Richard Sherman has been a polarizing player in the NFL for a while, but he stepped to the head of the class two Sundays ago with his memorable post-NFC championship game rant on national television.
Caught at an emotional and unfiltered moment by Fox’s Erin Andrews, just seconds removed from playing the key role in a game-winning defensive play, Sherman stole the spotlight from his Seattle teammates, ridiculed an opponent, and came off as somewhat unhinged.
How you reacted to it probably fell along generational and, perhaps, racial lines. Being old and pale, I admittedly was taken aback. With his dreadlocks swinging and spittle flying, Sherman fit a lot of unflattering stereotypes.
It has put him in the spotlight and under the microscope during the lead-up to Sunday’s Super Bowl game against Denver.
Sherman has handled the glare well. He has come across as enlightened and intelligently eager in his dealings with the media. He has changed some opinions, including mine.
First, this flashback: Sherman had perfectly timed his mid-air pirouette and tipped a Colin Kaepernick pass intended for Michael Crabtree into the hands of Seattle teammate Malcolm Smith for an interception that sealed a 23-17 victory over San Francisco. Andrews asked him to “walk me through” the play.
“I’m the best corner in the game,” Sherman yelled. “When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree that’s the result you gonna get. Don’t you ever talk about me ... don’t open your mouth about the best or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick.”
In response to a follow-up question, Sherman indicated Crabtree had said something at some time that created bad blood between the two. Between the play and the interview, the two had a Sherman-fueled altercation on the field for which the Seattle player was penalized and fined.
Sherman has since apologized and it seems genuine.
“I shouldn’t have attacked Michael Crabtree the way I did,” he said. “You don’t have to put anybody else down to make yourself bigger.” At Super Bowl media day in New York, he added: “These cameras should go to my teammates. What happened after the game I guess forced them on me. All my teammates deserve them.”
That approach fit more for a Stanford graduate with a degree in communications. Did you know that Sherman returned for his final season of college eligibility as a post-graduate, starting course work on a Master’s degree? He is really quite bright.
His rant led to a lot of negativity, but you have to admit that instead of the routine, mundane, mind-numbing pap post-game interviews normally engender, we were treated to a passionate, interesting, provocative dialogue, albeit a wild ride.
But we are most uncomfortable when someone declares themselves “the best,” although Sherman may be just that.
In three pro seasons the Seattle cornerback has 166 tackles and 20 interceptions, including eight in each of the past two seasons.
“I do feel like he’s the best in the game,” Denver receiver Demaryius Thomas said. “Watching film, he’s in the right spot at all times. He knows what’s going on on the field.”
Stat geeks will like this. Split the field into sections and Peyton Manning’s highest quarterback rating is on throws within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage and outside the field numbers to his right side.
That’s where Sherman lines up for 98 per cent of the snaps.
Could be interesting.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.