BY Art Thiel 06:42PM 11/28/2018

Thiel: Carroll and Sherman: A test of who is right

Offering a self-described “love-fest” for Richard Sherman, Pete Carroll had no choice. Can you imagine what it would be like for the coach if the 49ers won?

Seahawks need to prove Richard Sherman wrong when he said his old club “lost their way.” / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Probably the most complicated relationship over the past 25 years in Seattle sports after George Karl and Gary Payton is Pete Carroll and Richard Sherman. Both relationships were notably responsible for great team success, but the tension between coach and the genius talent eventually wore out each side.

Asked once how Karl, the over-wrought Sonics coach, managed to keep the train on the tracks with his volatile All-NBA point guard, assistant coach Dwane Casey grinned.

“Gary actually thinks,” said Casey, “George is crazy enough to kill him.”

As you may have guessed, that is not the same approach Carroll has with Sherman. Carroll prefers to kill Sherman with kindness.

Carroll spent a good chunk of his Wednesday presser at team HQ answering questions about his relationship with Sherman, who returns to the Clink Sunday (1:25 p.m., FOX) with his new team, the 2-9 San Francisco 49ers.

When he thought the questions had ended, Carroll, in his first extensive conversation about why in March he fired injured his All-Pro cornerback and one of America’s most high-profile athletes, offered self-analysis of his performance.

So,” he said, smiling. “Pretty good love fest for Sherm.”

Indeed, Carroll took a high road worthy of the Himalayas. He offered admiration for Sherman’s talent and intellect, respect for his candor and independence and certainty that Seahawks fans will offer Sunday the same affection for Sherman that he was offering.

Somewhere, Karl just threw up.

And probably a lot of people around the Seahawks felt a little something in the back of their throats.

There’s no way a coach of Carroll’s achievement lets go for nothing a player of Sherman’s game-changing talent unless he finds him incorrigible and irredeemable.

At the same time, Carroll has a game to win Sunday.

The mere thought of the dissolving 49ers, who have lost nine in a row to Seattle, pulling off the upset, perhaps including a Sherman pick-six of his former locker-room rival, Russell Wilson, likely has Carroll soaking the nightly sheets more than any other game this season.

A 49ers win would topple everything Carroll has been building with his re-made roster and coaching staff. Worse, it would help validate Sherman’s post-waiver claim that the Seahawks “lost their way” in terms of talent evaluation, and that Carroll’s message among veterans had worn thin.

It would also renew more scrutiny of Wilson, whom Sherman and a few others contended was not as accountable for his errors, thereby discrediting Carroll’s big fundamental that says pure competition is the only thing that determines opportunity with the Seahawks.

There’s no way that Carroll was going to add to Sherman’s fire by offering an honest assessment. Instead, he used words such as “brilliant . . . amazing . . . beautiful” to describe Sherman.

Except there was one answer that offered something more than a threat of tooth decay.

Asked how much is too much, Carroll said, “With an individual player, when it’s no longer about the team. When the team is no longer the essence, then it’s time to move on. That’s where the limitations come in. They (no longer can be) about the cause, the brotherhood. There’s a time you have to move on.”

Then he paused and said, “I’m not saying that’s what happened with Sherman at all. (But) that’s when I draw the line. As long as we’re all in this together, we’re good.”

Although Sherman will not see it the same way, his increasingly selfish actions were a breach with which Carroll no longer cared to contend. Sherman’s nationally televised sideline blowups over coaching decisions, his threat to have a reporter’s credentials revoked, and his skepticism about Wilson’s accountability all were episodes that suggested Sherman believed himself bigger than the team.

Asked about Sherman’s “losing their way” comment, Carroll deftly dismissed it.

“Sherm had to do what he had to do,” he said. “He had to change allegiance and get tuned into his new team. Whatever took place was OK. I know him way differently than you guys probably think you do. I think the world of him.

“When he was here, he might have said things that I didn’t agree with, and had to work through. He’s his own man, a stud of a guy when he was here. Whatever came out in the transition, came out. I could care less.”

I tend to think Carroll does think the world of Sherman the person. I also think he will like him more after their careers are done. Hey, Karl and Payton get along now.

Asked what he’s learned about handling superstar players, Carroll said, “Everybody deserves everything I got when they’re here: To help them, see them, understand them, to learn them, to love ’em up, kick ’em in the ass. Whatever it takes to help them be the best they can be. I don’t know any other way to do it.

“When a guy has that much to offer, the exchange was rich. Creativity, being strong and true. I don’t see it like (giving slack) at all. I just give the guy space to be who he is. If you do that, you get a chance to find their greatness. If you don’t, you come up short.”

