In light of Pete Carroll’s remarks Tuesday in Phoenix at the annual NFL owners meetings, it’s fair to wonder if the Seahawks coach is ready to move on from CB Richard Sherman. While he denied any trade is in the works, he didn’t exactly slam the door off its hinges regarding the rumors that surfaced the past week.
“There have been some teams that have called, and so we’ve talked about it,” Carroll told rep0rters at a scheduled media breakfast. “But he’s extremely important to our football team.
“You’re either competing or you’re not (for player talent). And so we’ve always had to be open for everything, every suggestion that comes along.”
All of that sounds reasonable. Except that Sherman is one of the Seahawks’ core guys. Even the idea of trading Sherman, who at 28 is still at or near the top of his game, should have elicited from Carroll a guffaw measured by that Saffir-Simpson scale used for hurricane strength (“Hurricane Peter is a cat-4 gaining strength over the western Carribbean”).
Instead Carroll was merely a tropical zephyr.
“I don’t see anything happening at all,” he said. “And I don’t see anything happening with any other players, just the banter that’s out there right now. But it has been talked about. He’s a great player and can impact another team. I can see why people would be interested in him.”
The reason people are interested enough to call is that they saw Sherman go off the rails for awhile in Seattle, which doesn’t often happen at the Hogwarts of the NFL.
If any of those callers hold a top-10 draft pick, one where the Seahawks may believe lurks a Sherman-level talent to refresh a somewhat tattered secondary, the teams want to know in March what the Seahawks’ parameters are when April 27 rolls around.
At issue, of course, are the two sideline episodes last season when Sherman publicly and overtly berated coaches over their decision-making.
The first time in October was against Atlanta, when Sherman castigated defensive coordinator Kris Richard for a miscommunication that led to a touchdown pass. In December, Sherman jumped Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell over choosing to pass from the one-yard line, even invoking the Game That Shall Not be Spoken.
Since Sherman violated the custom about not speaking harshly to the side of the ball not his own — and especially since the Seahawks passed two plays later for a TD — I asked Carroll the next day whether what Sherman did amounted to insubordination.
Somewhat surprisingly, he offered a qualified yes.
“I think if we weren’t able to come back from that, I think so,” he said. “It would depend on how the meeting went. The meeting went very well and it was very clear.
“I know the guy I’m talking to. I know him as well as you can know a guy. I know how he feels about it and I’m fine about what happened. That doesn’t mean that it was OK. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t something that needed to be addressed. We went right after it, and I was going to make my decision on how to move forward based on what happened and how we communicated.”
Apart from Carroll talking in circles (fine . . . but not OK), it was plain that Sherman had to talk back his actions, presumably to avoid some sort of sanction. No one explained how that worked, or what punishment may have emerged, although Sherman lost no playing time.
But when Sherman next spoke to media, he expressed no contrition. Certainly, it was not required, but it seemed as if it would have been a strategic thing to help put matters to rest.
Instead, Sherman, when asked if might react similarly if the same situation were to play out in the future, said, “I don’t know. I’d have to see it. If I did, I’m not one to hold (back).”
Sherman’s impulse toward confrontation certainly was borne out a few minutes later when he left the podium, issuing a threatening retort to a question he didn’t like from ESPN 710’s Jim Moore. After the incident went national, Sherman later apologized via Twitter, but his words seemed insincere.
The reason for the rehash now is not to castigate Sherman but to explain that insubordination on a sports team is a corrosive thing that, left to fester, can cost a coach a lot in the locker room.
That’s partly why Carroll in 2014, despite the inevitable controversy and lost value, ridded himself of WR Percy Harvin in an abrupt trade to the New York Jets: Yes, Harvin twice fought with teammates, but he also refused to re-enter a game when the coach demanded it.
Can’t have that in team sports.
But Carroll Wednesday remained supportive of Sherman, publicly at least. Really, he had no choice, going to lengths to explain and defend.
“Richard went through a lot last year, most of it self-inflicted,” he said. “He got out there and he was in the midst of a season that was really challenging for him. If you remember when he did have his issue, it was right in the midst of playing some great players week after week after week. He was teed up for it. And he was competing like crazy.
“The only thing that happened is he just didn’t come back to us. He didn’t reset as he has. He’s always found his way to reset. He kind of stayed on the edge throughout the season, which was very challenging for him to carry. He’s a very capable guy at dealing with all of the issues that the league brings and offers for guys. And he’s a guy that’s always going to be out in front. That’s where he should be.
“He’s an exceptional football player and an exceptional young man. And it just was a challenge for him. So I’m hoping that things balance out more so for him so that he doesn’t have to carry an additional burden (beyond) just trying to be one of the best players in the NFL that he is. So I’m expecting him to do a really good job. He always has. Sometimes the turnaround time just takes a little bit longer than others.”
Carroll’s remark about “not coming back to us” was illuminating. It’s apparent that in Carroll’s view, matters at season’s end were left unsettled, presumably after the exit interview. The remark didn’t mean Sherman was being traded, but suggested he had temporarily lost the buy-in Carroll covets from his leaders.
During an interview on ESPN’s “First Take” this week, Sherman seemed to confirm the supposition.
“I just laugh it off, man,” Sherman said of the trade speculation. “It’s funny to me. But sometimes people need to see you gone to realize what you had. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. But I don’t let things like that bother me. The chips will fall how they’re supposed to.”
It appears Sherman and Carroll have work to do before the draft. If they can’t get it done, don’t be shocked if there is a trade.
Disagreements are part of a championship pro sports operation. Insubordination cannot be any part of a championship pro sports organization.