BY Art Thiel 12:00PM 05/26/2017

Thiel: It’s on Sherman for the in-house repairs

An in-depth story by ESPN.com disclosed Richard Sherman’s lingering issues with the Super Bowl loss and the exceptionalism of Russell Wilson has but one solution — him.

Richard Sherman has to get right for 2017. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Perhaps by now you have read Seth Wickersham’s intriguing story on ESPN.com about the drama that enveloped CB Richard Sherman’s season, which was sufficiently disruptive to lead the Seahawks to entertain trading one of the NFL’s most valuable players. If you don’t have time for the magnum opus, I will share a central point of the story, then explain why the story misses a greater point.

The set-up is that Wickersham reported, from mostly anonymous sources, that Sherman never got over the goal-line interception that cost the Seahawks a Super Bowl win over New England. In that, he’s exactly like 100.5 percent of the fan base (the .5 is for the children whose mothers were pregnant with them on game day, and passed on the compulsive grief). He writes:

If the hardest thing in football is to manage the celebrity that attends a Super Bowl win, the next-hardest thing is to forget a catastrophic Super Bowl loss. Something complicated and vital to the chemistry of a great team was broken on that interception. According to interviews with numerous current and former Seahawks players, coaches and staffers, few have taken it harder than Richard Sherman. He has told teammates and friends that he believes the Seahawks should have won multiple Super Bowls by now. And with just one trophy and the window closing fast, he has placed responsibility for that failing on the two faces of the franchise: Wilson and Carroll.

To which I respond: Um, yeah.

That’s how it almost always goes when a sports mistake is epochal. The perps are branded for life, be it Bill Buckner or Steve Bartman, Chris Webber or LeBron James. Wickersham suggests that while Carroll and Wilson understand their responsibility, they have never said, “I f—— up. Sorry.”

That apparently galls Sherman. But neither Carroll or Wilson are wired that way, because in order for them to fulfill their contracts, as well as the dreams of players and millions of fans, they have to develop workarounds to avoid emotional trauma that will compromise them.

Ironically, Sherman, who is indulged nearly all of his behaviors, has a hard time admitting error too. Nor does it seem from the story that he can tolerate the different coping mechanisms in Carroll and Wilson.

Now Sherman has already denigrated the ESPN story, for which he declined to be interviewed.

He texted Sirius XM NFL radio Thursday, several hours after publication of the story: “It’s just a bunch of nonsense from ‘anonymous’ sources. Can never put much gravity of things like that.”

Sherman’s entitled to his opinion, but he can’t argue with the fact that the second of his two infamous public blowups last season was over a perceived replication of the Super Bowl mistake.

Against the Rams Dec. 15, on first and goal at the 1-yard line, Wilson threw incomplete to TE Jimmy Graham. In the middle of the next play call, Sherman came over and disruptively castigated offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and then Carroll.

After Sherman was pulled away, the next play was a run for no gain. On third down, Wilson threw again from the 1, this time finding WR Doug Baldwin close to alone for the touchdown.

In theory, that should have quieted Sherman, or at least scuttled his argument. But no.

After the game, Sherman still claimed his cause was just.

“I don’t like it when we throw the ball at the 1,” he told reporters.  “We throw an interception at the 1. Luckily (the Graham pass) went incomplete, and I wasn’t going to let them continue to do that.

“I was letting Pete know. I was making sure Pete knew that we’re not comfortable with you throwing the ball at the 1.”

Not sure who “we” was, but I think most coaches would agree that Sherman’s in-game rant crossed the line into insubordination. Certainly it broke Carroll’s first covenant: “Protect the team.” And it subsequently looked foolish, since the Seahawks scored on a pass two plays later.

The reason for the re-hash of the episode is that if Sherman has sufficient mistrust of Carroll and/or Wilson to disrupt a game to express himself about a two-year-old mistake, when and how, at 29, does he join them in getting beyond The Play That Cannot Be Unseen?

Where this gets toxic is when Sherman, a team leader, distrusts, publicly as well as privately, the decisions of Carroll and Wilson.

