BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 07/19/2018

Thiel: Where the Seahawks ‘lost their way’

Sherman claims the Seahawks lost their way. To some extent, it’s true. It started with Percy Harvin, who admitted this month he was diagnosed with anxiety disorder in 2010.

Percy Harvin was diagnosed in 2010 with anxiety disorder, but no one in the NFL knew. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

NFL training camp time must be near. Richard Sherman is tossing tear gas canisters into his old Seattle bunkhouse.

The 49ers cornerback (for that phrase, my spellcheck pops up with this error message: “Say what?”) launched again this week, criticizing some player personnel decisions that led to the decline that dumped the Seahawks out of the playoffs last season.

And he made a point that is plain to more than him.

“When you make too many mistakes over a long period of time, you kind of dig yourself a hole,” Sherman said in an interview in si.com’s Monday Morning Quarterback feature. “And then when you backtrack, you gotta make a bunch of rash decisions to try and fill the hole and hope that it holds up.

“They’ve lost their way. It’s as simple as that. They’ve just lost their way. ”

Sherman was careful to avoid identifying specific players as “mistakes,” because his gripe is with coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, who cut him at at what he believes is the peak of his career. But he implied that Carroll betrayed his prime directive of “always compete” by letting things other than the pure head-to-head measurables decide some roster spots.

“When we were rolling, it was an environment for pure competitors,” he said. “When it becomes something else, then it’s more difficult to thrive in, and I think that’s what was tough on Earl (Thomas), that’s what was tough on a lot of guys.

“But I think as it kind of progressed, you start seeing the writing on the wall. You’re like, ‘Not only are they probably moving in a different direction,’ but it’s like, ‘Ah, well, I kind of want to move in a different direction, too.’ So it happens like that. All great things must come to an end, I guess.”

As always, Sherman takes no responsibility for any role he had in the decline with his disruptive behavior, although be may be referencing himself by implying that his words, not his football deeds, helped bring about his unceremonious departure after seven successful seasons.

His remarks followed another si.com story July 2 that pulled the curtain back on one of the episodes Sherman likely was thinking about — the controversial 2013 trade for receiver/returner Percy Harvin. A spectacular athletic talent, Harvin had run-ins with coaches and teammates throughout his career, helping prompt his trade from the Vikings to the Seahawks for first-, third- and seventh-round draft picks.

His Seattle career, compromised by injuries, lasted eight games before he was dumped for a sixth-round pick in October 2014. His career was also compromised by anxiety disorder, which he told SI was diagnosed by the Mayo Clinic in 2010 and never revealed publicly until now. Apparently the disorder was at the heart of his fights with Seahawks WRs Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin.

“It’s different from game anxiety,” Harvin, out of the NFL and doing some coaching at  Florida State, told SI. “Game anxiety, you cool. The anxiety I’m talking about is, like, the unknown. You freeze up. Your heart is racing, you want to move around, you can’t sit . . . You don’t feel like you’re there all the way. The only people who understood were my mom and one or two coaches.”

Apparently the disorder helped bring about migraine headaches, sleeplessness and nutrition problems.

“The best way I can describe it is that I felt ‘out of body,’” Harvin, 30, said of a typical episode. “My heart would be going, I’d be sweating, I felt like everybody in the room was looking at me. My speech was slurring. I didn’t wanna eat. I was gasping for air.

You’re so worked up that it’s hard to spit words out.”

But since NFL medical protocols kept the problem private, and Harvin didn’t volunteer the information, the Seahawks apparently didn’t understand the situation. Had they passed on the trade, they could have kept the first-rounder and used it the way the Vikings did — on CB Xavier Rhodes, who was voted first-team All-Pro in 2017.

Can you imagine Sherman and Rhodes in the same defensive backfield?

Instead, the Harvin deal, even though it happened before the Super Bowl triumph over Denver, helped begin the slow decline. They have not drafted a Pro Bowl player since 2012, which is part of what Sherman is talking about.

The 2013 draft looked like this: RB Christine Michael, DT Jordan Hill, WR Chris Harper, DT Jesse Williams, CB Tharold Simon, TE Luke Willson, RB Spencer Ware, OG Ryan Seymour, DT Jared Smith, OT Michael Bowie.

Granted, the Seahawks at the time were loaded with young talent, but one or two guys from the class should be contributing in 2018. None are.

