Coaches make mistakes and bad decisions all the time.
I mean, Sean Payton once offered the below assessment of Brandin Cooks and the return game in 2014.
“It’s an area we need to be better at, and we feel like we have a guy that can return them,” Payton said. “When I look at it ... I think the returner is ready. I think the other 10 (players on the field) need to be.”
Only a few months later, Cooks was removed from return duties, frankly because he didn’t have a feel for it, and that lack of feel was on display in the Super Bowl when his suspect field vision caused him to get blindsided by Malcolm Jenkins.
Plays like Malcolm Jenkins unloading on Brandin Cooks helmet-to-helmet from behind cannot continue if the NFL doesn't want more fans to walk away. No penalty? This rule has to change in the offseason if we still respect human life. pic.twitter.com/U1MeZdYJkp— Chris Nowinski, Ph.D. (@ChrisNowinski1) February 5, 2018
The aim when drafting the speedy Oregon State wide receiver was to have him juice up the return game, the deep game, and some of the catch and run prowess that Darren Sproles displayed with the team before his departure via trade. Saints coaches, including Sean Payton, flat out missed on the assessment and subsequent decision to play him there.
Fast forward to Super Bowl 52, and you’ve got the god-like Bill Belichick being caught in a mortal moment.
The decision to not play Malcolm Butler was awful and did not give them the best chance to win, despite him offering that response on a platter as though fans or analysts would happily devour it.
Even if Butler was guilty of all the things listed in a recent report (which Butler addressed), the way the discipline was handled makes little to no sense.
As a Saints fan, I offer you Exhibit A – P.J. Williams, as a comparison case study.
At some point during the Saints’ trip to London, P.J. Williams made some poor business decisions (missed curfew among other things) and got himself benched to start the game, keyword being “start”. Despite making a similar error in judgement, Williams (minus the marijuana angle) was not banished to the shadow realm the entire game.
He was instead phased out ONLY because his backup at the time (Ken Crawley) performed well enough in his place that the decision to roll with the hot hand made sense for the entire game.
Malcolm Butler’s replacement was torched Hot Flaming Cheetos style!
They were eviscerated outside, they were brutalized inside, and the lame excuse that it was because the “other guys” gave them the best chance of winning is an insult to any fan’s intelligence.
I’m not saying whether or not the Saints should go after Malcolm Butler, but what I am saying is we should be thankful for Payton learning to relate to these younger players and relaxing on the excessive discipline antics.
Payton could have easily scolded Williams with an extremely heavy hand and allowed that to affect his confidence and commitment to the team. Heck, he could have done the same thing with Vaccaro a year earlier for the Adderall suspension.
He didn’t, with Vaccaro offering this tidbit about not being made to feel like an outsider.
Vaccaro said coach Sean Payton and all of his teammates were very supportive and nobody made him feel like an “outsider.” He even stayed in touch with many teammates, reviewing plays and situations that he saw on TV while watching from back in his hometown of Brownwood, Texas.
Bill Belichick allowed the butt hurt to linger and alienated one of his best players for whatever reason and it directly cost the Patriots a championship. The fact that the players only found out just before kickoff makes it reek of a knee-jerk decision. A knee-jerk decision that
Dracula Belichick will have to live with for a very long time.