BY Art Thiel 06:55PM 03/24/2021

Thiel: Sherman, Wilson and accountability

Sherman may want a return to the Seahawks, but is he any more accountable to the team now than he was before? For that matter, is Wilson accountable to Carroll’s standards?

In November 2019, Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman had a public exchange of jerseys, a PR gesture designed to put hard feelings behind them. / Drew McKenzie, Sportpress Northwest

Richard Sherman needs the Seahawks more than the Seahawks need him.

Having said that, it would be entertaining to have him return to play here. Although if I were Pete Carroll, I’d first run it past Russell Wilson. Presuming the two are speaking. Also presuming either is speaking to Sherman. Or, if Carroll plans to trade Wilson ahead the April 29 start of the draft, never mind.

Welcome to the sports soap opera, “Days of Our Seattle Football Lives.”

The possibility of free agent Sherman’s return to the place where he became one of the game’s greatest players, and certainly the most quoted, has been around since the regular season, when he said he knew his time in San Francisco was nearing an end. The notion of return gained new life Wednesday.

Reporter Tom Pelissero, who works for the league’s house organ, said on an NFL Network morning show, via the Seattle Times, that Sherman “is open to returning to Seattle.’’ Then he said, “I believe the Seahawks would also be open to having Sherman back.’’

If he’d left it there, I’d accept the possibility is plausible.

But then Pelissero said, “This is not like Earl Thomas, where it became acrimonious at the (end).”

Uh, no. At least, that’s not how I remember it.

I recall that after a 2016 season speckled with outbursts and confrontations that sounded like insubordination from Sherman, Carroll and GM John Schneider made clear at the scouting combine that they were listening to trade offers for their All-Pro cornerback. The candor seemed to startle ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“You admire John for being upfront and honest, but it’s very rare that a team is this open and honest involving a high-profile player like Richard Sherman,” Schefter said on a TV panel show in early 2017. “It’s almost as if he’s putting on a for-sale sign on him: ‘Come make an offer.'”

Why?

Said Schefter: “My understanding is that Sherman initiated this. He wanted to get out of Seattle.”

Sound familiar, Seahawks fans? For different reasons but the same desire, Wilson is more or less echoing Sherman, his one-time rival as locker-room kingpin.

Sherman didn’t get his wish. If the Seahawks were serious, they claimed they didn’t receive a worthy offer. So nothing happened publicly. Sherman, humbled only a little, slinked back.

But not for long.

Nine games into the 2017 season, Sherman tore his Achilles tendon, and the subsequent surgery in his contract year ended his time in Seattle. He signed a low-end free agent deal with the 49ers and mocked the Seahawks for having “lost their way” in personnel decisions.

So, no, Tom Pelissero. The Sherman ending was acrimonious, absent only the Thomas ornamentation of a one-finger salute.

But that was then.

The now is that Sherman turns 33 next week and would like one more job in the NFL. Despite injuries, he had three decent to good years in San Francisco, including one more Super Bowl appearance than the Seahawks. It’s entirely possible that Sherman has blunted some of his sharpest edges, like the desperate need to be right 101 percent of the time.

Sherman friend LB 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.”

Maybe Carroll has come off his fastball a little too. But he’s not likely to admit it either.

Upon Sherman’s return to Seattle as a 49er in November 2018, I wrote, “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 genius talent eventually wore out each side.”

How much game Sherman has left is hard to know. Pro Football Focus ranked him 18th on its original list of available free agents, yet he’s the only top-20 player unsigned. Here’s how PFF evaluated him:

“In 2020, Sherman produced a 67.2 coverage grade on just 332 snaps, the lowest grade of his career. Sherman’s intelligence and tape study gives him a mental edge over most offenses he faces, and that more than makes up for less than stellar straight-line speed. In the kind of defense he plays in San Francisco, he can remain a valuable player even at his age and could be an attractive short-term option for a number of teams in need of a quick fix.”

The Seahawks lost to Jacksonville in free agency Sherman’s left cornerback successor in Seattle, Shaquill Griffin, then signed a corner free agent, Ahkello Witherspoon, Sherman’s teammate in SF. Corner Quinton Dunbar, another Seahawks free agent, is still available. And the club hasn’t given up on Tre Flowers at the position.

The biggest question for Sherman may not be fit, fitness or relationships, but money.

The Seahawks added three free agents over the past two days, two holdovers and a newbie.

The newbie is DE Kerry Hyder, 30 in May, a seven-year vet joining his fifth team, most recently San Francisco, where last season he had 8.5 sacks filling in for the injured Nick Bosa. The offer was reported to be three years at $17.5 million, but the third year voids, so it will count as two years and $6.5 million.

