It’s pretty safe to assume that you’ve heard plenty about Patriots’ cornerback Malcolm Bulter getting as many defensive plays in Super Bowl LII as me. Butler played 97.8 percent of the defensive snaps during the regular season. He played 0 percent of the defensive snaps in the Super Bowl as the Patriots gave up 613 total yards and 41 points to an Eagles squad led by backup quarterback Nick Foles. All of these ingredients are straight from the second-guessing heavens.
Malcolm Butler was a hero after intercepting Russell Wilson in Super Bowl XLIX. Butler is clearly better than the player who took his place, Eric Rowe. Pro Football Focus ranked Butler 48th among all NFL cornerbacks. Rowe was 188th out of 209. Plus, both players found out about the switch just before kickoff. On top of that, team captains were aware of the change beforehand, yet Butler and Rowe found out at the last minute. The whole thing is oozing with goofiness.
Bill Belichick is notorious for giving players a heavy workload one game and then doing the opposite the following week. Even with that in mind, this situation with Malcolm Butler qualifies as strangely uncommon. Belichick also confirmed after the game that it wasn’t a decision based on disciplinary reasons.
Former Patriots’ cornerback Brandon Browner provided some thoughts about Butler by writing, “A locker room was divided pregame, most yards ever given up in a SB game, and your best defender over the past three seasons doesn’t get a snap. You were hurt/burnt where he was needed tonight. #foolishpride.” Browner’s Instagram post was liked by current Patriots’ linebacker Dont’a Hightower, and former Patriot players Jamie Collins and Alfonzo Dennard.
When my nephews were very young, I’ll never forget my sister telling me, “Little eyes are watching you.” Those tiny munchkins were studying my every move, and often times, I didn’t even realize it. When it comes to how you simply treat people in life, little eyes are watching you. Big eyes are watching you. All eyes are watching you. Current Patriot players are keenly aware of how Butler was treated, partly because they wonder if they’ll be next.
This concept applies to all aspects of life, especially sports radio. If you treat someone improperly, others will wonder if you will eventually mistreat them the same way. It’s even more powerful in sports talk because words are heard by thousands of people. I wouldn’t like someone going to a busy street corner with a megaphone saying, “Brian Noe is a bum. No, seriously, this guy is a hack.” Sports radio is like a megaphone on steroids.
It’s such an easy concept to understand and to also forget — the way you treat one person is basically the way you’re addressing all people. If I say something negative on the air about a former co-host, many others will wonder if I’ll bash them in some way also. It works similarly to steroids in baseball. Follow me on this one.
We can’t separate the clean and dirty years of a player’s career with 100 percent certainty — the non-steroid years from the roided seasons. It all blends together. It’s the same idea with how we treat people. I might know in my head that I’m not going to make negative statements about anybody else beyond one former co-host, but no one else knows that for sure. They can’t anticipate all of my positive and negative views. The good and bad blend together. The only thing others know for sure is that if I bash one person, I might do the same exact thing to them as well.
It’s important not to go too far when being critical of a player, but there is more wiggle room. I’ve referred to Nick Foles as Nick Fools during the playoffs. As great as he performed during the playoffs, I think he’s fooling many people into thinking he’s a franchise quarterback when he’s actually just a really good backup that got hot at the right time. Some bristled at the nickname. Big deal. It wasn’t malicious or mean-spirited. It’s just an attention getter and a way for people to remember my stance.
There is much less leeway to mistreat individuals you actually know. I once was talking to my operations manager in his office a few years ago. Alex, a sales guy, was dropping by to tell me something when he saw us having a brief conversation. He paused in the doorway. Just then the OM shooed him away saying, “Get outta here.” I thought it was wrong and a gigantic red flag. Sure enough the OM turned out to treat other people in the building poorly, not just Alex.
I would never behave the same way, but I’m far from perfect. On Saturday my producer, Gavin Kinsel, was in my ear during the show. “Break. Time to go to break. Let’s break.” Instead of going to break and then telling him that he sounded like my next door neighbor’s crazy dog barking relentlessly at 2:30 in the morning, I said something about it on the air. I basically said, “Yes, I know. It’s time to break. We’re going to break.” Although it wasn’t egregious, I should’ve handled it much better.
It’s never good for someone to feel like they were called out by you. It’s even worse for other people to wonder what you might do to them based on how you treated someone else. I take those things seriously. I always want the people around me to know that I have their back. I want them to be comfortable instead of having reasons to doubt me.
We might not want to jump in the hot tub time machine to the exact date we were initially told, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” It’s absolutely superb advice though. The reason it’s so important to avoid critical comments is because it impacts many others than just the one individual you happen to be bashing. Before speaking, instead of picturing one person you aren’t fond of, picture 100 people being suspicious of you based on your tirade. You’ll choose your words much differently.
No one always gets it right. If you screw up, own it. Don’t let your foolish pride get in the way of a needed apology. Something tells me that most people aren’t anticipating a Belichick apology to be heading Malcolm Butler’s way anytime soon though. That’s a major part of the problem. Most of the people who aren’t holding their breath for Belichick to be contrite, happen to be current Patriot players.