The Elephant in the Locker Room: Are You Disturbed By Richard Sherman’s Sideline Rant?


be-back-smBy Greg Wright

I won’t bother recapping what you saw in the third quarter of last Sunday’s game with the Falcons. If you’re reading this column at all, or pay attention to any press on the Seahawks, you most likely already know all about it.

The question is: does it bother you? Do you find it an ill omen for the future of the LOB? Is the veneer of brotherhood cracking? After all, bouts of finger-pointing rarely work out well.

I’ve been mulling over those questions myself all week.

On the one hand, it’s clear that Atlanta found a way to replicate a pattern of blown coverage by Seattle’s D. If you follow Brock Huard’s chalk talks, you know that an offense uses formations as tells for what the defense plans to do, in order to get favorable personnel matchups. Now, in that chess game, a defense can also change its play at the line of scrimmage to counter what the offense has done. But it only works if everyone is on the same page. More than once against Atlanta Richard Sherman, at the very least, was not on the same page as the rest of the defense.

This is not the first time this has happened to the Legion of Boom.

It is the first time, however, that I recall an offense exploiting that weakness so consistently for 15 consecutive minutes of game clock.

So yes, that element of the episode is alarming, for two reasons. First, the third quarter of last Sunday’s game is going to give Seattle’s future opponents an awful lot of game film to study. Expect to see the same techniques replicated by other teams throughout the remainder of this season, and particularly in the playoffs. Second, the error is repeating itself.

By Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Richard Sherman, in Washington 2014. By Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

On the other hand, though, there’s the emotion of the thing. I would prefer that Sherman just man up and say, “I was not on the same page with the reset of the D. I blew the coverage. I thought I was doing the right thing, even a better thing, but we all need to be doing the same thing.” Throwing McCray under the bus was not gentlemanly. And openly defying his coach on the sideline, not to mention being odd man out with the rest of his bouncing buddies, looked more like temper tantrum than all-pro pride.

Still… I re-watched the first half of Seattle’s December 23rd 2012 matchup with San Francisco last night. And I think I get where Sherman is coming from.

Yes, the LOB had breakdowns in those days, too. Most notably in, yes, the closing moments at Atlanta to end that season.

But really, the LOB was in its prime in 2012 and 2013. The D was absolutely ferocious. It said, “We are more powerful than you, and we are going to beat you into submission.” Raw emotion fueled a championship.

The 2015-2016 version of Seattle’s D does not beat anyone into submission, and it is not fueled by raw emotion. Instead, it says, “We are talented, and we have credentials. Be impressed by them, and bow in submission.” It is fueled by intellect, and, to a degree, by an air of superiority. And for the most part, it plays up to its reputation. Because it knows it can, and because it knows it has to.

Well, that can work pretty decently. But can it win championships?

My guess is that Sherman doesn’t think so. And in that chess-master mind of his, I imagine that he’s taking the long-term view and is angling not just for a fourth-quarter showdown but for a week-17 payoff. I think he’s trying to light a fire under this defense because he wants to still be wearing a uniform in February. I think he’s playing the role of pawn cum provocateur. He’s posturing for passion.

So ultimately, no: I am not concerned by Sherman’s outburst any more than I was by his mouthing off during most of the 2012 season, or by his outrageous bellowing after the 2013 NFC championship game. This is an aspect of Sherman’s game that I am, in fact, glad to see resurface.

When Sherman is quiet, all is not well in Seattle.

When Sherman roars, good things are about to happen.

After four playoff appearances in a row, everyone’s paying attention… yet even with all the scrutiny, it seems that there’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. Join us weekly for a little closer look at our NFC West Champions.


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