Earlier this morning ESPN Patriots writer Mike Reiss published a puzzling piece titled Making sense of how Malcolm Butler and the Patriots are on the verge of a split which seems like a pretty topical issue to discuss in light of recent events. Unfortunately, Reiss was uncharacteristically heavy handed in trying to explore reasons, beyond Bulter’s Restricted Free Agency status, as to why the Patriots are so reluctant to give Butler a long term deal.
Reiss, who is usually very fact-based and objective in his writing, haphazardly brings an old quote by Bill Belichick into the equation to try and explain the lack of a long-term deal for Butler-
“When you bring a player on to your team, you get everything that comes with him — on and off the field.”
This quote strongly implies that character concerns may be playing a role in contract negations between Butler and the Patriots. This is a startling accusation to make considering Butler has been nothing but a model Patriot soldier in his time with the team.
The most surprising element of this piece is that Reiss never directly addresses why this quote may be applicable to Butler. The closest he gets is by comparing the marital status of newly acquired CB Stephon Gilmore’s (who is married with two children) to Malcolm Butler’s status as a single man.
Here is that excerpt of the article for context-
“Why is Gilmore, who has an injury history to consider, viewed as less risky to Belichick from the total-package standpoint than the durable-to-this-point Butler?
What is it about the 26-year-old Gilmore, who is married with two children, that gave the Patriots more comfort in investing so big in him when compared to the 27-year-old Butler, who is single?”
Reiss never fleshes this point out, rather it is just sort of brought up and left to make readers scratch their heads as to why it’s relevant to the situation in the first place.
The speculative piece doesn’t hold much water on its own and a couple hours after its publication, Reiss himself seems to realize this as he posted a sincere apology to Malcolm Butler and his readers on his personal website– (Today I learned Mike Reiss has a personal website)
“The piece I wrote Thursday morning on Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler was unfortunately incomplete.
I was trying to explain how we got to this point, and in doing so, phrased things in a way that led to more questions than answers.
After hearing from many readers on Twitter, and speaking with colleagues whose opinions I respect, I wanted to take a moment to explain it here.
Many wondered why I referenced marital status. In reading it back, I can see why. It was awkward.
What possible difference would Butler’s martial status have on the Patriots keeping him around? I never answered that.
Here is the point I was striving to make: The Patriots covet players who don’t have a lot of off-field variables. For instance, one of the things they liked about 2015 first-round draft choice Malcolm Brown, who was married with two children when he entered the NFL, was that he was considered mature beyond his years. Vince Wilfork, too.
I’m not saying that a player who isn’t married is undependable, only that, chances are, the player with a wife and kids will have a more predictable day-to-day life and is more settled than a single person. Generally speaking. There are, of course, exceptions.
There is a feeling in town that players who are poised to leave the Patriots are sometimes unfairly maligned. While that was not my intention with Butler, I realize in hindsight how it sounded.
I apologize to Butler for the tone.”
A very classy apology, from a very classy reporter. Reiss is one of the few media members over at the World Wide Leader in Sports that New Englander’s respect and trust when it comes to reporting on the Patriots. Reiss clearly values that respect and holds himself to a very high standard in regard to his work. It’s nice to see that in just a couple of hours, he owned up to his less than stellar piece and for that I am willing to give Mr. Reiss a mulligan.
Reiss also reached out to readers on Twitter to apologize for the piece, further showing that he without a doubt one of the good guys.
@nathanvf Nathan, my sincere apologies if that is the way it came across. That was never, ever my intention.
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) March 16, 2017
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) March 16, 2017