BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 07/26/2017

Thiel: Sherman still the story as camp nears

Richard Sherman is still defending himself against ESPN story about his relationship with Wilson. But that isn’t the story. The story is whether he can put the Seahawks ahead of himself.

Richard Sherman has a habit of pointing fingers at others. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

As Seahawks training camp approaches Sunday, here’s today’s brain-teaser for Seattletonians:

What is harder to put down, the Richard Sherman saga, or a smart phone while driving?

One has been made illegal, and the other Gov. Jay Inslee and the state Legislature are hoping to stop.

Oh, wait. The Sherman story isn’t illegal. Yet. But don’t blame the media on this one. The man himself is keeping it alive after we thought it was over.

This week in an interview, Sherman told one ESPN reporter, Josina Anderson, that another ESPN reporter, Seth Wickersham, made something out of nothing when he wrote a story two months earlier that said there was friction between Sherman and QB Russell Wilson. It was the same point he made to local reporters June 24 in a long monologue after mini-camp: Players don’t have to be friends to be good teammates.

As Anderson giggled through his answer, Sherman said, “Every single person on every single team doesn’t hang out. I don’t see anybody getting mad that Tom Brady isn’t hanging out with (teammate) Malcolm Butler. Like, ‘Hey Tom, you and Malcolm hang out? You guys don’t? Hmm … what’s going on there?’

“You know what I mean? What are we talking about here? They’re trying to create a story that isn’t there.”

So Sherman, rather than letting the story dwindle away, voluntarily revived it. Why? He has to be right.

At least, regarding the absence of “hanging out” with Wilson, Sherman has always been correct. Every NFL team has groups, loners, adversaries, extroverts, introverts, etc. Sometimes they don’t get along. Just as it is with any workplace, classroom, church or Metro bus.

Unfortunately, there exists a whole team-sports mythology built around the notion that friendship leads to success, and success leads to friendship, and tra-la, tra-la.

No.

All that matters is that players find a way to sublimate personal indifference or animosity for the greater good. If that doesn’t happen, then there’s a story.

But after five seasons in a row that each included at least one playoff win, as well as two Super Bowl appearances and a championship, it’s harder to make the case that the Seahawks have more problems with team chemistry than any other NFL team.

Any chemistry problem is between Sherman and coaches — and by extension, all of the players impacted by his distractions. It’s why Sherman’s behavior was the biggest off-season (and in-season) story of 2016, and lingers into 2017 until proven otherwise.

The Wickersham story was a sideshow, one that Sherman participated in off the record. The real issue, which Sherman addresses far more reluctantly, were the in-game, public rants toward coaches.

Sherman’s outbursts against defensive coordinator Kris Richard in October and against offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell in December, were big deals because they appeared to have impacts on play and concentration.

Coach Pete Carroll’s No. 1 rule is “protect the team.” Sherman wasn’t protecting the team. He was indulging himself some self-righteousness, then covering it up as merely an expression of his competitive nature.

But the self-absorption was sufficiently disturbing that Carroll and general manager John Schneider seriously and publicly considered trading Sherman in the off-season. A trade as public threat was unprecedented in Carroll’s tenure. It didn’t happen, but if the rumored price was true — two No. 1 picks — it wasn’t going to happen.

Nevertheless, the clever public tactics sent a message without need for suspension or public punishment — no player is above the rules. But given Sherman’s profile, it also invited intense scrutiny, enough that ESPN devoted some journalistic resources to tell the story — and then some resources to let Sherman refute it.

That’s known in the journo biz as a “two-fer.”

In Sherman’s presser after mini-camp, he never fully took responsibility for his actions, but he inched himself along.

“I might have gone over the top,” he said. “But (Carroll) understood where it was coming from, and so did my teammates. It’s just the competitor. It’s a competitive team. That’s why my teammates still ride with me. They still ride or die, because it’s good times and bad times, just like a family.”

Even though Carroll praised how Sherman handled himself in his first public comments about the trade threat, Sherman just can’t bring himself to admit error. Apparently what he said was good enough, given what Carroll knows about the guy’s personality and value to the defense.

But the team story into 2017 remains Sherman vs. himself, not Sherman vs. Wilson. Remember, this is a team that, in the Friday practice before the Super Bowl they would win with one of the most dominant performances in NFL championship history, had wide receivers Percy Harvin and Golden Tate punching on each other.

Two star players in a fist-fight before the biggest moment of their professional lives, and   the Seahawks still beat on the Broncos, 43-8? That, friends, is team chemistry.

After that, any reports of feuds, fights, bickering or other unpleasantries between teammates, while amusing, should not be taken seriously, at least regarding material impact on the chances to win a game.

But when you don’t protect the team, well, as Sherman knows, families have rules too.


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    I agree with Richard that you don’t need to be best friends with everyone you work with or in your family or even in your life. He does need to let it go at some point though (Same with SB XLIX) or else it starts to trickle down to the team which Carroll won’t tolerate. I remember Michael Jordan berated his old high school coach for initially cutting him from the team his sophomore year at his HOF speech. Patrick Ewing said it was the competitive nature of Jordan that was speaking but at some point ask yourself how do you want to be remembered. A competitor isn’t necessarily a good thing, especially when your athletic career is over.

