BY Art Thiel 07:58PM 05/07/2014

Seahawks’ Sherman promises to stay mad, bro

After signing his stupendous contract extension, Sherman promises to be the same “ragged dog” he’s always been. But he’s the respected top dog now. Different view.

Richard Sherman has a new view of the world — on top. / Seattle Seahawks

Now it begins to get harder. No, not the draft Thursday. That’s where the Seahawks are strong.

The tough pull is maintaining the emotional edge to win another championship. In making CB Richard Sherman and FS Earl Thomas the most highly paid players at their positions in NFL history, the Seahawks at once did what had to be done, yet made potentially different players of both.

Pete Carroll agrees with generations of successful coaches who know that as hard as it is to win a pro sports team championship, it’s harder to repeat, or even to maintain contention, especially in the parity-drunk NFL.

Naturally, Sherman, who signed his stupendous contract extension Wednesday – four years, $57.4 million total value, $40 million guaranteed – will have none of the talk of becoming a different player. Just as naturally, Mr. Loquacious had an analogy that covered as much ground as he typically does on third-and-seven.

“You can take a ragged dog that has been living on the streets for 10 years and put him in a brand new house with steak and lobster every night,” said Sherman at a well-attended press conference at the team’s Renton headquarters. “He’s still the ragged dog that you got off the streets. So I’m still the ragged dog off the street.

“That mentality isn’t something that I can change, I don’t think. Even I wanted to, I can’t do it. It’s not a switch that I have. I’ve always been in this mentality so I don’t know anything else. This is how I’m going to be until I hang the cleats up . . . Money didn’t motivate me before; it’s not going to motivate me now. It’s a drive to be great, it’s a drive to win, it’s a drive to want to make it to the Hall of Fame.”

Sherman is a good candidate to keep his edge, maybe second only to the maniacal Thomas, who last week was rewarded with his extension – four years, $40 million, $25.7 million guaranteed. The Seahawks are methodically executing their “model,” as GM John Schneider likes to say, of giving great reward to great players.

But if Sherman really ever owned a ragged mutt, he would know that proper care and feeding often can do wonders for canine disposition. Takes awhile, and may not always work, but often, as with human nature, a warm hearth tends tends to cool the fire for chasing squirrels.

Seahawks fans don’t have go deep to recall a previous Super Bowl hero handsomely rewarded. RB Shaun Alexander fell to earth so fast his heat shield glowed.

True, he was 29 and not 26 like Sherman, and he played running back, an NFL position with a notoriously quick expiration date. But after his 1,880 yards rushing in 2005, his 2006 contract extension bought the Seahawks 1,612 yards over the next two seasons total, plus a penchant for going down quietly after first contact.

But Alexander was a pedigreed first-rounder out of Alabama, not a fifth-round mutt from Stanford, like Sherman. Or at least, that’s how he sees himself — a no-account, snubbed in the 2011 draft in a way he is determined to never forget, even after the reality of being accorded the ultimate respect: A $14 million-a-year player.

Here’s how he remembered the three days of the 2011 draft:

“I remember being angrier and angrier every day. Just sitting there (at home).  I didn’t expect to get picked round one. I mean, nobody was talking about me . . . you have several teams telling you that (they) expect to pick (you).

You feel like, ‘OK, is every team just lying?’ It takes a long time to get from day two to day three, longer than anything that anyone would ever experience. You sit by your phone for literally hours and hours and hours and hours at a time, waiting for some kind of message . . .  the fourth round passes and you’re like, ‘Damn. I might not get picked.’ That’s when it starts going downhill. That’s when you start thinking, ‘Is this it for football?’ Then in the fifth round, you get a call and Seattle makes the best decision they could make.”

As a smiling Schneider put it sarcastically at the beginning of the press conference, “The thing we struggle with (Sherman) is his confidence. We’re always trying to pump him up.”

What Sherman didn’t know then, and what most draftees this weekend won’t know, is the talent disparities aren’t as great as the media microscope creates. The attention accorded the first round is fun, but at least with the Seahawks, it matters far less.

That’s a big reason why no one who follows closely the Seahawks would be surprised if the Seahawks trade out of the 32nd and last pick of the first round to move down in exchange for extra choices. As Sherman’s teammates such as Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Malcolm Smith, J.R. Sweezy and Michael Bowie have established, there’s many more players who can play in the NFL than there are high draft selections.

“I think it’s probably smaller than people would think,” Carroll said Tuesday of the difference between high and low picks. “We’ve seen so many of our guys, fifth- and sixth- round kids, that started for us early.  It’s a hard science to deal with. It’s so close, and factors that maybe you couldn’t quite uncover, show up in those guys (who) play just as good as a guy drafted in the first round.”

The main difference between high and low, of course, is money, and its absence, which provides much of the emotional fuel for the overlooked.

Sherman no longer has that as his fuel. He says it never mattered to him, and that may be true. But the ragged dog has never before been top dog.

After a lifetime of pushing against everything, pushing against nothing is harder than it looks.


