This is not the off-season that I wanted for Richard Sherman.
I wanted a different story-line. I wanted the former lead singer of the Legion of Boom to return to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Washington to sign a two year contract with the Seattle Seahawks. I wanted him to finish out his career where it all began.
This wish felt like proper destiny in the making. Richard Sherman was interested in this return, and supposedly, the Seattle Seahawks were open to it. It’s a move that would have made too much sense for it not to happen.
Richard Sherman has made the Seattle area his home since 2011 when he was drafted out of Stanford. Beyond being a foundational member of a Super Bowl winning team in Seattle, and the player responsible for the biggest play in the team’s history, he has been a stalwart in the community. It is right for Sherman to retire a Seattle Seahawk.
From a Seattle Seahawk perspective, the team has some need at cornerback, and their defense can use an infusion of the swagger that it hasn’t had since Sherman left. With all respects to Bobby Wagner, this kinder and gentler Seattle Seahawk defense has left most defensive minded Seahawk fans wanting more, to say the least.
Bringing back Richard Sherman would also give the opportunity for he and Russell Wilson hug it out, as it were, and get past whatever grievances each other might have felt in the past as they worked together, once again, leading this team towards their common goal of winning a second Super Bowl together.
Above all, this was the Hollywood style scripted story that I wanted.
Then early morning July 14th, 2021, happened.
Whatever is plaguing Richard Sherman, it’s serious
I started my Wednesday morning just like I had been for the last several weeks. I got up early, made coffee, watched an episode of Loki, and then sent a trolling text to a friend who has been deeply dissatisfied with the Marvel show.
He sent a text back informing me that Richard Sherman just got arrested for domestic violence and burglary, to which I responded with a gigantic “WTF.”
Richard Sherman is many things.
He is a highly intelligent man with a Stanford education to back it up. He’s also superb football player fueled by a ferocious sense of competitiveness almost unrivaled.
He has also been a very thoughtful and giving person to the communities in which he has been a part of, and aside from any beefs that he might have had with Russell Wilson, he has seemingly been a stellar teammate towards players around him.
He’s a guy that you would want on your side, and most definitely not a guy you would want as an adversary (ask Tom Brady).
There is a darker side to Richard that is also problematic to reconcile. This darker side is something that we have also sort have sensed for a while as Seahawk fans, or fans of the game.
Richard Sherman will seek out the slightest of slights and use it as motivation to not only beat but humiliate an opponent, if the opportunity is presented to him. I think it is safe to say that most Seahawk fans loved that about him when he played up here, but he can also be incredibly headstrong when he is defending his actions, if they are not viewed as ideal.
Of all the cringe worthy moments that I’ve seen from a high profile athlete, the time in 2016 when Richard Sherman decided to go after a Seattle sports reporter towards the end of a press conference after the reporter asked some tough questions about the ugly sideline tantrum he had ranks right up there pretty highly. The audio of it revealed a gross display of behavior, and it was made even more gross months later, when on a national sports talked show, he proclaimed that it never happened, and was fake news.
So, it actually wasn’t surprising to me that, supposedly, Seattle had him on the trade market during the following off-season. It was equally unsurprising for me that Seattle cut him after the following season in which he blew out his Achilles, and the team missed the playoffs for the first time in the Russell Wilson era. The writing felt like it was on the wall, as ruthless as the move seemed.
It still didn’t feel good, and it felt considerably worse when Sherman decided to immediately sign with bitter NFC West rival San Francisco. The very idea of Richard Sherman wearing a 49er uniform felt like a gigantic slap across the face for me.
The move felt petty. Just like his sideways shots at Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll in the few seasons that followed.
The reality is that breakups are hard, and people heel from them in different ways.
I would be lying if I were to say that I never had a petty thought or acted in a petty manner towards an ex (or four) of mine. It can be a tough pill for anyone to swallow whenever you are in a relationship with someone who you believe loves you, and then that person tells you that they no longer want you around.
I can guarantee that it hurt Richard Sherman when he realized that Pete Carroll was ready to move on from him. He can deny that all he wants to, but I guarantee that stung.
Richard Sherman was one of Carroll’s biggest disciples. He was his prized pupil on his beloved cover three defense. Sherman embraced all of the principles needed to master it, and he excelled on the highest of levels. One could argue that, at the height of the Super Bowl years, he was the true face of the franchise, beyond Marshawn and Russ.
Being rejected by Carroll had to have had a major effect on him.
Seeing the team choose a talented yet somewhat inconsistent quarterback over what he probably thought of himself as the cornerstone of the Legion of Boom, the unit arguably most responsible for the team’s success, had to have felt like a massive betrayal to everything that he believed the Pete Carroll Seattle Seahawks were.
The further we can imagine this level of hurt that Sherman likely felt, the more that his immediate signing with San Francisco makes sense. Sherman likely wanted revenge.
Now, it appears like San Francisco is ready to move on from him, as well.
And guess what?
The cornerback needy Dallas Cowboys with Dan Quinn haven’t been knocking on his door, and the Saints with Kris Richard haven’t either. Nor have the Jets with Robert Saleh. All teams that have coaches with direct ties to the greatness that is Richard Sherman haven’t come chasing after him.
How has that been making Richard Sherman really feel this off-season?
None of us can really know for certain, but it has filtered out through the news the friends close to Richard have been concerned about his state for a while. Apparently, back in February, something occurred where a court mandated that Richard be in no possession of a firearm. That’s scary stuff.
As things become more revealed, there is a chilling sense around Richard Sherman. The footage of him beating on the door is a tough watch, but it feels like things have been brewing for a while.
Speculating on what is going on with Sherman is a slippery slope.