Flush with excitement and draft picks, the Seahawks went on a bender with Harvin, who never was a fit. Coupled with the poor results of the draft, the void now screams. Even absent medical evidence of Harvin’s disorder, the Seahawks saw his history of conflicts and ignored it. They invested heavily in a reputation for athletic skill rather than competition.

“It’s just unfortunate. It’s really unfortunate,” Sherman said of the Seahawks’ overall narrative. “I think it’ll all come out when they do the 30 for 30. Mistakes and poor judgment on things ruined what could have been a really special deal.”

Then again, every team overlooks red flags. Ask Pats coach Bill Belichick about convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez. Sherman can ask around the SF locker room about similar personnel errors in recent years made by a passel of 49ers operatives, including his former Stanford coach, Jim Harbaugh.

Did the Seahawks lose their way? As much as a team with six consecutive seasons of at least nine wins can be said to have lost its way, yes. Does Sherman want to pay back Seahawks bosses at every opportunity for perceived disrespect? Oh my, yes.

Twice a season, the way back goes through the 49ers, which again will be their own special kind of anxiety disorders.


YourThoughts

  • Effzee

    Speaking of handing jobs to noncompetitors… Jimmy Graham, anyone? I think that’s a way better example than a guy who played 8 games for them. They wasted *years* on the Graham project. And nobody doesn’t love the George Fant story, but should he have been a starter on a playoff contending team? Not to mention all the time and money invested/wasted in people who had injuries or had a history of being injury prone, in hopes that they would magically become hardy and resilient… I could go on…

    • art thiel

      I could have gone on too, but Harvin’s belated disclosure of his anxiety disorder explains a lot. But Graham is a good example too. Fant took no investment other than time, and we haven’t seen enough from him to know whether he might be a Baldwin-class UDFA.

      • Effzee

        True. And Harvin’s anxiety disorder does explain a lot. I’m very close to a few people in my life who suffer from this. Its painful to watch. I’m sympathetic.

        • art thiel

          The more we learn about the depth and breadth of mental health issues, the more we see them in many of us.

  • Kevin Lynch

    A group of players were formed. They played brilliantly. There was great achievement. Then the players were paid lavishly, the results began to taper and the injuries and bickering mounted. Then management cleaned house. Nothing puzzling. It didn’t make any sense to continue down the same track. Whether Pete and John, who formed the nucleus and developed the team, made a series of mistakes is somewhat irrelevant. It simply made no sense to continue down the same road.

    • Matt Kite

      One of the storylines that doesn’t get explored that often is how the star players — Sherman prominent among them — changed after they got their payday. They didn’t look as hungry or mean.

      • art thiel

        The career for most is short, so they have to play hard enough to get a second contract, but not so hard that they lose a shot at a third contract.

  • WestCoastBias79

    I’m strangely optimistic, in an 8-8 kind of way. This team did need a major re-tool, and if guys like Penny and Carson can return the Seahawks back to a ball control team with their improved line, they’ll be better than anyone expects.

    I’ll occam’s razor this, what happened is Marshawn Lynch’s body got old.

    • Centiorari

      I actually like the team going into this season better than what we had halfway through last season, I think the team will play better. That being said, the division also got better and our strength of schedule is also harder. I think schedule/division will be the reason we go 8-8 to 10-6 rather than 11-5 to 12-4 this year.

      • art thiel

        Pete never takes a season off from high expectations, remember?

      • Ron

        Not only the cap room, but the # 3 or 4 pick in the next draft because USA Today is predicting the Hawks go 4-12 this season.

        • Centiorari

          I saw that, what an insane prediction considering that we have almost the same team as we fielded last year, most of those “high profile losses” didn’t play many games last season or like Bennett have been playing injured a year. Despite that we almost won 11 or 12 games if not for some bad kicking and other mistakes. I don’t think people look at that, just the names they know off the roster.

    • art thiel

      Lynch’s body was hurt, not necessarily worn out.

      And if you’re optimistic at 8-8, you suddenly have become new to town.

  • Centiorari

    Sherman is a disgruntled ex-employee who was fired due to bad behavior and is mad about it. Consequently, he is bad mouthing his ex-employer, pretty common in society, and this always makes both the employer and employee look like trash regardless of right or wrong.