A money quote from the Wickersham story:

Sherman is “always looking at what other people are doing,” says a former assistant coach who has had many talks with him. “He’s made it personal. ‘It’s your fault we’re not winning.’ It wears guys thin.”

If that is an accurate reflection of Sherman’s approach, I understand how the Seahawks went down the road of a trade.

The story also says some unnamed players believe Wilson has favored-son status with the coaches and is not held as accountable for outcomes as the defense, which has carried the team for much of Wilson’s five years.

Another excerpt from the story:

Carroll hosts “Tell the Truth Monday” during the season, when he breaks down film. Some Seahawks joke that it should be renamed “Tell the Truth to Certain People,” because Wilson seems exempt from criticism.

For perspective on the Wilson exceptionalism, here’s an example from another team (not part of the ESPN story):

“The three interceptions really hurt us.  I mean, that’s just reality.  If I were to sit here and say, ‘Oh, man, it’s OK,’ that’s not reality. The reality is, you throw interceptions, I’m pissed off, I don’t like it.  You know what I’m saying?  I don’t like it, I know everybody else on the team doesn’t like it . . .

“If somebody is not playing well, they need to come out of the game.  You’re jeopardizing the whole team because you’re having a bad day.  To me, that’s not fair to everybody else.  You’re not the only one on the team.”

That was from RB Thomas Jones of the Jets complaining to a New York radio station in 2009 about their quarterback, Brett Favre.

The example is merely one among hundreds that fill football locker rooms where lesser players — not just fans and media — blame quarterbacks, even successful ones. The complaints are acute among players because they see the deference given to star QBs in ways outsiders cannot.

How that happens is understandable. The smartest players know their careers are short. The play of one teammate has a disproportionate impact on their own lucrative livelihoods, which have less security than in any other major team sport.

But almost by definition, successful NFL quarterbacks are extensions of team management. The franchise and a quality QB combine create an otherness that strains the sappy one-for-all sports-team mythology. The modern QB is a business relationship unlike any other — one foot in management and one foot on the field. So, yes, a good QB often gets a break where other players do not.

Carroll prides himself in treating players equally, but when it comes to a good QB, it’s an aspiration more than a reality. That’s neither bad nor good, it just is.

The matter left unaddressed in the story is whether Carroll’s willingness to let Wilson play through his three injuries in 2016 was a source of locker-room irritation, as in Jones’ claim about Favre: If someone isn’t playing well, he needs to come out.

No one doubts the effort Wilson put into rehab that allowed him to play every game was laudatory. But even Wilson acknowledged by the end of the season he played through the middle of the season diminished.

Was the decision to let him continue to play more about Wilson’s ego-driven insistence in not being sidelined, or was it out of fear of inserting rookie backup Trevone Boykin? Either way, the Seahawks had five games in which they scored 12 points or less, winning one. Blame went well beyond Wilson for the paltry production, but his injuries undoubtedly compromised the playbook.

In hindsight, the preseason decision by coaches to keep a rookie as backup instead of a veteran had dubious consequences. That is a likely driver of current events regarding the potential hire of Colin Kaepernick or another veteran to replace Boykin.

For Sherman, as well as others, the 2016 decisions about the QB spot left the Seahawks vulnerable, burdening the defense, which had injury problems of its own.

A month after the Seahawks stunned the Patriots in New England 31-24, they were semi-helpless in Green Bay against the Packers, 38-10, the worst defeat of Wilson’s tenure. The next week was the infamous Rams game that provoked Sherman’s ire with playcalling.

The Seahawks were on their way to a disappointing end, despite making the playoffs and winning the first round at home against mediocre Detroit. Sherman, an ultimate competitor, let his anger compromise his standing with some coaches and teammates.

Two conclusions emerge: To move beyond the 2016 season and the Wickersham story, Sherman has to put away the lost Super Bowl and make whatever amends necessary to, as Carroll insists, “protect the team.”  And he and the rest of team have to accept that Wilson, by personality, position and achievement, is as different, weird and necessary in his own way as are the rest of them.

