Was It Cannabis That Did Malcolm Butler In?

    Since the Patriots lost Super Bowl 52 to the Philadelphia Eagles, the mystery surrounding Malcolm Butlers benching continues to grow.  Any way you look at it, like Sporting News says, it’s “among the worst coaching mistakes in Super Bowl history.”

    Media reports didn’t offer much insight into the benching. 

    Ian Rapoport on Twitter

    My understanding is the benching of #Patriots CB Malcolm Butler happened because of a perfect storm of issues: Sickness, a rough week of practice, and a minor rule violation believed to be related to curfew. A complicated matter. https://t.co/TmUJgkHpsZ

    It must have been a very complicated matter that forced the star of the Patriots stunning Super Bowl victory over the Seahawks in 2014, to be benched from this Super Bowl. 

    Rapaports report was very vague, but Boomer Esiason on his morning show says Butlers benching is based on him smoking marijuana, which apparently he has done in the past and Belichick decided that the Super Bowl would be the perfect time to show his honor and integrity as a coach rather than go back on whatever set of rules he has put in place for his team as it relates to the consequences of rules violations, just to have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl. 

    Esiason’s claims of marijuana rumors refutes Belichick himself who said Butler was “not benched for disciplinary reasons.”  

    Joey Cartolano on Twitter

    A family friend who I trust, is well connected in law enforcement and was in Minny this week with local cops told me Butler missed curfew, got caught with weed when he came back late to hotel, and subsequently had a meltdown on coaches

    Belichick says he put the best players on the field. 

    Raul Martinez NBC10 Boston on Twitter

    Patriots coach Bill Belichick says not playing Malcolm Butler was not for disciplinary reasons. https://t.co/FQdvsKZwnk

    I made the decisions that give us the best chance to win, head coach Belichick said, according to Michelle Tafoya on NBCs broadcast. 

    Well, Butler’s replacement Eric Rowe was scorched by Alshon Jeffery for a 34-yard touchdown, to start the scoring onslaught and give the Eagles a momentum they maintained throughout the Super Bowl.  

    On his show, Esiason supported Butlers rumored benching for marijuana use, just as he did in 1988 when his Cincinnati Bengals had to go into war without one of its key offensive contributors, running back Stanley Wilson. On the eve of Super Bowl XXIII, Wilson had a relapse into his cocaine use and was not allowed to play in the big game. 

    His absence created anger, disappointment and frustration among Bengals players and contributed to the Bengals losing to the 49ers, 20-16.

    Esiason was the leader of the team and the one who called out players and held everyone accountable. Head Coach Sam Wyche made the ultimate decision to weaken the squad and take a stand in the biggest game in franchise history against a guy who had been fighting cocaine abuse and league suspensions since 1985 anyway.  

    Doing the right thing in the eyes of society may have cost the Bengals their only shot at a Super Bowl in franchise history. 

    Regardless of what Butler did, I think its ridiculous that he would be benched. We know he didnt do anything that involved him getting arrested a la Eugene Robinsons deviant behavior prior to Atlantas Super Bowl loss in the 1998 season. We also know that his backup couldn’t hold a candle to him on that field and doesn’t have the championship pedigree and proven clutch gene that Butler has. Regardless of how ineffective he was in practice, a great coach knows that on the road to riches and diamond rings clutch players do clutch things. 

    The narrative that is being spun paints Bill Belichick as this man of irrefutable character. A staunch enforcer of team rules that sacrificed his own legacy because of his impeccable principles and a refusal to sacrifice his respected leadership position or bend the rules for one player. 

    I find that laughable. This is the same Belichick who along with Tom Brady, has skirted the rules of the league several times in big games and is recognized as a great coach as well as a cheater by a large faction of the NFL world. 

    Bleacher Report on Twitter

    Spygate. Deflategate. Bugging opposing locker rooms. Breaking down every Pats cheating controversy https://t.co/lSbClB9oZn

    Butler smokes weed, Belichick had Spygate and Brady had Deflategate. The Patriots have never been known to abide by the rules. Belichick himself has been fined for rules bending. Brady was suspended for the first four games of last season by the NFL after an investigation into illegally deflating footballs,  but prior to that, Belichick had no plans to sit his quarterback. 

    And you can bet those five Super Bowl rings that he wouldnt have benched Brady for the biggest game of the season and then allowed his offense to struggle as the Pats defense did in Super Bowl 52 without Butlers presence on the field. 

    Oddly enough, Butler was allowed to play special teams, so that further confuses me about what Butler actually did. If Belichick was showing leadership or taking a stand against Butlers marijuana use to preserve the integrity of the team as Esiason suggested, then hes off his rocker and he was thinking more about himself than the team.   

    FOX Sports: NFL on Twitter

    Would the Patriots have won last night if Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler had played?

    Its packaged as a selfless move by a Hall of Fame coach and disciplinarian, sacrificing the Super Bowl to stick by his reputation of being unwavering in holding everyone accountable. It appears more like an ego move. 

    Belichick used Butler as an opportunity to show how tough he is on players, even key starters, who dont conduct themselves in a manner befitting of being a Patriot. He felt he could make this maneuver, still win the game and come out looking perfect. 

    Unfortunately, the shrewd mind of Dolla Bill outsmarted itself this time. He could have allowed Butler to play after seeing him break down on live TV like a kid who got his candy confiscated and Butler probably would have been the most motivated player on the field.  Couple of those Nick Foles lasers were sure to be broken up. Instead, Belichick chose the political route. He gambled that his benching of Butler would become a legendary locker room tale adding to the myth of Belichick’s flawless execution of being a head coach. 

    Problem is, even Patriots fans know that their team has moral blemishes that have been swept under the rug or handled and forgotten. One more, by Butler, wasnt going to change anything. Anyway you slice it, the end results were a Super Bowl loss and a strong odor of hypocrisy emitting from The Pats brain trust. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.  

    JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.