Eagles debate table: Would Malcolm Butler’s presence have mattered?

FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Malcolm Butler
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Malcolm Butler /

It’s a mute point now, but it’s a question we may ask forever and may never have an answer to. Would the Eagles have won Super Bowl LII if Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler played in the game?

Some say it wouldn’t have changed things. Some say the result would have been different. The question has been asked since New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady‘s final ‘Hail Mary’ attempt fell harmlessly to the turf, and it may be asked forever. Would the Philadelphia Eagles have won Super Bowl LII if Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler would have played?

It’s an interesting debate. Unfortunately, it’s a debate that we’ll never be able to answer. Here’s what we do know. When Eagles quarterback Nick Foles targeted the guys who were playing in his absence, he went 6 of 7 and threw for over 137 yards on third down alone.

So what happened?

Two days after the Super Bowl, some of the circumstances that led to Bill Belichick’s decision to bench Butler at kickoff are starting to come into focus. When you look around the Internet and social media, you find a few stories. If that’s your method of research, you want to find reliable sources, and honestly, they don’t come much more reliable than the NFL’s Ian Rapoport. He describes Butler’s absence as a ‘perfect storm’ of issues and events.

Take a look.

In addition to that, he made a statement. Here’s some of what he had to say.

"There are several factors that led Malcolm Butler, one of the team’s top defensive players, to not be on the field for the Super Bowl. Among those: he showed up a day later than teammates because he was sick. Remember he was not at Opening Night, that was a factor. I’m also told that during practice this week, he really struggled, had a rough week of practice. Perhaps because of illness, but maybe because of … other things. That was one thing they had to consider in putting Eric Rowe out there instead of him. I’m also told there were also disciplinary issues. There was a small or minor violation of team rules that happened earlier in the week. Then there’s some attitudes, frustrations as well."

The fallout of Bill Belichick’s decision may live on forever.

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We’ve now heard but can’t verify that ‘minor issue’ isn’t minor at all. We’ve been unable to confirm or deny allegations of marijuana possession. There’s also the belief that Butler may have violated team rules involving curfew as he had a guest in his room when he shouldn’t have.

Whatever the reason, the Patriots were unable to find a suitable answer to replace him. As a result, a combination of former Eagles cornerback Eric Rowe and Johnson Bademosi (who was inactive against the Tennessee Titans and played on special teams against the Jacksonville Jaguars) was used in base and nickel sets. Safety Jordan Richards helped out at the nickel corner position in dime sets.

Next: Long takes a shot at Cris Collinsworth

Who knows what would have happened had Butler played? As we wait on Belichick’s decision and wait to see what the Eagles do with Foles, the questions surrounding this decision live on forever. We at Inside The Iggles can say this with the utmost certainty however. We don’t think it would have mattered much.