Patriots mathematically eliminated from regular season

Published: 7/26/2018 11:49:38 AM

Pats-eliminated.jpgPatriots head coach Bill Belichick.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Due to a fun deficiency, the acquisition of players you haven’t heard of, and the failure to make a quarterly accounting of Malcolm Butler’s Super Bowl benching, the New England Patriots were, according to league sources, mathematically eliminated from the regular season this week.

It’s a difficult break for New England, which had been teetering on the brink of elimination throughout the offseason. This is the first time in franchise history the team has failed to qualify for the regular season.
The Patriots, mired in a one-game losing streak since February, saw their regular-season hopes begin to crumble when head coach Bill Belichick gave only a limited explanation for Butler’s benching in Super Bowl LII.
“We put the best players out there and the game plan out there because we thought it’d be the best to win,” Belichick said immediately after the game. He also said the decision was not disciplinary.
Obviously, if the Patriots had started Butler — a cornerback who played inconsistently throughout the season, was six days removed from a debilitating illness and was embarrassed by Tennessee rookie Corey Davis in the divisional playoffs  — New England would have won the game. Belichick, who has fewer than six Super Bowl championships as a head coach, was clearly unqualified to determine Butler’s readiness for Super Bowl LII. Therefore, a diligent and persistent New England media has doggedly pursued the mystery of Butler’s benching.
Boston Globe reporter Dan Shaughnessy, for example, made a rare trek to Foxboro on Wednesday to grill the coach on the exact same questions he had answered six months earlier. Once again, Belichick failed to provide a thorough critique of Butler’s strengths and weaknesses or to outline any conduct or events of the time between the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl. This obviously left everyone baffled as to what happened, because the only additional information we have is this statement from Butler in March:
“I wasn’t feeling too well," said Butler, who missed the team flight to Minneapolis because he had gone to the hospital to treat his illness. “I felt like that was kind of part of it. Not to blame anybody. I accept full responsibly for myself. I am not blaming the New England Patriots or no one. It could have been just me, you know. It could have been anything, but I was not feeling too well and the New England Patriots are all about doing their job and they want everybody locked in and focused 100 percent and that probably was not the case.”
Obviously, we may never know why a player who was admittedly not 100 percent and focused during Super Bowl week was benched by an organization that notoriously demands 100 percent effort and focus. And because he is arrogant and disrespectful, Belichick refused to throw his former player under the bus to satisfy our curiosity. If only we knew why Butler was benched, that would certainly change … something. Everything? Yes, it would change so many things. For one, perhaps the Patriots would have advanced to play an entirely new regular season in 2018.
Further complicating the Patriots’ bid to play September football this year was their inability to upgrade the leaky defense that gave up 41 points to Philadelphia in the Super Bowl. After all, the Eagles had only scored 38 points the week before against Minnesota, a team whose defense gave up the fewest points and yards in the NFL last season. So why didn’t the Patriots sign Ndamukong Suh and trade for Aaron Donald? And if they weren’t going to resign Butler, why didn’t they add aging cornerbacks you’ve heard of? Like self-inflicted gunshot victim Aqib Talib or Richard Sherman (who could not run at the time he signed with San Francisco)? It makes no sense.
While New England was busy not upgrading its defense, it traded for nose tackle Danny Shelton and cornerback Jason McCourty from Cleveland, and signed free agent defensive end Adrian Claybourn away from the Falcons. Instead of drafting or signing a linebacker, they instead filled a need at press corner by taking second-round DB Duke Dawson from Florida as the organization’s chances of qualifying for the regular season slipped further away.
That said, it seemed New England’s greatest mistake was not being fun. When wide receiver Danny Amendola shifted the balance of power in the AFC East by signing with the Miami Dolphins, former teammate Rob Gronkowski said via social media that he hoped Amendola would be “HAPPY and FREE.” Many took this to mean that Gronkowski was a bored captive of the Patriots. People who watched the documentary “Tom vs. Time” about Brady were quick to observe that his wife, Gisele Bundchen, also used the word “fun.” When cameras were rolling and everything. It was a clear message that Brady did was not happy. Brady skipped the voluntary portion of offseason training activities to have what clearly appears to be a ton of fun in this video by attending the Met Gala with Bundchen.
It took months for Brady to officially declare that he would play this season (which is totally a thing players do and not some weird formality Adam Schefter made up), but it was too late. He was miserable. Gronk was miserable. Both had missed several minicamp practices, and hopes of a 59th consecutive regular-season appearance were dashed.
Dave Brown is a freelance correspondent who covers the Patriots for the Monitor. Follow him on Twitter @ThatDaveBrown.

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