Richard Sherman – The Most Misunderstood Cornerback in NFL History

Six years ago yesterday, Richard Sherman dropped an absolute bomb on the football world in a post game interview with Erin Andrews after his then Seattle Seahawks defeated divisional rival San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship.

He broke up a pass in the corner of the end zone that led to an interception for his team which sealed the game. He let the world and Michael Crabtree know it.

“Well I’m the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like (Michael) Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get. Don’t you ever talk about me.”

Andrews follows up and asks who was talking about him…

“Crabtree! Don’t you ever open your mouth about the best or I’ma shut it for you real quick. LOB!”

In the aftermath of the interview, he was called a moron, thug (which we know what that meant reading between the lines) and classless.

If I am being completely honest, I don’t give a shit about “class” in sports. I like transparency in sports, business, life and everything in between. Sherman is as transparent as they come and people don’t like that.

They don’t like that he can run his mouth and back it up.

He just made the biggest play of the game against a guy who swatted his hand away after the play was over refusing to squash whatever happened on the field that day. No one talked about that. So Sherman went outside the lines and let the world know what just happened. It was freaking glorious. That moment, there was a line drawn in the sand on Sherman.

It was one of many moments of Sherman being one of the most misunderstood guys in the league. He still is to this day. From his playing ability to his personality, everything about the guy is misunderstood. It sucks. As a fan of the game itself, Sherman is one of the best to ever do it.

I was also in that number at one point. I first heard about Richard Sherman during the 2012 NFL season before he really became a household name.

The 3-2 Seahawks headed to Foxborough for a Week 6 game to take on the Patriots and upset them 24-23. Richard Sherman went ham on Twitter after the game and found Tom Brady during the post-game and got in his hear talking trash. He kept jawing at Brady throughout the game to keep trying him and Brady supposedly gave him a look late in the game when they were winning that said “I’ll see you after the game.” So Sherman indeed found Brady and went full Richard Sherman.

The reason I say that I too was part of the misunderstood crowd is because I remember seeing this and going on my college radio show lambasting him for what an idiot he is going after Brady. More so in a sense of “who the fuck is this guy? Relax dude.” I quickly found out who he was as the Seahawks put together the wins and made the postseason with an 11-5 record and Sherman was a huge part of that. Thus Legion of Boom began.

I became a fan. I love guys who can run their mouth and proceed to back it up and not the other way around. He was a trash talker before star status. He is a trash talker after star status. He is just a trash talker. I like someone who can do it even when the chips aren’t in their corner.

He finished that season with 64 tackles, 24 deflectons, 8 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles and a touchdown. It was his first season as a full time starter and thus star status reached. In fact, Sherman has been a star since getting the starting nod midway through his rookie season.

Sherman, a former receiver for Stanford, made the transition to defense after his second season with the Cardinals. He played soft zone and off-man. Thanks to being a 6’3 195 lbs. frame, he was able to use his receiver skills to track the ball and make plays. As a result of the position change and uncertainty on the “measurables,” Sherman was drafted in the 5th round. It took him eight weeks to earn the starting job in Seattle as a fifth rounder.

In his debut start against Cincinnati, he picked off Andy Dalton once and deflected three passes. He finished the last 10 games of the season with four interceptions and 17 deflections. Maybe fans and the league didn’t know who he was, they certainly were about to find out.

Since entering the league, Sherman is first in interceptions, completion percentage, touchdowns against, yards and passer rating.

On top of that, he has been a major cornerstone for two elite defenses (Seahawks and 49ers). One of which being historically elite with Seattle. He is still one of, if not the best at corner at 31 years old. Why? Because he is easily one of the smartest corners to ever suit up. That is what separates him. He is so damn good above the shoulders despite not having those “measurables.”

This season he has been targeted 51 times and only allowed 27 receptions for 227 yards and just one TD. He hasn’t given up a play of more than 25 yards this season until this past week against the Packers where Davante Adams got him for 65 yards.

So why does he get so much hate?

He plays fucking zone primarily. See current Darrelle Revis drama. Sherman has a longer shelf life of elite than you so eat shit there Mr. Revis Island.

