Seahawks’ history of overcoming tumult should limit any lingering effects of Richard Sherman’s sideline tirade Sunday and could even be the event that brings them that much closer.
Out of all the multitudes of words Pete Carroll has used to analyze and unravel the Richard Sherman outburst on Sunday, one jumped out at me.
“Thrilling,’’ Carroll said on Monday. “It was a thrilling moment in the game.”
Only the relentlessly positive Carroll could view one of his star players losing total control on the sideline, screaming at everyone from his coordinator to one team leader after another, as an unambiguously positive moment.
In fact, how many other NFL coaches would rehash the incident with the media in intricate detail, as Carroll did with gusto on Monday, at one point exclaiming, “This is a great discussion. Let’s keep it going!”
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Just like Bill Belichick would have done, I’m sure.
I have no doubt the Sherman meltdown will turn out to be a turning point of the Seahawks’ season. We’ll have to wait and see what direction that takes, but I have a hunch.
On many ballclubs, it would surely be their death knell, leading to dissension, infighting and turmoil.
With the Seahawks, I suspect it will be viewed, retrospectively, in a much more positive light, and not just because they rallied to win the game despite the mother of in-game distractions.
In fact, this could well turn out to be a galvanizing moment for the 2016 Seahawks, a judgment I make based on both the unique collection of veteran players they have, and what we’ve seen in the past.
The Seahawks in the Carroll era have a history of tumultuous in-season (and offseason, too) drama. And they also have a history of overcoming those potentially divisive interludes and coming out the other end stronger, more cohesive and more focused.
In 2013, it was Percy Harvin and all the chaos his presence engendered. As was later revealed, his acquisition introduced some division into the locker room, culminating in a fight with teammate Golden Tate in the days leading up to the Super Bowl — a game the Seahawks absolutely dominated in a 43-8 romp over Denver.
In 2014, the Harvin unease carried over until his abrupt trade to the Jets in October (two years ago Monday, in fact) right before the team was leaving for St. Louis to play the Rams. More revelations came out, including a physical altercation between Doug Baldwin and Harvin before the final preseason game, and the infamous innuendo that some Seattle players “didn’t think Russell Wilson was black enough.”
The Seahawks worked through that, and a ragged start to the season, to make it back to the Super Bowl. But not before all the roiling internal controversy was brought out into the open, debated amongst themselves, and put to rest.
Specifically, 10 or so core players met with Carroll in mid-November to hash things out. It wasn’t necessarily pleasant, but it was productive. The Seahawks, in fact, won their next eight games. They didn’t lose again until the Super Bowl against New England, when they came within seconds of a second straight title.
“Hard talks,’’ Earl Thomas said, at the time, of those internal meetings. “Arguments. Like a family. And just like a family, we came together.”
Carroll fully expects something similar to happen in the wake of Sherman’s extended outburst. The fact that he has virtually that same group of core players, who long ago showed that there is a deep and abiding bond amongst them, should aid that process.
So should Carroll’s uncanny ability to interject himself when need be, but also to know when to let the players police themselves. That’s mostly what happened on Sunday and a big part of what “thrilled” Carroll. At one point, in the middle of the blowup, he approached Sherman, who told him he wasn’t ready to talk yet. And Carroll let him have his space.
“It was the right thing to do,’’ he said. “He wasn’t ready. Just because you want to talk to somebody doesn’t mean they’re going to listen.”
The hashing-it-out process took place more thoroughly on Monday, and no doubt will continue on an as-needed basis. Much of the Seahawks’ long-term response will be determined by Sherman’s ability to get past whatever it was that pushed his buttons on Sunday, and to forgive whomever or whatever aggrieved him. Carroll has no doubt that will happen, based on Sherman’s proven commitment to being part of a winning team.
It’s all part of the unique culture Carroll has built, one that embraces the passion of a Sherman, the quirks of a Marshawn Lynch, and all the other various idiosyncrasies, fully cognizant of all the potential commotion that comes with constantly living life on the edge.
“I’m fine operating like this,’’ he said. “It gives us a chance to find out how good you can be as a group. Without it, you can still do good, but you often don’t get familiar with that space and what that mentality is like, so it’s not only hard to get there, but it’s hard to stay there.
“It takes vulnerability, it takes the openness, it takes the experience and the ability to communicate through the moments to stay there.”
And on Sunday, during the frenzy of Sherman’s rage on the sideline in the third quarter, Carroll saw all that in a microcosm. Mostly, he saw the team frantically trying to pull Sherman back into the fold so they could go win the game.
“You saw the guys working to get back to it,’’ he said. “You saw the demonstration of what it took, the intensity and emotion that it took to get and stay connected so that we could go back out and do what we’re capable of doing.’’
And to Carroll, as the rest of the world saw a team seemingly coming apart, that was downright thrilling.