    • art thiel

      Good point. “Competitiveness” is sometimes a convenient cover for simply being a jerk. Might be a good column: The difference between being a competitor and and an asshole.

      • Bruce McDermott

        I wonder whether Baldwin has ever screamed “you effing suck” at Sherman in practice, after he burns him on his release and catches something from Wilson. Because you just know he’s done that. Wonder how Sherman has reacted, if so…

        • John M

          Baldwin has actually said those approximate words to Sherman. They all do this to each other, it’s part of the practice jive among professionals and it’s one of the ways to keep each other jacked. They go through the same moves, same plays, many times. That’s just one of the ways they keep it alive. Once a player has survived the first three years in the league I don’t think they care so much about a teammates personality; as long as they’re doing the job they can play next to them.

          I like Sherman as a person, but he should admit the outburst over the one yard pass was way over the line.

          • art thiel

            Many trash-talk teammates/friends during and after practice, and the weight given that 2014 practice pickoff episode by Sherman was way too much.

            As I’ve written before, jealousy of the QB by numerous teammates has been an NFL fixture since before Otto Graham.

      • jafabian

        Compare Ray Allen and Gary Payton. Both are competitive in different ways. Both are champions. So they got their desired results so who’s to say which is right and which is wrong?

        • art thiel

          There’s definitely no right or wrong here regarding the personality types that lead to to success. See: Carroll and Belichick. But those two and Payton/Allen do share characteristics that helped make them successful.

          • jafabian

            If anything now that they’re not playing anymore Ray is relatively the same person while G isn’t nearly as cantankerous as he was in his playing days despite his recent outburst at the BIG3 press conference. He even gets along with Jim Moore now. Amazing.

  • Bruce McDermott

    Sherman’s argument seems to be, at least with respect to one on-field rant, that it was the coaches who weren’t protecting the team when they called plays guaranteed to 1) evoke the Super Bowl loss, and 2) vitiate the team’s “toughness” ethic Carroll likes to mention so often. Under this theory, Sherman’s rants were just to remind the coaches that the “protect the team” mantra applies to all, not just players. The trouble with that argument is that the coaches called one of those plays to win the damn game, because they realized that notwithstanding the theory, in practice “toughness” up front was in short supply, and the other one I’m thinking of–the coverage mix-up against Atlanta–had nothing to do with those issues. There is good competitiveness (positive effect on team) and bad competitiveness (negative effect on team.) Sherman lapsed into the latter last year too often, extending well beyond the plays involved, and well into the interview tents and even offseason thereafter..

    • art thiel

      I’m not sure Sherman was thinking of the coaches violating the “protect the team” mantra simply by what he saw as bad playcalling. But he was overstepping team protocol on several levels, the least of which was that it was a dumb argument because the Seahawks
      scored two plays later on a pass to Baldwin from the one.

      Sherman chooses not to acknowledge publicly that he violated protocols and became a distraction. It’s hardly a crisis, merely a bad example for a team leader — the bad competitiveness of which you wrote.

      • Bruce McDermott

        Actually, he did directly invoke “protect the team” in a discussion he had privately with Pete, or so he says. It’s not just “bad playcalling” he was objecting to, either, because he said something like “this team should not be throwing the football from the one. We’ve tried that”–a fairly unsubtle dig at Carroll and his OC…

        I agree, some of Baldwin’s best moves have come off the line on plays down close….

        • art thiel

          My reference to bad playcalling was exactly the one you referenced — Sherman was claiming the pass at the 1 was a bad play call. And Sherman’s use of “protect the team” in that instance was as misdirected as Trump’s complaints about leaks.

  • wabubba67

    Besides Harvin v. Tate, there were also rumors of Tate sleeping with Wilson’s now ex-wife. If individuals focus on winning and doing their jobs while on the field, off field antics are will remain a distant sideshow.

    • art thiel

      Heard the rumor as well, but nothing tangible emerged.

      Regarding sideshows, this is America. It’s what we do best.

    • Steed

      I wonder how rumors like that spread?

      • wabubba67

        I’m not really sure. It could be because that rumor was never explicitly denied by either of the three parties involved, or that Wilson was in marital counseling at the time, or that Tate was allowed to leave as a FA to Detroit with a contract that Seattle could have easily matched at the time, or that Wilson seemed to not target Tate as much in the 2nd half of that season. It leaves perceptive adults to connect the dots. Of course, it may not have happened though.

  • Steed

    Art, you are partly responsible for the Sherman thing not going away, at least on this website. You have no obligation to comment on every comment Sherman makes about an old story he doesn’t like.

    This is the off season, you have to write about something, and the Seahawks are still the most popular thing in town, but you do have choices. Another column speculating on the offensive line would be about as relevant as another column commenting on Sherman’s comments on an old story.

    If he were the POTUS, I would agree that you cannot just ignore what he says, no matter how tedious the story gets, you have to cover it. But this isn’t like that. Please use your considerable talents to find and tell a story that isn’t already a horse carcass.