Richard Sherman - Just Shut Up (you, not him)

Note - there have been a few updates to this piece since it was originally posted this morning around 9 am CST. Two have been added as footnotes at the bottom. The other is the video from 'The Dan Patrick Show' in the middle. 

Much of America got introduced to Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman yesterday for the first time and the reaction was predictably shameful. "Who is this angry, self-centered ego-maniac that's making it all about him?" was about the lightest of the criticism I saw. There was the predictable racial side of the criticism too, but I'm not going there. If you make it about race, you don't deserve my thoughts and nevertheless my (virtual) breath. There's just no hope for you. So I'm not trying.

But to those who were honestly upset about Sherman, I ask why? Is how Sherman acted what I would describe as ideal? No. Is that how I'll teach my kids to act someday? Nah. But do I have a problem with it? Not one iota.  Consider:

1) He's a 25 year old man who just made the biggest play in the biggest play of his life to send his team to the Super Bowl. If that's not enough, he just beat his rival, made the play over a guy who's been talking negatively about him, and that was the most physical game in the NFL this year. He's jacked up on incalculable amounts of testosterone. You're lucky barking at the camera was all he did and FOX is lucky he didn't swear. I thought this tweet from ESPN producer Ande Wall summed it up well:

2) As I tweeted afterwards, there are two sides of Richard Sherman.
To overcome the odds of escaping where he grew up, you've got to have more than a little self-belief. If some of that spills over in the biggest moment of your life, I'll live with it. To call Sherman an idiot or a thug though is just wrong. He is neither and it's not even close. Yes he grew up in Compton. Yes he's got dreads. This is 2014. Are we still really confusing that with a lack of intelligence? I'm not saying there aren't dumb football players but Richard Sherman is the farthest thing from one. The guy graduated 2nd in his high school class and then graduated from Stanford, getting a start on his Master's degree before he left.

In a way, the reaction to Sherman reminds me of the common thoughts on Cowboys star wideout Dez Bryant. People who aren't paying attention see the occasional outburst and display of immaturity and don't have a clue who Dez is. He's a great teammate. So is Sherman. He's thoughtful. So is Sherman. Is there some immaturity? Sure, but if that's what it takes to get that kind of play on the field, I'll happily live with it.

I joined "The Carter Bryant Show" to discuss Sherman, the Super Bowl and more

3) With the exception of the shot at Michael Crabtree, who he called a sorry receiver (he's a very good player), Sherman was right. Richard Sherman is the best corner in the league bar none. Quarterbacks have a league low QBR (quarterback rating) when targeting Sherman. Most cornerbacks are under six feet tall. Sherman is 6'3" with incredible ball skills. Trying to throw a ball over his head in that spot was stupid.

When I pointed this out, I got a lot of "I didn't hear his name all day before that!" which is proving my point, not yours. If a cornerback is doing his job, the receiver he's covering isn't open. That means the quarterback will throw the other way. That means you won't hear the corner's name. Sherman spent a lot of his day covering Vernon Davis. He was targeted only 3 times. I just went back and watched every single one of Colin Kaepernick's completions. You know how many of them were against Richard Sherman? Zero.

They targeted Sherman twice all day. The first was a holding penalty on him and the second was the final play the 49ers ran. There's a reason. He's that damn good. Part of playing professional sports is realizing you're that damn good. Confidence is everything in sports. If a player is confident in what he's doing, he trusts the endless hours of training and studying he's put in and combined with his physical abilities he's going to do his job. Richard Sherman does his job better than anyone else with his job and if he wants to tell us about it after showing it, I'm not gonna smoke him for it.

In the end what bothers me the most is how lazy people are when judging others. I've seen Richard Sherman interviewed enough times to know what he is. He talks a lot. He also backs it up. He's also one of the really thoughtful guys in the NFL. If you saw the two other interviews he did on FOX after the game, you wouldn't think of him the same way as you did in the heat of the moment after with Erin Andrews.

In fact, Michael Strahan told Sherman "I think you scared Erin Andrews in that interview!" as Sherman was on the FOX set and the look on Sherman's face was priceless. He looked mortified and based on that look it wouldn't surprise me at all if he apologized to her the next time he saw her. I don't think he has to (and neither does EA), but it wouldn't surprise me. (Update: Andrews said this morning on The Dan Patrick Show that she wasn't scared at all. She also nails the explanation.)

These are young dudes playing the most physically demanding sport in this country. The goal is to physically manhandle the guy in front of you. Yet in the 30 seconds after the biggest win of a guy's life we expect extreme composure? That's irrational. Instead we got exactly what we should expect - an expression of vindication from a player who's beaten the odds time and again. He made it out of Compton. He's a 5th round pick thanks in part (if you ask Sherman) to his college coach talking him down in the draft. That coach, Jim Harbaugh, was on the other sideline now with the 49ers. The player he beat on the final play also had done his fair share of talking. If there was ever a time to talk, that was it. And he can keep on talking all the way to New York.

UPDATE: Richard Sherman has been writing all season long for "The MMQB," a superbly done all-football website run by SI's Peter King. He wrote this morning. I encourage you to read it -

UPDATE #2: Sherman sent a text to ESPN's Ed Werder apologizing for the one thing he needed to apologize for - taking the attention away from his teammates. As I say at the top of the piece, how Sherman acted wasn't ideal, I just won't kill him for it because I don't think that's warranted based on circumstances. However now that we've seen how it's all played out, I don't see how anyone couldn't give Sherman props for apologizing. He wasn't trying to make everything about him, but it happened. So he apologized for it. Sherman's a smart guy and by all accounts stand-up guy. All he's doing, as cooler heads have prevailed, is proving it again. The high road is always the best long-term option. I just don't get the vitriol towards him given the circumstances.