the goal line in Super Bowl 50. Brady has enjoyed a privilege that Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees have not always had -- a great defense.

Kraft was clueless

If Brady did convince Kraft to trade Garoppolo, then Belichick could have decided to stick it to them both by not playing Malcolm Butler.

According to CBS Sports, Kraft did not know Butler would be benched for Super Bowl 52. Forcing Brady to win the game without one of the best defensive cornerbacks on the field and keeping Kraft in the dark about the decision could be punishment for the Garoppolo decision. Brady passed for over 500 yards, but the quarterback could not manage a comeback in the final two minutes of Super Bowl 52.

Maybe Butler was just a pawn in Belichick’s vengeance. Perhaps Belichick had the chance to get even, at the expense of Tom Brady’s sixth ring. Next year, Brady and James Harrison may think twice before they post a video on social media showing them flashing their Super Bowl rings. By that time, the Buffalo Bills may have already poached Malcolm Butler.