YourThoughts

  • LennyLuvsLonnie

    Vintage Thiel. And that closing statement sums things up perfectly. Thanks for the good read, Art.

  • PokeyPuffy

    As much justification as there is to reward Sherman, i agree it has its pitfalls. How does “always compete” plays out in the practice field when someone’s making this kinda dough? Will it cramp the style of Pete Carroll: Mad Scientist?

    • eYeDEF

      I don’t think so. I think they recognize the competitive atmosphere begins at the top with Sherman and Thomas and trickles down from there from their inspiration and dedication to film study and everything else that they bring. It’s those two that take it on themselves to motivate the others and set the tone and expectations for everyone else.

      • art thiel

        Yes, I agree that the system is set up to reward the premier achievers, who are aspirational to the rest. But sudden wealth has impacts on individuals that are hard to anticipate. As I wrote, pushing against nothing is harder than it looks.

  • eYeDEF

    Unfortunately, it’s hard to know how much Alexander was a product of his offensive line, which was never the same after Hutch left. Not only that, but Alexander from the day he was drafted was always sort of a slacker in practice while he was backing up Ricky Watters, because he knew he wouldn’t get PT. Holmgren would always get on him to give a more complete effort even as a backup. I haven’t ever seen any signs of letting up from Sherman, he doesn’t seem wired that way. He’s a natural overachiever so I don’t see it as similar to Alexander at all.

    • art thiel

      I agree they’re wired differently. But both of them reached pinnacles they really never imagined, for which no one is ever prepared. Hard to say what any of us would do.

      Sherman has a good shot to make it, but in his case, it’s plain he already sees a bigger world than most pro athletes. That may cool his ardor for football as much as anything.

  • Matt712

    “RB Shaun Alexander fell to earth so fast his heat shield glowed.”
    …I’m
    generally averse to shameless gushing but, oh man, a line like that
    alone makes a subscription price to SPNW worth it. If they haven’t
    already, I hope anyone who’s made it down to the comments section here
    realizes it.

    OK, on to business… This piece reads like a
    not-so-subtle challenge of Sherman to not let money change him. And
    although only time will tell for sure, there sure seems to be a built in
    edge with not only his make-up, but also the team make-up which has
    totally bought into the ‘Always Compete’ philosophy of the Pete Carroll
    regime.

    It’s also a bit unique (and possibly a stroke of genius
    by Schneider) that he received his contract at the same time as Earl
    Thomas and Pete Carroll. In addition, just by virtue of being in the
    South-Alaska market, there always seems to be a demand for additional
    proof from the rest of the country.

    If that’s not enough for
    Sherm, he can now afford to hire a group of haters to follow him around
    wherever he goes to mock and heckle him. On second thought, he already
    has plenty of volunteers.

    • art thiel

      He can pay for trainloads to come up from SF.

      As I wrote, Sherman has a good chance to prevail against the sudden predations of sudden wealth. I thought he was a little too dismissive of the threat. But that’s a young man’s perspective. He can’t truly know what has happened to some players of his caliber. Hasn’t lived enough life yet.

      Meantime, he’s a columnist’s treat.

  • 1coolguy

    As most Hawks fans I have been hugely impressed with the team John and Pete have put together – how can you argue against their efforts.
    This contract though just doesn’t make much sense to me for a few reasons.
    50% MORE VALUABLE than Thomas?
    20%+ MORE valuable than Revis?
    What will the effect be on all the Hawks future contracts and the cap?
    Did they not see any value in being a SB winner and having a team as tight as the Hawks to use that to the Hawks advantage?
    Not be be regarded as nuts, but if it truly took $15m to sign Sherm, why not trade him for multiple choices?
    Why not use the $15m for multiple other CB’s?
    Heck, move Thomas to CB and save $5m, then pick up a great corner for something less than the $10m paid to Thomas.
    Why not pay Sherm the highest OTHER CB salary ($12m to Revis) + 5%? As we saw with Revis there wasn’t much interest in him at the salary he commanded. TB wanted to dump him and the Jets were the only takers even close to the $12m.
    It seems there were a ton of alternatives than to pay Sherm the highest CB salary @ $12m PLUS more than 20%!
    It seems they have laid the groundwork for taking a hit to their cap flexibility going forward. I think John will have some even more difficult negotiations next year, and after this, forget having and bargaining arguments with Wilson. Will he be @ $30M?

    • eYeDEF

      It’s hard to make sense as to where you’re pulling these figures from. Who said Sherman was 50% more valuable than Thomas? Thomas got fair market value for his position at cornerback. Thomas himself also got fair market value for his position. Both are the best at their positions.

      Why would they trade him when he’s more valuable as a member of the team?

      It’s really actually quite simple. You pay the guys who are worth it. You trade or let guys walk who aren’t.

      If you let valuable members of the team walk, guess what? Bye bye Super Bowl team. Good luck trying to find free agents who want to come to play for you now because you just proved you’re not interested in winning.