At the very least, I’ll bet the Seahawks have the clearest and most thorough communication of their defensive signals in the NFL this week.
Nothing like a public gut-spilling to get everybody back on task.
I wouldn’t doubt that Richard Sherman’s sideline tirade last Sunday has an even broader effect, and turns into the kind of emotional jolt the Seahawks need at some point every season to elevate their production up toward their full potential.
Whether it be drama surrounding Marshawn Lynch or Percy Harvin, or having losses stack up to the tipping point, the Seahawks traditionally have needed something to cause them to shift into the next gear.
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Sherman may have unintentionally provided it.
Although 4-1 in spite of key injuries, the Seahawks haven’t put together a full game in all phases yet this season.
They appeared on the verge against the Falcons until a botched coverage caused the notably articulate and erudite Sherman to turn into a dreadlocked Yosemite Sam, spewing tarnations in all directions.
It appeared that he saved his most vehement “What in the Sam Hills” for defensive coordinator Kris Richard.
The entire team collected to pacify Sherman, and the distraction contributed to a third-quarter meltdown that would have cost the Seahawks the game except for some late heroics.
Coach Pete Carroll told a radio audience that “I really like living on the edge with these guys and being able to dwell there … how far can we take it and still maintain poise to play the way we (need).”
Consider it characteristic of Carroll, who would respond to tsunami warnings with optimism about the quality of the surfing.
But Sherman definitely was nowhere near poised, and for Carroll, dwelling out on that edge can get slippery.
Great coaching is a function of communication, and the understanding that every player receives and broadcasts on different frequencies. It’s Carroll’s unrivaled strength.
Lynch tested the threshold. We often wondered where the point when Marshawn being Marshawn crossed over into disrespect or insubordination was.
Winning always quelled that debate.
But celebrating individuality and expression is easy until it gets wild. If Carroll didn’t stay true to his stance, everything else he espouses could be rendered false. So for now, he’s cool with it.
And Sherman, not always a master of proportional response, definitely was out there on that edge. Firing one’s helmet is the NFL equivalent of a toddler spiking his sippy cup. It’s a tantrum.
Child or adult, tantrums are about the self, not the collective, so we wonder if that alters the narrative of this explosion being totally about the miscommunication of defensive signals.
Sherman always is angry when the defensive gives up points, but was there also a concern that he’d specifically be blamed for Julio Jones’ score when he was nowhere near him?
He was asked about the difference between admirable passion and distraction. “I guess it depends on the team situation and who is doing it,” he answered. “I think a lot of people who have never played the game could never understand the difference.”
That sounded like a rare and uncharacteristic cop-out from Sherman. He’s never been one who thinks he deserves special treatment.
When he signed his big contract extension, he promised that he would always be the same “raggedy dog” who scrapped for everything he had. That’s still what fuels him, what allows him to run hot for three hours on game day.
Can you imagine the concentration it takes to mirror every move of a great receiver all the while operating within the demands of the defensive scheme — especially when the cameras are following your every step?
Last Sunday, he lost his focus. No way around it. He’s better than that. And all his teammates know it.
That’s why they pulled in tighter around him, and when he continued to boil, they started jumping and chanting some manner of mantra to pull him back off the edge.
Kris Richard, who seemed to help push the plunger on Sherman’s detonation, said that his first job this week was to examine himself and find ways to improve.
“It’s a great, valuable learning experience for everybody,” Richard said, citing the importance of the way the team rallied in the aftermath. “The law of love and brotherhood came through and it showed itself strong.”
That could be dismissed as desperate coach-spin except for the way it’s worked with the Seahawks, who make a habit of being at their best when they have something to prove, when they have questions to answer and skeptics to refute.
Sherman may have come unglued in the moment, but he might have united the team in the process.