    As far as his point goes, I think it is, like most things, correct but over-simplified to make his point. Injuries and Cap space is what brings down modern football dynasties, the Seahawks are no different. Injuries take stars off the field and cap space prevents adequate depth to replace them. This process can be pushed back years or even a decade if you have enough mitigating factors such as: good drafting, stars taking pay cuts in their prime, scheme changes to make low cost players excel, and finding cheap talent on the free agency market. By my count, the Seahawks have done none of these mitigating factors overly well the last 3 to 4 years, although you could say they do better than most in free agency. Compare them to the Patriots on these scales and you see why one is still in the top and the other is starting to scramble.

    As far as the Graham and Harvin trades went I don’t think they were bad trades but rather were poorly used. Harvin got injured which is what really hurt his usefulness, just like Prich or Lockett, but never got enough time to bring it back. He was great on the Vikings (who didn’t want to pay him), Jets, and Bills. That doesn’t bode well for the Hawks that we couldn’t make it work. Graham should of never been blocking, its a waste of his talent and not this strength. Graham should of been used as a WR before being asked to do any LoS blocking. One common factor to both misuses is the WR room, they didn’t let Harvin play outside receiver much or run go routes, like other clubs did, and didn’t let Graham line up as a WR like he often did on the Saints. These facts and Harvin’s comments regarding his conflicts with the other WR at the very least indicate that the Hawk’s WR room may not be the most cooperative to changes or friendly to new players. Just my thoughts, without inside access we will never know.

    • Centiorari

      Afterthought: What did Sherman mean regarding not going with competition? Does he mean letting cap space be a factor or does he actually believe that Graham and Harvin, who were both in the top end of the entire league at the time they were acquired, couldn’t win a starting spot without intervention by JS/PC? Heck, he could mean getting rid of himself for bad behavior, something they also did to Harvin and Bennett.

      • art thiel

        His remarks aren’t specific enough to know, but I think high-end FAs on all teams face an assimilation problem with an established unit that’s been through the team’s ups and downs. And Graham was assimilation-resistant.

    • art thiel

      The fact that Sherman is pissed off doesn’t necessarily make him wrong.

      Regarding injuries and cap space, the Seahawks mitigated both with two words: Russell Wilson. He was healthy, cheap and effective at the game’s premier position. All were vital to success in the first three years.

      Harvin’s troubles were about him, not the Seahawks group of WRs. There’s always raging egos among WRs, but usually don’t come to blows.

  • Matt712

    The Seahawks didn’t lose their way; they willfully threw it away in Super Bowl XLIX.

    The Seahawk way, to that point, had been going straight into the heart of a defense with their toughest guy and daring them to stop him. Instead, they tried to be tricky. I understand the context of the game, the clock management aspect, and many of the other explanations leading to The Play That Shall not Be Named. I still disagree with it.

    I think a lot of fans and players would have been much more OK with the loss had Marshawn not gotten into the end zone on multiple attempts. But, to lose on a failed play that was meant to fool rather than straight-up beat one’s opponent betrayed the very nature that the team had fully bought into, and perhaps even smacked at cowardess.

    This was the epitome of a catastrophic loss which left an crater that many of the core players could not climb out of. The Seahawks lost a good portion of their toughness and mystique that day, and never quite got it back. It created a chasm between the Defense and the Offense of ‘toughness’ vs ‘trickiness’ that seemed to keep widening in subsequent seasons. I blame the former Offensive Coordinator the most, but the buck does stop at Pete Carroll. I hope – even at his age experience level – that he’s learned a lesson.

    And I hope that Richard Sherman, on a new team, can finally put that loss behind him.

    • art thiel

      No doubt all were scarred for life. But last year’s team had many players who were not part of that SB loss. The fact that Sherman couldn’t get past it professionally says more about him than Carroll.

    • Husky73

      100 years from now, that call will remain the most infamous moment in Seattle sports history.

  • Husky73

    The Seahawks no more “lost their way” than Sherman lost his. It is not 2013-2014 any more. Teams change over time, and that particular era of the Seahawks is over. In a few years, Sherman’s era will be over as well, not as losing his way, but to the inevitable passage of time.

    • art thiel

      I think Sherman believes that the shelf life for Seahawks success was longer than it turned out. But who can know such a thing?