They brought back another defensive end, DE Benson Mayowa (six sacks, 13 games), reportedly a four-year deal that voids after two years. The NFL Network said it’s worth $8.8 million, with $4.61 million guaranteed in year one. And backup OL Jordan Simmons, who started six games at left guard last year backing up the retired Mike Iupati, returns.

The Seahawks are temporarily over the salary cap, and apparently are holding off formal contract signings until they can restructure some veteran contracts to make cap room. Until that is done, it’s hard to know what will be left to sign Sherman, who’s grown used to big money.

It is Wilson’s massive contract that most likely will be re-done, and doesn’t require his permission. It is merely a bookkeeping  trick that will cost Wilson no salary. But the maneuver will be ironic because one of Sherman’s criticisms during his time here was that Wilson was not held to the same standard of accountability as the rest of the team. Yet he would be the guy to hold open the door for Sherman.

The subject of accountability came up in December 2018, ahead of Sherman’s first return to Seattle as a player. Besides criticisms of Wilson, Sherman also challenged coaches and became a somewhat divisive character. I asked Carroll how much is too much, and he answered with directness.

“With an individual player, when it’s no longer about the team,” he said. “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.”

If that definition still holds, Wilson’s recent critical public comments about the team and his not-quite trade request might be seen as being no longer about the cause, the brotherhood.

Of course, Carroll could say as he did with Sherman, that it’s not what happened with Wilson at all.

It would be as hard to believe now about Wilson as it was then with Sherman.

 


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YourThoughts

  • Obi-jonKenobi

    Sherman’s schtick kind of wore thin for me after a few years as it did with many fans and other players around the league, too.

    One of the entertaining results of Sherman’s cocky style was a tweet storm that broke out in the lead up to Super Bowl LIV between Sherman and retired corner Darrelle Revis. In the days before the game between Kansas City and San Francisco, Revis taunted Sherman for not being the kind of “lock down” corner Revis claimed he was in his day and, of course, Sherman fired back basically telling Revis hold my beer (and watch me in action in the Super Bowl).

    And then Sherman proceeded to get torched several times by Sammy Watkins and Tyreek Hill as Kansas City came storming back from an early deficit and a cocky 49er defense appeared to have celebrated a little too soon.

    Good times watching Sherman get his jock handed to him on the field and have to eat humble pie for dessert. I still like to go back for fun and look at the highlights.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtMaiZwMhpg

    • jafabian

      Gotta admit though the LOB was a lot of fun and seeing Sherman lockdown receivers on a regular basis and pick off QB’s a blast.

      • Obi-jonKenobi

        Sherman maybe COULD have been a lockdown corner but the Seahawks played more to prevent the big play so Sherman played off the receivers more than someone like Revis. I don’t think it was entirely on Sherman that he gave up a lot of underneath passes.

        • WestCoastBias79

          I get it, you don’t like Sherman. However, he’s one of the best corners to ever play the game, so don’t fault him for playing in a scheme where he was asked to keep plays from going over the top. Giving him a scheme he excels at is called good coaching. Yes, he’s not locking down a man, but he is locking down his side of the field, and the career passer rating against him is 48. If that’s not locking down a side, I don’t know what is. It was 23(!), in 2013. Darrelle Revis’s career average is 62, and his best full season was 29. Yes, he’s a loudmouth and has lost a step, but he’s also one of the best to ever do it, and still probably a top 10 corner when healthy.

          • 1coolguy

            If he could actually be trusted, he’d be a great DB coach. Those who played with him said his film study, practice intensity and help learning the game was excellent.

          • art thiel

            You’re right about his work habits. And give him a chance to put his playing career behind him before talking trust.

          • eyeroq

            I still think his future is in the broadcast booth if he wants it. I’ve listened to him lots this past year co-hosting his PFF podcast with Cris Collinsworth. The intelligent commentary he adds is priceless. He’s got a 2nd career waiting for him when he retires.

          • jafabian

            IMO he’ll go into business for himself in some way. He won’t go to work for someone.

          • DB

            And, there’s all the picks Sherm has… you’re right about him locking down a side. I remember the Green Bay game where Rogers never threw to his side the entire game. On purpose.

          • art thiel

            It’s amazing what happens when an offense chooses to pass to only one half of the field.

          • jafabian

            Rogers still won’t test him. Neither will Brees and Brady. It’s the younger QB’s like Mahomes and Watson who do.

          • Obi-jonKenobi

            Uh, I don’t dislike Sherman, just get tired of his big mouth and enjoyed watching him put his foot in it as I illustrated above in the Super Bowl where he bragged he’d be the “lockdown” corner and then got beat more than once for big plays including one that set up a key touchdown to begin Kansas City’s come-from-behind victory.