It would have been easier in Seattle had Sherman offered up a little humility to go along with the aggression. Longtime teammate and Sherman friend Bobby Wagner was asked whether he could recall Sherman being wrong.

“No,” he said sardonically. “He’s not wrong. If he says the sky is purple, it’s purple.”

Sherman is out to prove he was right about the Seahawks losing their way. And Carroll is just as determined, for once, to prove him wrong.

If you were considering Sunday’s game against a hind-end team was something of a given, you may want to re-consider. Two of the strongest personalities in Seattle sports history are about to have it out.



  • Kristafarian

    This one should be a lot of fun.
    Let’s see how Wilson challenges Sherman.
    Some say Sherman’s been poorly lately;
    Will Russell go after him right outta the gate?
    Will Richard get a sack?!

    “I just give the guy space to be who he is.
    If you do that, you get a chance to find their greatness.”
    –Coach Pete

    One for the Ages….

    • Pete is my all time favorite football coach, used to be Jerry Glanville. Both great quotes. Glanville to a ref once, paraphrasing a bit, “This the NFL, for you that means Not For Long”. Pete’s “..just give the guy space…” is right there.

      • art thiel

        Carroll is not threatened by athletes who think and speak for themselves. He has his limits, as he explained. Sherman crossed them. Someday, when the Sherman sky is no longer purple, I’d enjoy hearing the perspective that time allows.

    • art thiel

      Carroll knows that smart players often will be a challenge to his authority. It is admirable that he eagerly embraces them. It probably will take time for Sherman to fully appreciate that.

  • Guy K. Browne

    Coming back from an achilles injury is anything but certain and often ends up poorly. I tend to think that Sherman’s release was a football/business decision, that overpaying for damaged goods in a salary cap world is a non-starter. The 49ers took no such risk, they have almost nothing but upside. Sherman will always be one of my favorite Hawks and I wish he were still a hawk, I don’t believe that he ever once gave less than everything that he had to give. Yes, whatever grievances he had should not have been aired publicly, but his commitment and passion was undeniable.

    • art thiel

      Well said, Guy. It was truly bad luck to have injury happen when the Seahawks had to make the business decisions, and I understand Sherman being pissed. But Hollywood endings rarely happen in sports.

      I think Sherman will be on to more important things in life, and I’d like to see fans wish him well.

      • Archangelo Spumoni

        Sherman is a V.P. with the Players’ Association and do not be surprised if he is president of the NFLPA some day.
        I fully expect that he has a leadership position long after he is done playing.

        • art thiel

          I think Richard has eyes on a higher prize. Someday you may get to vote for him.

  • Tim

    I love Sherman the player and the trash talker. I also love how he laid everything on the line and gave his all every game. Truly a remarkable athlete. That said, his antics over time wore thin. Sherman would not have a Super Bowl ring were it not for the starting quarterback that he’s had the audacity to trash. I hope Russ burns him big-time Sunday. I’ll cheer down the road when he’s inducted into the ring of honor, but not before then.

    • art thiel

      Every fan is entitled to his or her perspective on such an important yet provocative player. As a journalist, I certainly don’t mind thought-provoking, unconventional athletes. I’ve called out Sherman on what seemed to me to be insubordinate acts, but that does not alter the appreciation for the breadth and depth of his contributions to sustained Seahawks success.

      • Mark Thurston

        I’ll bet your attitude when you had to call out Richard Sherman was never as belligerent as Jim Moore’s was that day. . .I thought the way Jim Moore asked questions of Richard Sherman seemed as though he had some other agenda besides the unity of the team. Like it was his job that day to put down the uprising of insubordinate behavior on behalf of Seahawks management. And yes Sherman could have checked it by simply giving Mr Moore the mute button and not answering anything else from his mouth. Hostile questioning got a hostile answer in return. But only the answer was apologized for. . .

        • jafabian

          Seattle journalists are much kinder than NYC, Boston and Chicago. If an athlete can barely check their temper here they won’t last in a larger market.

          • Mark Thurston

            so let me get this straight. . athletes have to check their temper but journalists dont?

          • jafabian

            Never said that. Fact of the matter is Moore asked a fair question that day. The problem is Sherman is such a competitor he doesn’t know when to shut it down and as such took the question personally. Moore understands that (he covered the Glove after all.) but he was the one reporter willing to address the elephant in the room. (Or he just beat everyone to it.). My point is that the media in larger markets are much, much more aggressive than the media here. Being professional? Of course. Respectful? Goes both ways. The media is much more tolerant than most athletes.

          • art thiel

            As I recall, Jim asked Sherman if he thought he knew better than the coach, as Sherman all but said. It was a tough but fair question, holding him to account. Sherm got angry, Moore didn’t.

