As Seahawks training camp approaches Sunday, here’s today’s brain-teaser for Seattletonians:
What is harder to put down, the Richard Sherman saga, or a smart phone while driving?
One has been made illegal, and the other Gov. Jay Inslee and the state Legislature are hoping to stop.
Oh, wait. The Sherman story isn’t illegal. Yet. But don’t blame the media on this one. The man himself is keeping it alive after we thought it was over.
This week in an interview, Sherman told one ESPN reporter, Josina Anderson, that another ESPN reporter, Seth Wickersham, made something out of nothing when he wrote a story two months earlier that said there was friction between Sherman and QB Russell Wilson. It was the same point he made to local reporters June 24 in a long monologue after mini-camp: Players don’t have to be friends to be good teammates.
As Anderson giggled through his answer, Sherman said, “Every single person on every single team doesn’t hang out. I don’t see anybody getting mad that Tom Brady isn’t hanging out with (teammate) Malcolm Butler. Like, ‘Hey Tom, you and Malcolm hang out? You guys don’t? Hmm … what’s going on there?’
“You know what I mean? What are we talking about here? They’re trying to create a story that isn’t there.”
So Sherman, rather than letting the story dwindle away, voluntarily revived it. Why? He has to be right.
At least, regarding the absence of “hanging out” with Wilson, Sherman has always been correct. Every NFL team has groups, loners, adversaries, extroverts, introverts, etc. Sometimes they don’t get along. Just as it is with any workplace, classroom, church or Metro bus.
Unfortunately, there exists a whole team-sports mythology built around the notion that friendship leads to success, and success leads to friendship, and tra-la, tra-la.
All that matters is that players find a way to sublimate personal indifference or animosity for the greater good. If that doesn’t happen, then there’s a story.
But after five seasons in a row that each included at least one playoff win, as well as two Super Bowl appearances and a championship, it’s harder to make the case that the Seahawks have more problems with team chemistry than any other NFL team.
Any chemistry problem is between Sherman and coaches — and by extension, all of the players impacted by his distractions. It’s why Sherman’s behavior was the biggest off-season (and in-season) story of 2016, and lingers into 2017 until proven otherwise.
The Wickersham story was a sideshow, one that Sherman participated in off the record. The real issue, which Sherman addresses far more reluctantly, were the in-game, public rants toward coaches.
Sherman’s outbursts against defensive coordinator Kris Richard in October and against offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell in December, were big deals because they appeared to have impacts on play and concentration.
Coach Pete Carroll’s No. 1 rule is “protect the team.” Sherman wasn’t protecting the team. He was indulging himself some self-righteousness, then covering it up as merely an expression of his competitive nature.
But the self-absorption was sufficiently disturbing that Carroll and general manager John Schneider seriously and publicly considered trading Sherman in the off-season. A trade as public threat was unprecedented in Carroll’s tenure. It didn’t happen, but if the rumored price was true — two No. 1 picks — it wasn’t going to happen.
Nevertheless, the clever public tactics sent a message without need for suspension or public punishment — no player is above the rules. But given Sherman’s profile, it also invited intense scrutiny, enough that ESPN devoted some journalistic resources to tell the story — and then some resources to let Sherman refute it.
That’s known in the journo biz as a “two-fer.”
In Sherman’s presser after mini-camp, he never fully took responsibility for his actions, but he inched himself along.
“I might have gone over the top,” he said. “But (Carroll) understood where it was coming from, and so did my teammates. It’s just the competitor. It’s a competitive team. That’s why my teammates still ride with me. They still ride or die, because it’s good times and bad times, just like a family.”
Even though Carroll praised how Sherman handled himself in his first public comments about the trade threat, Sherman just can’t bring himself to admit error. Apparently what he said was good enough, given what Carroll knows about the guy’s personality and value to the defense.
But the team story into 2017 remains Sherman vs. himself, not Sherman vs. Wilson. Remember, this is a team that, in the Friday practice before the Super Bowl they would win with one of the most dominant performances in NFL championship history, had wide receivers Percy Harvin and Golden Tate punching on each other.
Two star players in a fist-fight before the biggest moment of their professional lives, and the Seahawks still beat on the Broncos, 43-8? That, friends, is team chemistry.
After that, any reports of feuds, fights, bickering or other unpleasantries between teammates, while amusing, should not be taken seriously, at least regarding material impact on the chances to win a game.
But when you don’t protect the team, well, as Sherman knows, families have rules too.