Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard said Thursday he takes the blame for the miscommunciation that led to Richard Sherman's sideline outburst Sunday.
Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard offers a blunt assessment of his coaching style.
“I’m very hard on our guys,’’ he said Thursday. “I’m very hard on ‘em. I coach them hard.’’
Sunday, he admitted, he might have been a little too hard on Richard Sherman in the seconds after a blown coverage led to Atlanta’s Julio Jones scoring on a 36-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.
Richard, who coaches from the sidelines, could be seen in an NFL Films video pointing at Sherman and appearing to loudly question what he was doing on the play.
That reaction appears to have then sparked Sherman’s extended sideline outburst, which coaches and players have said proved a distraction for most of the rest of the third quarter as Atlanta scored 21 straight points before a Seattle fourth-quarter rally allowed the Seahawks to win 26-24.
In his first public comments since the game during his regular Thursday meeting with the media, Richard said that next time cooler heads will need to prevail.
“In light of those situations right in there, maybe I need to calm down, just relax and just take it all within itself and we all understand and know that nobody wants to harm this defense,’’ Richard said.
Richard, who played cornerback at USC and then with Seattle from 2002-04, is in his second season as the defensive coordinator — now 36, he became the youngest DC in the NFL when named to the spot in the spring of 2015 after the departure of Dan Quinn to Atlanta — but has been with the Seahawks since 2010, working initially as defensive backs coach.
He has built a close relationship with Sherman, who arrived in 2011, with Sherman saying in the summer of 2015 he was disappointed Richard hadn’t gotten any looks as a head coach.
“We obviously know what kind of coach he is and what he’s done,’’ Sherman said in June, 2015 saying Richard had taken “a ragtag’’ group of defensive backs and turned them into the best secondary in the NFL. “But obviously everybody else doesn’t.”
Richard, though, said Sunday’s incident shows he still has some learning to do as a defensive coordinator.
“Working my hardest to be a better coach, because that’s really where it comes down to,’’ Richard said of what he was doing to prevent the miscommunication that happened Sunday. “I am responsible. I am responsible for that. Again, when things go wrong out there I’m the first one looking right into myself to see where I can improve as a coach to make sure out guys will not be put in that position.’’
The miscommunication arose when Atlanta tight end Austin Hooper went in motion, which caused Sherman to move off of Jones and onto Hooper. Sherman thought he was playing man coverage and followed Hooper across the middle.
But the rest of the secondary was in a zone defense, which allowed Jones to break free. Sherman said the communication simply wasn’t clean between himself and strong safety Kelcie McCray, who was playing in place of an injured Kam Chancellor.
Richard Thursday described the procedure as “some advanced calculus’’ as opposed to basic math. “I would love to sit down and explain it to you one day but it won’t be in the middle of the season,’’ he said with a smile.
Regardless, Richard said the communication simply has to get better — a similar mishap also lead to a 46-yard Levine Toilolo touchdown pass later in the quarter.
“It’s just a re-emphasis of us executing what we practice, is really what it comes down to,’’ Richard said. “…. When we get out there, we have to make sure that we see our formations and we execute our assignments and that’s my responsibility.’’
Richard admitted he was taken aback by Sherman’s reaction but also said with a smile that “I’m very happy to see his passion. … He’s always been such a passionate player. But I was surprised. But we have to know how to respond better. We have to respond better. Everybody hurts in those situations right there, and again, in the light of it, what could I have done better is where I’m going with it.’’
Richard also said the incident was another reminder of the characteristics that have allowed Sherman to rise from fifth-round pick to perennial All-Pro.
“We do the dance,’’ he said of working with Sherman in emotional situations. “We understand who he is and we know who he is. We know how much he cares and that intensity and that chip is what’s been able to propel him to that excellence, to that level that he presently sits on right there.’’
Richard said he thought that the way the rest of the Seahawks rallied around Sherman and then were able to stop Atlanta in the fourth quarter is “a great, valuable, learning experience’’ and also proof of the type of bond that the team has.
Richard later told Sherman that the play was “on me,’’ and he said that while the way the team came through the experience could have some long-lasting positive impact, he hope it’s a one-and-done deal.
“I mean what I say — it’s my responsibility,’’ Richard said. “Everybody on this football team cares about doing really good, … but I really look to myself to make sure that I am doing everything that I can to make sure that those situations do not happen.’’