Patriots brace for reunion with NFL’s worst CB

Published: 11/9/2018 3:47:51 PM
Modified: 11/9/2018 3:43:34 PM
Butler.jpgPhoto by Wikimedia Commons user Chipermc

The New England Patriots are preparing to see an old friend when they face the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, former Pats cornerback Malcolm Butler, statistically the worst cornerback in the league and the nominal star of Super Bowl LII.
Butler, who became the breakout hero of Super XLIX with a game-saving interception, will long be talked about and remembered for all of the nothing he did last February in Minneapolis. Why? Because many observers look at the 164 rushing yards the Eagles compiled in Super Bowl LII (averaging 6 yards per carry) and insist that the outcome would have been different if Butler had played cornerback instead of Eric Rowe, who allowed Nick Foles to complete 44 percent of his targets, or Johnson Bademosi, who gave up one completion.
It’s a sound theory when you consider that, according to Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of 96.6 when targeting Butler last season. And especially when you hear that Butler himself acknowledged that he was not “locked in and focused 100 percent” during Super Bowl practice after arriving late in Minnesota following his hospitalization for an illness. Certainly, an inconsistent cornerback at even 90 percent focus is exactly the game-changing player every team wants on the field in the Super Bowl.
Butler is by no means having an inconsistent year with the Titans. According to Pro Football Focus, he is currently leading the league in three categories: Receptions allowed, yards allowed and touchdowns allowed.
After watching rookie wide receiver Corey Davis do nothing but beat Butler for one touchdown catch all of last season, the Titans made the informed decision to give Butler a five-year deal worth $61 million, $30 million of which is guaranteed. This fits with Tennessee’s team-building strategy of finding people the Patriots don’t want to pay and giving them all of the money.
Among the former Patriots the Titans have signed in recent years are cornerback Logan Ryan and running back Dion Lewis, who have three Super Bowl rings between them. Ryan, at age 28 has the 9th highest cap hit of any corner in the league. Lewis, also 28, has the 15th-highest cap hit in the league. Clearly Titans General Manager, Jon Robinson, a former Director of College Scouting with the Patriots, totally paid attention to what’s going on in Foxborough.
Roboinson also hired former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel as head coach, which is one more Patriots-related thing we could talk about, but why do that when we can talk about a man who didn’t play in the Super Bowl last year.
Indeed, Butler’s benching in that game remains a “mystery.” Or at least a mystery in so much as the very clear explanation for his benching uses enough non-definite words to allow us to ponder this in perpetuity instead of simply acknowledging the Eagles played an excellent game, dominated the line of scrimmage on offense and combined just enough gumption and luck to win an exceptional game. If not for the fact that the Patriots are 100 percent responsible for their losses, one might go as far as to say the Eagles won because they played better, and that Malcolm Butler was not the difference at all.
But we won’t, because we’re not idiots. Next caller…
Dave Brown is a freelance correspondent who covers the Patriots for the Monitor. You can follow him on Twitter @ThatDaveBrown.

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