          • Husky73

            When was Moore disrespectful, belligerent, unprofessional or angry? Answer: he wasn’t. He asked a question. That’s his job; even questions that may be unflattering. It’s also part of Sherman’s job, as a professional entertainer, to answer questions.

        • Seattle Ray

          Actually Moore thought Sherman’s answer was fine and didn’t take it like a insult. He understands that Sherman doesn’t have that power like Trump. It was Danny O’Neill that kept the drum beating on that. Moore would upset Gary Payton by asking the tough questions about their actions and extra BS. It is part of Sports Entertainment. Sherman plays that game too. It is game in between the game to stay relevant and for a career after sports.

        • art thiel

          Jim’s agenda was never the unity of the team. That’s never on the agenda for any independent media person. Granted, Jim left journalism to be a radio entertainer, but he simply didn’t like Sherman’s behavior in general.

          I think Sherman took the question wrong, and things became testy. Sherman overstepped when he threatened Moore’s access.

  • jafabian

    I recently bought a Sherman jersey. Okay it was on sale. But he’s still one of my all time favorite Seahawks despite his faults and yes he had them. But not only was he a valuable part of the Super Bowl teams but he also was a founder of the NFL’s answer to the Cincinnati Reds Nasty Boys, the Legion of Boom who will never be forgotten by NFL fans. And I can’t picture the rivalry between the Niners and the Seahawks without him. But like athletes such as Gary Payton, Ken Griffey Jr., Joey Galloway, Dennis Johnson and even Jack Sikma and Ichiro Suzuki sometimes they need to see if the grass truly is greener on the other side. And sometimes they outgrow the situation that made them the icon they came to be. I’m interested in hearing Sherman in interviews 10 years from now and see if his point of view on things change. I doubt it.

    • art thiel

      Good points, John. The time at the pinnacle for franchise players is painfully short, and awkward ends are almost inevitable. He was hurt at the wrong time.

  • Rreaunai Lovett

    Richard Sherman and some of his black teammates showed how jealous they were were they talked like cowards behind Wilsin’s back knowing if they did that to a white star QB, they would be sent away.
    Sherman never ran his mouth at Stanford about Luck, who did nothing as well as Wilson.
    Sherman, like Ramsey, like Hollywood Henderson, like Fred The Hammer Williamson, always run their self promoting mouths than get exposed really fast.

    • art thiel

      I’ve never seen jealousy with Sherman or other players toward Wilson. You’re way off base, particularly playing the race card.

      As you are with saying Sherman was exposed. I don’t care if a guy promotes himself; he has only few years with the NFL platform. Only if it compromises the team does it become an issue.

  • tor5

    One of your better articles, Art (which is saying a lot)! Lots of insight on the unique Carroll-Sherm drama. I agree that Pete’s comment about moving players who think they’re bigger than the team is most notable. Might apply to Bennett as well, and almost certainly applies to Earl. There’s so much to like and respect about all these guys, but the TEAM psychology is paramount. It seems Pete is demonstrating that very point in this somewhat surprising season (so far…!).

    • art thiel

      Sherman’s social consciousness and sense of moral responsibility are high. Inevitably, his views will bother some. He and Carroll managed to make it work a long time, just not forever.

      • tor5

        That’s exactly what I like and respect about Sherm. I can even accept the rants, just not when it’s directed at Pete. Pete’s always magnanimous, but when players cross that line they ain’t around the next season.

      • John M

        Right Art, Sherm carried his load. I’ll not forget Sherm’s one-handed catch with a broken arm that sent the Hawks to another championship game . . .

  • DJ

    Thanks Art! Great coach/player comparison with Karl and The Glove.
    It’s always got to be about the team – in everything. It’s like saying the word “divorce” the first time to your spouse. It’s a violation of trust and emotional investment – a wound has been created, a vulnerability in the team has been created. You crossed a line that is hard to recover from. Sherm kept going and there was no recovery. His comments were just begging for the boot. Injured? There would have only been further decay by keeping him around. Great and proper move for the franchaise.

    In the end, we miss him, he is one of the greatest Hawks – period.

    It will be hugely interesting how the whole game unfolds, but I predict that those looking for signs of revenge will be sorely disappointed. Sherm isn’t what he was so can’t rise above and make the great plays as before. He will be respected though. I’m hoping for a good competitive game, with the Seahawks on top comfortably. There’s only one former Seahawks with a chip on his shoulder, VS a head coach, and a good portion of the current team that all have chips – it’s what you do when you’re playing someone you know and respect. Good luck Richard!