Sherman’s tumult is not an extinction-level event for the Seahawks’ championship chances. The only way team chemistry is irretrievably broken, as Wickersham suggests, is if Sherman keeps it that way.


YourThoughts

  • ReebHerb

    Get rid of Sherman. It’s not fun to watch his antics anymore. For that matter, pass on Kaepernick too. Just doesn’t feel good to have someone on your team giving you the middle finger or spitting in your eye.

    • WestCoastBias79

      I remember when the Seahawks were only about ‘character guys’. Their coach was Jim Mora complaining that he needed some ‘dirtbags’ on his way to a 5-11 season and being fired.

      • Ken S.

        Geez! I forgot all about Mora! Been a Hawk’s fan since their inception. too. I guess Mora was that forgettable!

        • art thiel

          One year was a mere hummingbird fart.

          • Les Thomas

            Oh. My. GOD! Art Thiel finally able to let it all hang out…You, Sir, are the best damn thing on the interwebs!

      • coug73

        I remember the Seahawks as mostly losers until Holmgren and P.C.

        • art thiel

          True dat.

      • art thiel

        I believe Mora wanted to improve with dirtbags. Not sure that “character” guys were what he was after.

    • art thiel

      I understand the contempt, but Ted Williams could be a nasty guy. Lots of stars have been prickly, but their deeds weren’t covered as intensely.

      • Jamo57

        In this town alone, Gary Payton, Jr.and Shawn Kemp before the nostalgic redemption we’ve bestowed on them……..

        • art thiel

          The Karl-coached Sonics were the OK Corral about every other day at practice.

      • DB

        Exactly right. I think it rankles Sherm that all of his good deeds don’t get the same focus his misdeeds have. Unfortunately, giving personally to bring new guys into the fold and leading the Seahawks indoctrination in ways no coach can (not to mention his charitable efforts), just isn’t as interesting as tantrum throwing. Loved the insights and agree with the conclusions, Art.

        • art thiel

          Thanks DB.

  • WestCoastBias79

    Whenever you read the postmortems on dynasties, there always seems to be a Sherman type among them. You have to be a bit unhinged to play at his level in a sport as violent as pro football.

    Every QB gets special treatment. They wear special colors during practice that keeps them from being hit. I recall the story of Dwight Freeney dreaming of teeing off on Peyton Manning. Also, if Russell Wilson is coddled, I don’t ever want to be that kind of coddled. He’s basically asked to line up behind a decent center who is flanked by tackling dummies that get him drilled every other play.

    • art thiel

      Not sure that a Sherman type is cause and effect for dynasty decay. More like a symptom.

      I don’t think they believe Wilson is coddled as much as not held as accountable.

      • John M

        Not only was this the place he wanted to come, he arrived with a developed unique focus and has steadily improved (hampered by his line the last couple years), and he never rails against his coaches, even when the wrong play may be called. Why wouldn’t a coach favor a guy like that?

        • art thiel

          True, but you remember how other kids treated the teacher’s pet, right? Not saying it’s justified, just human.

  • John M

    Well, Art, you reported some Sherman dialogue I hadn’t heard before. I’ve stuck up for the guy, but he’s pulled the chain about as tight as it gets before it’s yanked hard. I think your last paragraph sums it up: It’s now time for Sherman to suck it up and just do his job.

    • art thiel

      Sherman has said so much for so long that it’s hard to corral in one spot. He’s definitely worth keeping but he has to know when he’s hurting the team.

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  • Bryan Clark

    These guys are welcome to their personal squabbles, struggles, and opinions. As a Seahawks fan, I definitely want more – another title. But these guys are made men in my book. They won us a Super Bowl. Could we have won another with better decisions, or simply not running a play the other team had scouted out as a go-to on tape? Yes. Is it o.k. for Sherman to be pissed? Yes. I wish he would turn the page and I hope that he does. But he’s a made guy for me, I have nothing bad to say about him. He’s made some of the most important plays in the history of the franchise and is still a solid player.

    • art thiel

      Enlightened perspective, Bryan. Sherman did bring it on himself, and it’s his obligation to walk it back. I would think he will.