            Who cares what his lifetime stats are, his ego gets the best of him at times and I for one like seeing people like that get knocked down a peg. The look on Sherman’s face after Sammy Watkins ran right by him for that big play: priceless.

          • art thiel

            I understand Sherman can be annoying to some. They said the same about Ali.

            The guy can use some humility, and he got it big-time in the game. But when his career is over, judge by the whole arc. Not just when he was a hot-headed know it all kid.

            Even Doug Baldwin wanted to punch him out, and they were best friends.

          • eyeroq

            His big mouth is why he was as great as he was. He’d use it as motivation that would bring out his best. He’d invent drama in order to have a chip on his shoulder to play at his peak. His former coaches in high school and college have even said that the times they tried to shut down him mouth he never played as well, so they let him run free and talk smack as he will. It’s an integral part of his game. Everyone loses a step when they get old, I just don’t see the point of faulting him for it when it’s the reason he’s great. There would be no “Legion of Boom” without Sherm’s cockiness seeing as how he coined the phrase and his smack is what put it in motion.

          • jafabian

            That’s like saying Ali and Jordan are overrated because they’d always talk about how great they were. IIRC Thomas, Chancellor and Browner all went to the Pro Bowl and both Thomas and Chancellor were All Pro. If you really think the LOB was nothing more than a creation of Sherman’s cockiness you don’t know football. Players all over the NFL have given them props.

          • eyeroq

            “That’s like saying Ali and Jordan are overrated because they’d always talk about how great they were.”

            What a weird thing to say. No it’s not like that at all. Not every successful athlete that talks trash uses it as the fuel that drives them. I wouldn’t put Ali in that category. He got his inspiration talking trash from pro wrestling. He was the consummate showman, he understood the entertainment value of trash talk and played up to it. But are you really oblivious to how some athletes use personal grievance to motivate themselves? If you watched Last Dance you’d know how Jordan would use personal grudges as his source of inspiration all the time and if he didn’t have one against an opponent he’d invent one. Angry Doug Baldwin openly talked on twitter how he’d do similar things to motivate himself. It’s human nature, we push ourselves harder when in the face of competition we have trash talk to live up to.

            Would Sherman have had as great a 2013 NFCC if he wasn’t motivated by personal animus toward Crabtree? Impossible to know conclusively but it’s really not a stretch to say the desire to show up Crabtree could have made the difference. And when his former coaches say he didn’t play as inspired when prevented from talking trash I tend to lean towards the circumstantial evidence, that no he would not have been as great were he not able to talk trash because that’s what the empirical data demonstrates. I’m not sure why you think this is even controversial. But you can go ahead and assume I know nothing about football since that seems to make you feel better.

          • art thiel

            There is fault to be dished when his remarks/behavior cross the line into insubordination. On field smack talk is not insubordination.

          • art thiel

            Thanks for the data points. Sherman was among the best ever. And I was always impressed with his willingness to step into a hard tackle.

        • 1coolguy

          Let’s not forget that having the human missile Earl at FS allowed the other DB’s to play tight D, knowing Earl had them over the top.

        • art thiel

          The Seahawks played a lot of press coverage, so Sherman had plenty of lockdown opportunities early in his career. But opponents quit throwing to his side. Can’t be a shutdown guy if there’s no one to shut down.

      • art thiel

        No question it was an outstanding time. Having been acquainted with that group personally, I can tell you that there will never be another like the 13-14-15 Seahawks.

    • art thiel

      Indeed, a world-class beat-down. I almost felt sorry for him, then I remembered this is pro football.

  • jafabian

    The Seahawks pride themselves on handing out second chances like its leftovers but there’s always exceptions and Sherman could be it. His ability, skills and intelligence are unquestioned and he was involved in the community while a Seahawk as well. But he challenged authority and belittled certain teammates creating division. He could be too honest with media and was rarely if ever accountable. Has he changed? Is he willing to be second fiddle to Wilson? As a Seahawk he was never named team captain for a reason but was immediately a captain in SF. The Niners didn’t attempt to bring him back the way the Seahawks are trying with Dunlap and Dunlap will be a priority over Sherman. There’s the train of thought that maybe Sherman’s presence alone could counter the new DangerAinge that’s at QB but that could also be like throwing gas on fire.

    So maybe the thought is there to bring Sherman back but it’s just a thought and there’s younger, cheaper options on the market for a CB currently such as Brian Poole and Steven Nelson.

    • 1coolguy

      He’s not worth the bother – his potential downside far surpasses and upside.

      • art thiel

        You can get away with diminished speed/quickness at some football positions. Not CB.

        • 1coolguy

          Exactly, and PC doesn’t need to look over his shoulder for Sherm’s next rant.

    • art thiel

      Sherman’s return is more theory and tactic than reality. But I do think he’s changed some. He’s married, a dad, he’s hurt, he’s football-old and out of a job. I can’t see how he isn’t humbled some.