I don’t give a shit what you are playing. If it is leading your teams to wins consistently, you’re doing your damn job. He always has to defend himself because of that. Quite honestly, it is bullshit. Before diving into the numbers of this, I would like to point something out…

If you are in the camp of bUt He DoEsN’T pLaY MaN aNd ShAdOw ThE BeSt rEcEiVeR, I will just go ahead and assume your head is hollow from listening to First Take all day.

He made a big play intercepting Kirk Cousins in the divisional round of the playoffs. After the game, a reporter asked about it insinuating he was in zone. He shut that shit down real quick and said…

“I get tired of hearing, ‘Oh, man, he’s a zone corner. I get tired of hearing the excuses for why I’m great. It was man coverage. I covered the man. I picked the ball off. In the playoffs, in big games, I show up. I show up year in, year out, whether it’s 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014.”

I don’t care what kind of defense you are in, Sherman’s stat line for coverage against the Vikings was 1 for 3 for 9 yards and an interception. Three opportunities and he comes away with a pick. That is one of things that has made Sherman’s career most impressive, the amount of interceptions on such limited opportunity.

In fact, the only comparable corner in terms of targets is Nnamdi Asomugha. However, the latter didn’t have a great supporting cast thus allowing QBs to have their way on the other side.

Sherman has been part of great defenses and great supporting casts so there was never really an option to just stay away. You had to test him at some point. He has passed that test more often than not. In his career, Sherman has picked off 39 passes and deflected 126 others while allowing only 17 TDs. All but three seasons in his career, he has finished with more INTs than TDs allowed.

The data is there to say he is the best. Now, let’s talk about the cliche of him playing zone being a knock.

First of all, let’s get out under the assumption that he NEVER plays man. It’s total bullshit. Let’s talk about the type of zone he played for all those years in Seattle which made him a household name.

One of the common generalist statements I hear is “he had Earl Thomas over the top which always helped him.”

First of all, no he didn’t. Thomas played on the opposite side of the field of Sherman. Chancellor was the person who played “over the top of him.” Chancellor was certainly not a ball hawk by any stretch. That is not minimizing him as a safety. He was arguably the most important piece to LOB because of his play downhill and north to south. He was a punishing hitter and his physicality allowed him minimize the yards by tight ends and running backs. Chancellor was their enforcer.

The biggest fundamental flaw in the zone argument is Seattle played primarily cover 3. By design, it is supposed to minimize big plays because of third deep man (often Sherman).

The reason they were able to do it so effectively is because Sherman, Thomas, Chancellor not only could cover, they could play downhill and make the tackles. Which is one of the most underrated qualities of Sherman.

Having linebackers like Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright who are great East to West obviously doesn’t hurt them in any capacity. That defense was great all around.

Sherman more often than not was “on an island” to a certain degree because his role is eliminate big plays down the left sideline. It was a scheme he utilized his ball skill for at Stanford and Pete Carroll doubled down once he had his three headed monster of secondary pieces.

The ironic part about cover 3 is that it bears a bigger responsibility than telling a corner to guard a receiver and play them the entire play or game because you have to be aware of what is coming across into your zone, you have to look at what is underneath and you also have to be able to effectively communicate with your teammates playing next to your zone.

The man v zone is the equivalent of the dildo who screams who would win one on one to determine who was a better NBA player. That being said, Revis having the supporting cast like Kerry Rhodes, Jim Leonhard and Bart Scott certainly doesn’t hurt him being able to mark someone and do it at an elite level all season.

Sherman is once again bearing that responsibility for the 49ers and doing so at an elite level after tearing his Achilles just a few years ago. He is bearing that responsibility on a Super Bowl team at 31 years old.

Put some damn respect on his fucking name. Stop feeding into your typical brainless hot takes. If you want to have a hot take, bring some substance to the table. In this case, you have none.

It is arguable that he is the best corner to ever play the game because of his sheer dominance since coming into the league and if you minimize that because hE pLaYs ZoNe, your head obviously whistles in a crosswind.

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