    • 1coolguy

      The Sonics were horrible the last few seasons of Gary’s career and the ONLY reason I kept my longtime season tix was to watch The Glove – A SUPERB athlete, team leader, played 100% BOTH ways and played HARD the entire game.
      If the league was full of guys with Payton’s brain, every game for every team would be a sellout. He is the definition of “ballin”.
      I put GP in the same category as Griffey, as a once-in-a-lifetime player you have to appreciate while he is playing, as it simply doesn’t get any better. When I met Griffey, I could tell he was going to politely blow me off a few years ago, but I was smart enough to keep shaking his hand while I told him “growing up, Mays was my hero and I never thought I would see another – until you”. THAT got his attention, a great smile and a thanks. Griffey was that rare 5 tool player and was simply a larger version of Mays.

      • Husky73

        I sat courtside a few times. The words that would come out of Gary Payton’s mouth would have gagged a maggot. He kept up the stream of filth all game long. He was the most profane person I ever encountered.

        • art thiel

          You should have met John Stockton on the floor.

  • 1coolguy

    Best thing that could happen for the Hawks is if RW lights him up, at least that’s what I would like, AND with various receivers – RW has been pinpoint on and is definitely DangeRuss, so this may get interesting.
    Of course, the idea is to win the game and the right side will be much easier to gain completions. I definitely want to see these 2 superb athletes go at it and hope it happens, with a Hawk win of course

    • art thiel

      Good take. Fans want Wilson to come out on top, because to see Sherman gloating after a pick six would be hard on many digestive systems.

      But to maintain contempt for Sherman, given his contributions . . . I don’t see it.

      • 1coolguy

        Yep, agreed!

  • Husky73

    Call me old school (waiting…waiting….) but I think matters such as these tend to be over-thought and over emphasized. They are a story of the moment, but really nothing more than that. Sherman was a good defensive back on a good team who became disruptive during games and practices. Lots of NFL 20 somethings are. He played hard, and he was a self promoter. He wore out his welcome, his skills started to diminish, the team was transitioning and he was let go. It happened to Joe Montana. It happened to Reggie White. It happens to every team, and has happened for decades. No player is bigger than any team, and institutions outlive individuals. And like MANY before him, Sherman scorched some earth when he left. He has two more chances to strut, pose, point and rant in the coming weeks. Yawn. Next year, the Seahawks will draft another player who will take over the headlines and Richard Sherman will become as forgotten as Brian Bosworth. Remember when Ken Griffey Junior returned with the Reds to Safeco Field? Neither do I. Remember when Lenny Wilkens returned to the Seattle Center Coliseum with the Cavaliers? Neither do I. A few years from now, when Sherman is out of football, few will remember or care what he did or said. In the future, RS and his past teammates will be celebrated when the Super Bowl team reunites for pre-game introductions and everyone will applaud. Those players will then move to the sidelines with their kids and grandkids as the Seattle Seahawks— with new Shermans and Thomas’– take the field.

    • art thiel

      Actually, I do remember those moments. Too bad you forgot.

      It’s true that institutions, people and time move on. But there are occasionally transcendent figures who pass through, and Sherman was one in Seattle. It’s easy to be dismissive of the week’s storylines about his return. But it is a big deal because he was a big deal in his time here, and remains so now that he’s on the rival team.

      You can affect a posture of bored indifference. But I think you cheat yourself out of considering an intriguing, controversial and influential character on the Seattle sports scene. Like him or not, he was an original. How many sports figures can we say that about?

      • Husky73

        Ichiro. Jack Hurley. Sonny Sixkiller. Don James. Royal Brougham. Elgin Baylor. The O’Briens. Jim Owens. Lenny Wilkens. Ken Griffey Junior. Lou Piniella. Dave Niehaus. Bob Rondeau. Steve Largent. The Nordstrom Family. Jim Whittaker. Richard Sherman is not in that league.

        • art thiel

          A fine list. Well done. Mine would include Sherman. He took away half of the opponent’s field. But some found him too controversial. You?

          • Husky73

            Too controversial? No. Bloviating and tiresome? Yes. My list, your list and every guy in the Clink’s lists all vary. I have the Beatles at the top of Mt. Everest, and no one else even close, albeit with Dylan second. I do not see Sherman amongst a list of Lester Hayes, Lem Barney, Herb Adderley, Darrell Green, Mel Blount, Night Train Lane or Mike Haynes. Chancellor is a definite Hall of Famer….is Sherman?

          • art thiel

            Sherman ahead of Chancellor. For the Hall of Fame, it’s not about personality or likeability. Sherman altered opponent’s games, as do all the greats. Chancellor did to some extent. But Sherman and Thomas really did.

            Your list, besides Seattle guys, doesn’t include anyone from the 21st century. Methinks the heroes of your youth stand taller. As is almost always the case.