  • Husky73

    There’s far too much drama on this team already….so, Sherman is a NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. As Paul McCartney said, “Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.”

    • art thiel

      C’mon, every team has drama. Look at GB, HOU, CHI . . . You’re just not used to it because until now, Carroll and Wilson kept their issues quiet. It’s why Carroll is pissed.

      • jafabian

        I’ve been wondering if the Niners have done the same since they didn’t attempt to bring him back at a more team friendly contract. Or maybe they did,

  • WestCoastBias79

    I love Richard Sherman, but he left at the right time. I’ll love seeing him going up in the Ring of Honor with the rest of the LOB in a few years. I just don’t see him eating the level of humble pie required in both salary and the locker room to make this work.

    • art thiel

      Probably true. I think he wants a job, and wants it known that he’s a team player. No betterr way to convey that would be to say he could play for Pete again, even if he didn’t mean it.

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      • eyeroq

        Collinsworth asked him point blank the other day why the great Richard Sherman wasn’t signed yet on the PFF podcast they co-host.

        He replied that he understands the reality for 33 year old corners in a year of cap constriction. It was light hearted and fun, I get the sense from reading this thread that many think he’s too blinded by ego to level with reality. That’s not the Sherman I’ve come to know from his podcast this past year. I don’t get that sense at all. That cocky rage of his younger years is gone. We all mature as we age.

        • art thiel

          I haven’t heard the podcast, so thanks for the observation. Life has a way of humbling us all.

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  • Mark Stratton

    What if they bring him back and his skills are diminished enough that he doesn’t start? Ugly

    • art thiel

      True. Having him go out of here complaining again would be a bit much.

  • DB

    It seems to me that the Seahawks already have good leadership / mentoring in their DB room with the likes of Adams and Diggs. It’s not like they have a real young room where Sherman could add a lot of experience. As a player, he isn’t the guy he was. Hopefully, the gap between his current capabilities and what he imagines he’s worth will preclude a return to the field in Seattle.

    Then, their’s Golden Tate…another x-Seahawk looking for a team who could be a nice fit in the 3rd receiver role and in Waldron’s offense. Not much talk about that one…I suppose some of the rumors surrounding his departure may have credence and Wilson has already nixed that possibility.

    • Husky73

      NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

      • art thiel

        Are you tired, leaning on caps lock like that?

      • jafabian

        I don’t know. They keep trying to draft a number three receiver and aside from Moore, who IMO wasn’t consistent enough, it hasn’t happened. Gary Jennings and Amara Darboh both were hoped to be that player the way Cooper Kupp worked his way up into being a starter for the Rams but it didn’t happen. Maybe a veteran WR is the way to go instead. Especially with 2 young studs starting.

    • art thiel

      You’re right, the secondary needs no further mentoring. Diggs is as solid as they come.

      No on Tate, even though only three guys can say they knew him when. And one of them makes all the difference.

  • tor5

    If Wilson is “echoing” Sherman, it is a very faint echo. I vividly remember Sherm’s sideline tantrums. That’s where he crossed the line. In contrast, Wilson has been exerting his leverage in a careful way. It’s night and day in my view. Honestly, if you take away Sherm’s sideline meltdowns, I didn’t have much problem with him making provocative and boastful statements even if he sometimes challenged authority. From all I remember, he was a good teammate… it was just the tantrums… something Wilson would never do.

    • art thiel

      The echo I referred to was in violating Carroll’s top mandate: Protect the team. Wilson’s public words of criticism shook the franchise and complicated the off-season. Sherman’s public words ripping coaches had similar impacts, although his words were amid competition, Wilson’s were a carefully planned calculation. You tell me which is worse.

      Both guys are good teammates, but they are also genius athletes who are good enough to have influence. I don’t blame them for wanting things their way, but there are consequences.

      • tor5

        I see your point, and I’m sure you’re more aware of reactions behind the scenes. I’m still amazed at how Wilson started a firestorm with a relatively tiny spark…just some provocative but fairly obvious and polite comments on the radio, as I recall (bolstered by some specificity from his agent). Sherm used a flamethrower. All part of what make sports–beyond the game–so dang compelling, I guess.

  • Mister Tacoma

    And we’re good with Tre Flowers?

    • art thiel

      At the moment, I see Witherspoon and Reed as the corners, Blair in the nickel. Flowers and Amadi back up.

  • coug73

    If Sherman signs a contract with the Hawks and doesn’t make the team he’s cut and looking for a job. If he makes the team free wings for everyone, kumbaya.

    • art thiel

      I don’t think the Seahawks even want to there with cutting Sherman. Which is why it’s best not to hire him in the first place.

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