  • Tman

    Is it time we count our blessings? Boykin, Sherman, Wilson, Graham and Kaepernick are great players. Pete Carroll is a great coach. How would you like to be playing against them?

    The Seahawks have a roster..decimated by injuries to Thomas Rawls, CJ Procise, and Tyler Lockett..not to mention big guns..Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett and Earl Thomas.

    Perhaps we send out get well soon wishes and put away the crying towel for now.

    The Seahawks are a great team. Not to worry.

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      A burst of optimism. I must shield my eyes.

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    • HawkFan52

      Boykin and Kaepernick are great players? I don’t see it and including them in your comment dilutes your point. I am also optimistic for 2017 however.

      • Tman

        pc says ck is a “starter in this league.” Boykin looks good and scores when given the chance for the hawks. His highlight film from college is on youtube. Again, how would you like to coach and play against Wilson, Boykin and CK? Who might beat them given a good OL?

        • HawkFan52

          lol, ok. Whatever you say.

  • Talkjoc

    So, how many points in the 4th quarter of the SB against the Patriots did the “D” give up? Sherman, seems to forget about that.

    • art thiel

      That would be 14. It’s also true that Sherman, Thomas and Chancellor were all playing injured from pre-SB wounds.

      • Talkjoc

        No sympathy points.

      • ss

        While the D gave up those 14 in that Super Bowl, over the past few seasons, they’ve been asked to hold many leads while the offense sputtered and failed to maintain any pressure of its own on the opposition by getting even a first down a first down or two. Especially against better quality teams. Coach Quinn said he wanted a team that attacked on both sides of the ball. Sounds good to me.

        • art thiel

          The D also gave up 38 to GB and 36 to ATL, absent Thomas. That’s part of why a DT their first pick in the draft.

  • Jamo57

    Interesting to contemplate the idea that the quarterback must come out of the game if he’s not playing well as measured by interceptions, and then wonder how the NFC title game vs. Green Bay would have turned out. That’s a rather shallow point of view from a player playing a different position.

    Thank you Art for a spot on column. I’m wondering if Sherman is interested in having established a “legacy” of the LOB going forward with the next generation of DBs on the horizon or be consumed with the lost opportunities and closing window, real or imagined. Will he be a mentor or an obstacle?

    • art thiel

      You’re right about shallowness, but players are susceptible to shallowness too, just like media and fans. That’s why none of us coach, and Jones was foolish.

      Everyone knowledgeable about Sherman’s practice behavior says he is always available and eager to mentor younger players. So it’s a non-issue.

      Retooling is the plan. Pulling it off requires these last two draft classes produce major contributors.

  • Paul Harmening

    I don’t know about others, but unfortunately I’m going to looking all season for another Sherman disruption. That’s a fan disruption. I hope it won’t be a team disruption though, as that alone could keep them out of the SB.

    • art thiel

      That is one of the unintended consequences for Sherman. If he arches an eyebrow at a teammate, it’ll be national news.

  • Stephen Pitell

    Good story. One laugh out loud. Thanks.

    • art thiel

      Well, a critic is pleased. Made my weekend.

  • It’s only Sports

    To sum it up?Sherman remaining a malcontent is detrimental to the success of the club and that behavior will keep the club from winning a SB not boost it towards such a goal.
    If you want that 2nd Lombardi Rich you need to spend a considerable amount of time at your shrink to iron this thing out. Good Luck cuz we need you!

    • art thiel

      I know he’ll treasure your advice and hustle off to the therapist’s couch that Lucy has waiting in Peanuts.

      • It’s only Sports

        Sherman would be willing to pay about a nickel.
        I tell ya Lucy! And another thing? Im sick of the whole Earl the Pearl talk about how important Thomas is to this D….its me!!! Its me that’s important!!!

  • 1coolguy

    The good about this article is it helps to put the M’s season in the rear view mirror – Football season can’t come soon enough! Go Hawks, Go Dawgs!

    • art thiel

      Hey, they’ve just one two in a row, pal. Stow the skepticism. Bergman for Cy Young.