  • Mark Stratton

    Sherman is like a stray dog. As long as you feed him he’s your buddy, but when the treats run out you better have an escape plan. I’m sure Carrol and Schneider knew this was coming and it will be even worse during the two seasonal meetings. Sherman’s pissed because he knows they made the right decision by cutting him.

    I’ve never bought into the Super Bowl play-call garbage. Lynch’s response directly after the game is most telling. When asked by a reporter about the call he said ‘It’s a team game man’. The Pats were loaded up for a Lynch run. What if the Hawks handed it to him and he got stuffed for a loss? Not an unlikely outcome. You can imagine the same criticism: ‘Bevell isn’t creative enough, everyone expected a Lynch run, don’t you have any other plays?’ etc.

    • DB

      Love your comments, Mark. This next season the Seahawk’s tendencies will be a bit different than what they have been, but Sherman’s won’t. Here’s hoping they light him up, and shut him up. More than anything, that Super Bowl was lost by a defense that gave up 2 TD’s in the 4th qtr.

      • Ɖ♂ற *º¤Ø♥ؤº*(°◡°♡)

        That Patriots’ team though is one of the best of all time.Look at how many Super Bowls they played in after. Other than getting a better head coach, there’s nothing the Seahawks could do.

  • tor5

    What bugs me about this “losing their way” criticism is that The Way is not the sole responsibility of Carroll and Schneider. It also rests with the players, especially the vets. I’ll always give Sherm credit for how he played the game with maximum effort, and was for the most part a good teammate. But those ridiculous sideline tantrums were as damaging to The Way as anything. In fact, dumping the unapologetic Sherm was probably necessary for getting back to The Way. I’m kind of looking forward to hating on Sherm as a trash talking opponent (even though I’ll secretly hold on to some fondness for his talent, effort, and rather intelligent brashness).

  • Mícheál Mac Cionnaith

    The whole thing is very complicated, I’m afraid. NFL teams have to work within financial parameters that, say, English Premiership soccer teams really don’t. In fact, the NFL may well have the tightest financial cap of any League in any sport. It’s very sad, because we all love Sherman, and Irvin, and Chancellor, and whomever else might say “Good Bye”. But you can’t blame a man for feathering his nest whilst he can. NFL careers are so relatively short and dangerous. I may be very wrong, but I think the #1 reason Sherman left is that it was a bigger payday. I don’t think he woke up one morning and decided to “diss” the team that put his name on the map. I think it hurt him, too, to leave. And I believe RS will be lucky to play one (1) more year without serious injury. I don’t want it to be that way; that’s just how it is.

  • jafabian

    Players like Sherman and James Harrison always have criticisms about the team that released them when they believe they are still playing at a high level. I’ll be surprised if Sherman plays on Opening Day much less more than half the season. It’s not like he sprained his ankle.

    In some respects the Carroll/Schneider regime repeated the same mistakes the Holmgen/Ruskell regime did in trying to maintain the Super Bowl level the club achieved with average-skilled players and giving large salaries to players who became old too quickly. By the same token however the NFL doesn’t allow dynasties with few exceptions, such as large market teams or teams with a marquee player. It’s not all on Caroll and Schneider. If anything they believed in the players too much, something that Bill Belichick doesn’t do beyond Tom Brady.

    The Seahawks had one of the best defenses of all time and only one championship to show. Same with the 1985 Bears. Both have only one Super Bowl to show for their efforts. Maybe it’s time for the defensive minded Coach Carroll to change his approach.

  • 1coolguy

    I would have replaced Schneider with a person from the Patriots years ago. No other team has interchanged and replaced players as they have and stayed at the top. I challenge any normal fan to name 4 Patriots players. They have a system of not only moving players in and out,but also being RIGHT about the players they pick up. Schneiders course has run, and Pete needs players – he is a great coach, but he has been killed by lousy drafts and trades. Harvin, Unger and Graham. It’s 3 strikes and you’re out – Do it Paul, time to let Schneider go.

    • Estip

      Just a minute. I read a comment somewhere that Schneider was a genius.

  • Michael Galey

    Not buying this diatribe, no matter the out come it is and always has been, any given Sunday you can expect Murphy’s law to enter the equation. Our D is no longer respected and must be regained. Our Offensive needs new plays and get Dangeruss a little relief from the LB’s with their streak of lighting speed. The blame goes all around I for one am ready to see what’s on the next page of the continuing saga of Seahawk drama.