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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Belichick, Please Don’t Do This Again

Bill+Belichick
Bill Belichick

With the New England Patriots coming off a Super Bowl win, it is very hard to question Bill Belichick’s methods. However, I said hard, not impossible.

The team recently acquired wide receiver Brandin Cooks from the Saints, and resigned Dont’a Hightower, who made one of the biggest plays of the Super Bowl. The team also signed one of the top defensive backs on the market, Stephen Gilmore. Now New England is flirting with the idea of letting Malcolm Butler leave as a restricted free agent.

This move has bad implications written all over it, and it would be a loss for the position that Belichick has undervalued in the past.

Most fans remember Butler as the hero that snatched Super Bowl 49 from the jaws of defeat a couple years ago. However, since then Butler has become more than just a folk hero in Boston sports. He has grown into one of the premier cornerbacks in the NFL, going to the Pro Bowl in 2015 and being named a Second Team All-Pro this past season. Butler has been a breathe of fresh air in the Pats organization, being the first homegrown talent at the position since Asante Samuel, and even gave the Patriots the flexibility in order to let Darrelle Revis walk so they could resign Devin McCourty.

Heading into the upcoming season, Butler looks to be, once again, a top corner in the NFL. However, Belichick has been known to undervalue contributions at the position, while also overvaluing his ability to access talent at the CB position.

In 2007, coming off an undefeated season and Super Bowl appearance, Bill Belichick decided to let Asante Samuel leave via free agency, even though he was coming off a season after being named to the Pro Bowl, and after being selected as the First Team All-Pro at his position. This move resulted in the team’s secondary falling apart a few years later. From 2010 to 2013, the Patriots passing defense ranked at 30th, 31st, 29th, and 18th. It was not until the Patriots were able to bring in Revis and Brandon Browner that the secondary really started to improve, and it wasn’t until just last season that the Patriots ranked in the top half of passing defenses in the NFL.

This was in no small part to Butler’s contributions to the team, with him being able to shut down most top receivers on any given Sunday. Butler racked up four interceptions and 17 passes defended last season, which is good for being eighth in the league.

Belichick undoubtedly believes he has some insurance after signing Gilmore, but his belief lacks the proof to back it. Butler has shown that he knows how to play in this system, and has flourished in it. The signing of Gilmore shouldn’t be seen as a chance to let Butler walk. It should make an already good secondary even better. Not to mention there is always the chance that Gilmore doesn’t pan out, as it would not be the first time that Belichick proved to be inadequate in putting together a secondary and assessing talent in the front field.
Butler was a win at cornerback, and one the Patriots desperately needed. In two seasons thus far, he has shown he is more than deserving of being in the long-term plans as a cornerback in Foxboro. What Belichick needs to do is swallow his pride, look past his ego, and recognize talent when he has it.