New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick defended his decision to bench Malcolm Butler following Sunday's Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Butler was a starting cornerback for the Patriots all season but when New England's defense took the field for Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, he was on the bench.
Outside of a few special-teams plays, that is where he remained as converted safety Eric Rowe lined up at cornerback against the Eagles, who triumphed 41-33.
"We put the best players out there and the game plan out there that we thought would be the best tonight, like we always do," Belichick told reporters.
Belichick said the decision to bench Butler was not disciplinary and one he stood by when asked again on Monday.
"I appreciate the question, but it would be a much longer discussion," Belichick said during a conference call with reporters. "There are a lot of things that go into that. In the end, the final decision is what I said it was."
Former Patriot @EllisHobbs on Malcolm Butler Situation: Not surprised once it was executed that he stuck with it...Belichick doesn't waver from his decisions...I knew it had to be something very detrimental to shake things up like this pic.twitter.com/VP6KUCmLO1— SiriusXM NFL Radio (@SiriusXMNFL) February 6, 2018
Butler had played 98 per cent of the defensive snaps this season and was upset after Sunday's game.
Without Butler on the field, the Patriots defense allowed Eagles quarterback Nick Foles to throw for 373 yards and three touchdowns.
They did get one interception, though it was a fortunate pick after the ball popped in the air off the hands of Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery.
Rowe, who played in just 11 out a possible 19 games with only four starts, spent most of the game lined up against Nelson Agholor, who had nine receptions for 84 yards.
"I respect Malcolm's competitiveness and I'm sure he felt he could've helped," Belichick said. "I'm sure other players felt the same way. In the end, we have to make the decisions that we feel are best for the football team."