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The biggest mistake in Super Bowl LII wasn't a player's fault

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Bill Belichick has been a coach, either as an assistant or as head coach, for more than 35 years, starting with his stint with the Giants under Bill Parcells. Seven Super Bowl rings later, you figure, he's bound for the Hall of Fame, despite the controversy surrounding the New England Patriots over the last 15+ years.

Super Bowl LII proved that geniuses are human, and make mistakes.

Three years after he clinched the Super Bowl with a game saving pick vs. Seattle, Malcolm Butler found himself playing only on special teams on Sunday night. Rumors are that he was kept out of the defensive starting lineup at the last---and worst---possible second because of some still undetermined violation of team rules. Belichick has been raked over the coals by FS1 & ESPN yakkers the last two mornings. It's bad enough he has a reputation of keeping his decisions literally close to the vest, and reluctantly admits anything at all to the media. With Butler off the field when they really needed him, the Patriots fell to Philadelphia, as the Eagles avenged a loss in the big game 13 years earlier.

Now, Belichick has to start from scratch. His top two assistants, Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels, are gone (Detroit & Indianapolis, respectively), and there were rumors even before the playoffs that Belichick might retire after the season. He had nothing left to prove, other than the fact that he needed to win without controversy for a change.

But, this isn't the first time that a personnel decision at the Super Bowl has come back to bite Belichick on his tuchis. Think back to the last time the Patriots & Giants met in the big game. Terrell Owens, who goes into the Hall of Fame this summer, was on the Patriots' roster that season, but was inactive for the Super Bowl. His absence, in my view, proved to be very costly, because if you have Owens on the field as an extra weapon for Tom Brady, he avenges his earlier loss to Big Blue, and we'd be talking about whether or not he'd be ready to retire as well. Sure, Owens was every bit the diva at receiver that Brady is now at QB, and on the back end of his career, as Brady is now. But to deny Owens a chance at one more Super Bowl? I'm surprised no one's brought this up in the 48 hours since Super Bowl LII.

Brady, I'm sure, will be back. As my brother & I were leaving a restaurant after dinner prior to the game, I suggested that maybe Brady wants to stick around long enough to get that revenge on the Giants, then retire. My brother snickered and said that Brady would have a long wait, since the Giants were terrible in 2017, and could stay that way for a while to come. Well, you just never know. Brady's ticket to Canton is already punched, but why linger any longer if you have nothing else to prove except what I just said?

The Patriots had benefited from the officials holding their flags instead of calling obvious penalties most of the season, but this time, that came back to haunt them, too. There is something to be said about karmic justice after all.

When the 2018 season starts, it'll be the same old, same old, depending on if the Patriots' division rivals can actually improve and catch up to them. Brady could turn into Dorian Gray, but that wouldn't stop the inevitable. For once, he & Belichick should do the smart thing, and walk away without any more chips on their shoulders. The message is taken from the title of an old Star Trek episode: "Let That Be Your Last Battleground". There's nothing left to prove, nothing left to do. Walk away now, and we'll see you in Canton in 2023.
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