Star cornerback Richard Sherman leaving would push the Seahawks farther away from their championship goal, not closer to it.
With all the hot air, er, hot takes surrounding the Richard Sherman trade rumors, the key words to me were uttered by Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, when he said from the owners’ meetings in Phoenix, “I don’t see anything happening at all.”
Maybe that will change, but major trades in the NFL are extremely difficult to pull off, and very rare. Besides, the departure of Sherman would leave a gaping hole at a position that’s already lacking depth in Seattle as a result of Deshawn Shead’s injury. Even with a strong defensive-back draft, Sherman leaving would push the Seahawks farther away from their championship goal, not closer to it.
Instead, the key question seems obvious: Can the Seahawks and Sherman make it work moving forward? To which the answer seems just as obvious: Of course they can. They’ve done pretty well for most of the past six seasons, which seems to be lost in the furor.
Maybe, as many have theorized, Carroll and GM John Schneider were trying to send a message to Sherman by not flatly denying trade rumors. But Sherman doesn’t seem to be the sort who responds to such tactics. He is prideful, strong-willed and stubborn — positive traits, most of the time. His closest friend on the team, Doug Baldwin, told our Jayson Jenks after last season, “In the 10 years that I’ve known him, he’s never apologized. I’ve never heard him apologize.”
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No question Sherman is a complex person, and no question he went over the line at times last year — far over it, in the case of his sideline tirades and the remarks he made to radio reporter Jim Moore. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be reined back in. And it doesn’t mean Pete Carroll has to turn into some tough-love-wielding disciplinarian to mold a conforming Sherman.
Sherman is a fantastic football player who has been a huge net plus for the Seahawks. His desire and intensity have helped the Seahawks win one Super Bowl and nearly win another (sore point). Other players on the team feed off Sherman’s drive, which has been a plus, not a minus.
Is he on the down side of his career, having turned 29? That’s the way it goes in the NFL as the years and hits mount. In a recent column for NFL.com, Bucky Brooks — a former NFL cornerback — watched film of Sherman’s 2016 season and concluded, “Upon closer inspection, Sherman — much to my surprise — wasn’t nearly as polished or flawless as he had been in previous years. He appeared to lose his balance more than ever at the line as crafty wide receivers avoided his jams with stutter-steps and fakes early in routes.”
But after detailing the ways in which Sherman was declining, Brooks concluded, “Overall, I still believe Sherman remains one of the top corners in the game due to his general ability to create turnovers and snuff out premier receivers on the edge. He is certainly worth retaining as a CB1 on a team that routinely puts its corners on the island in its hybrid man-coverage scheme.”
Can Sherman be a load to deal with? He certainly can. But it comes from the same personality traits that make him such a great player. And no one understands this better, and handles him more adroitly, than Carroll.
Yes, Carroll seemed hurt last year when Sherman appeared to have led him to believe he was going to apologize for his outburst in the Rams game. Sherman had reacted angrily to a pass from the 1-yard line in the third quarter that was nearly intercepted and clearly triggered in Sherman a flashback to the fateful play that lost Super Bowl XLIX. But instead of apologizing at his next news conference (his last one, as it turned out), Sherman said he had a right to question the coaches.
Carroll and Sherman had any number of heart-to-heart, soul-searching talks, including one after the season ended with a playoff loss to Atlanta. Following that one, Carroll said of Sherman, “I think he’s an extraordinary guy. I have great respect for him and all that he does and the attempt of the man he’s growing up to be. I think he’s going be a significant factor moving forward.”
There’s still no reason to think that can’t be the case. The Carolina Panthers saw last year the high price they paid for parting ways with Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman. Rather than let Norman play under the franchise tag, they opted to make a point and let him go when they couldn’t reach agreement on a long-term deal. By all accounts, Carolina greatly missed Norman en route to a 6-10 season.
The Seahawks would regret it if they got rid of Sherman — and I believe Sherman would, too. Let’s hope Sherman has the epiphany this offseason that, all things considered, he has it pretty good in Seattle and under Carroll, who lets him express his individuality in a way that probably wouldn’t be allowed elsewhere in the button-down NFL.
No doubt Sherman caused some internal distress last year. But the answer is not to just cast him aside. And the answer isn’t for Carroll to drastically change who he has always been — a players’ coach whose empathy and openness to independence has allowed players to thrive. It’s brought out the best in Sherman in the past, and it’s worth seeing if it can again.