Our minds can speculate on a lot of things. My mind has been thinking about something in particular that I don’t know if it is right or wrong to speculate on, and that would be CTE.
A good friend of mine noted to me that Brandon Browner, Earl Thomas, and now Richard Sherman have all had disturbing domestic brush ups with the law overs the last few years (Browner’s being the worst with an attempted murder charge involving his girlfriend). This is 3/4 of the original Legion of Boom.
This is pretty jarring stuff (no pun intended).
Still, we don’t know what is fueling Richard’s mental health. CTE is a real thing, but so is depression, and if we are to couple untreated depression with a prideful athlete who is heading towards the inevitable downside of his once stellar NFL career, a lot of things add up, especially if he has been using alcohol in excess to bury his feelings.
This is partly why I remain hesitant to say, with any certainty, that CTE is at play here.
Bobby Wagner plays a position in the league that is good for being in roughly fifty car crashes a game during a 16 game schedule and the playoffs. He has been as solid of a person on and off the field as one good have in this blood sport league.
For every case of someone struggling with life outside of football, there are many examples of former players moving on from the game quite well.
But that doesn’t mean that the league shouldn’t do more to help players beyond the game, and help might need to come in the form of how this game is played at the highest levels.
Should the league move away from the LOB style of defenses?
This is something that I have been wondering about for a while. Is the cover three Legion of Boom style defense good for the health of players in NFL?
I honestly think that this is a fair question to consider more in the wake of this incident with Richard Sherman (if CTE is at play, especially when you weigh it to what has happened with Browner and Thomas with their off-field brush ups, as well), and how quickly Kam Chancellor’s body broke down going into his eighth year in the league.
I can even take it further by examining the San Francisco 49ers.
Two years ago, San Francisco vaulted themselves into the Super Bowl largely off of the success that they had from their defense that copied what Seattle had with its Legion of Boom. Last year, their defenders dropped like flies to injury, and their season was lost.
For a short few seasons in Seattle, it felt like the LOB was invincible and Seattle was going to be a certain destiny. By 2017, most of those defenders ended up on the injured reserve and they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
If you observe this style of defense, you will note how they play in zone and pass off receivers to back end defenders, and how, if played correctly, it frees up everyone to play fast and violently towards where ever the ball ends up. If you have the right mixture of size, strength, and speed working together, it can be beyond intimidating to watch.
Seattle had it 2013 through 2016. San Francisco had it the last couple years. Other teams throughout the league continue to try to mimic it.
I think it’s possible that it is a defense that, with the right parts, will burn bright, but it is almost destined to burn out quickly, if you can’t sufficiently restock the roster with quality depth.
Ever since Seattle moved on from Sherman, and others, it has tried to rekindle it, but has pretty much failed up through last year.
Last year, they did something different. First, they traded an absurd amount for safety/hybrid player Jamal Adams, and they eventually, mid season, shifted out of their standard cover three into what is called a Bear defense that functions somewhere in-between a 4-3 and a 3-4.
This Bear style defense calls for basically three defensive tackle types and an end and linebacker to play at the line of scrimmage, and it can send a blitzing linebacker or safety (or both) while corners play more man. It doesn’t call for players to drop and smack as much, it attacks at the line of scrimmage more to pressure and confuse the quarterback.
So, while it is more aggressive at the line of scrimmage, it actually might be a more safer style to play for back end defenders and those that make their money playing in space.
Further more, when Carroll shifted to this, he interestingly enough had pint size corner DJ Reed playing outside, and he fared pretty well. This off-season they drafted another smaller sized man cover corner in Tre Brown who they intend to have compete to play outside, as well.
Looking at this, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to speculate whether Pete Carroll is abandoning his prized cover three for more of a hybrid Bear style defense moving forward. It is certainly possible that Carroll has seen a light, and that light is his prized cover three defense has run its course, and he is transitioning it into something else.
What I am wondering out loud in this piece is if it would be better for the players in the league if the whole LOB style of thing just sort of went away all together.
I don’t know how the league would even go about that. Teams in San Francisco, Vegas, New York, and New Orleans are set to play their versions of it.
Perhaps more rule changes protecting players in order to discourage it from being coached is the obvious thing to do. Maybe actually heavily fining or penalizing quarterbacks for throwing ambulance balls wouldn’t be terrible either.
It will be very interesting to monitor this season how much Seattle continues to move away from it, and if their Bear look becomes an even bigger stamp of their team.
It will also be interesting to monitor if the other teams that run this LOB type of defense find their players breaking down from injuries with the league now adding an extra seventeenth game to their already long season.
There’s a lot to mull over here.
I want what is best for Sherman
Circling back to 25, I really just want what is best for Richard Sherman.
I wanted his reunion to happen with the Seahawks in the biggest way this off-season, but given the weight of what just happened last week, I’m not sure football is something he should be concentrating on.
With the fact of the five counts of what he has been charged with, I’m not sure how the league will even rule on him. Suspension feels almost certain, and that he probably going to make a cold market all the more colder for him.
If I were him, I would take the year off, even at age 32. I would work on getting my head right so that I don’t put loved ones through anything like this ever again.
If, after a season away from the game, with my head in a much better place, and my body feeling right, I want to explore the free agent market for an opportunity to end my playing career on a brighter note than what 2021 was about, I would go for it. That opportunity would probably still be there for me, especially if I am willing to return to the game knowing that I will not be paid top dollar again.
As a Seahawk fan, obviously I would love that to be here in Seattle, but in the end, I just want the best for him.
I hope he gets that. His football story should not end with a 911 call. It doesn’t feel right. If he can’t play again, I hope he figures out ways to be around the sport that will show us all again just how special of a human being he is.
Because Richard Sherman is special.
Good article. I concur with your thoughts
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Thanks for following, Bruce!