DANNY ONEIL

Richard Sherman’s criticism of Seahawks’ offense a part of what makes them the Seahawks

Dec 15, 2016, 11:47 PM | Updated: Dec 16, 2016, 3:14 pm
Richard Sherman's outburst on Thursday is the type of thing other teams wouldn't allow, writes Dann...
Richard Sherman's outburst on Thursday is the type of thing other teams wouldn't allow, writes Danny O'Neil. (AP)
(AP)

“I don’t like when we throw the ball at the 1,” Richard Sherman said.

All of Seattle knows exactly how he feels.

Whether the city feels he was right to express it that bluntly to explain his emotional outburst in front of the team’s bench in the middle of a game is going to be something that we’re going to spend the next few days discussing.

What Sherman said was divisive. It was disappointing. It was also inevitable in some ways.

This is the underside of Pete Carroll’s unrelentingly positive coaching approach. He builds up his players. He encourages them to assert themselves in all sorts of ways, and we can’t be shocked when sometimes they express themselves in ways that are very unusual in this sport, which is a polite way of saying that they pull stuff that would never fly elsewhere.

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Like Marshawn Lynch wearing Kam Chancellor’s No. 31 jersey for a workout last August while Seattle’s safety was holding out last year. Or on the night that Seattle won its fourth division title in Pete Carroll’s seven seasons as the team’s coach, Sherman not only protested a coaching decision in the middle of the game, but insisting he was right to do so afterward.

“We go out there, we sacrifice, we battle,” Sherman said. “You don’t give away our battle. You honor our sacrifice.”

OK. Let’s pause for a second to provide the context.

With 4:03 left in the third quarter, Seattle had the ball, first-and-goal at the Rams 1 and leading by seven points. The Seahawks called a pass, quarterback Russell Wilson lobbing a ball toward tight end Jimmy Graham in the back of the end zone. A Los Angeles linebacker took the ball away from Graham, Seattle avoiding an interception only because officials ruled that Graham had been out of bounds with his hand on the ball, thereby killing the play. The Rams challenge, the ruling stood, and the Seahawks had a second life.

That was Sherman’s cue. He became emotional.

“He was fired up,” Carroll said. “Fired up.”

Sherman explained why afterward.

“I don’t like when we throw the ball at the 1,” Sherman said. “We throw an interception at the 1. Luckily it went incomplete, and I wasn’t going to let them continue to do that.”

First, Sherman shouted at Carroll. Then receiver Doug Baldwin got involved.

“Doug was saying, ‘Give me the ball,'” Carroll said, “and Richard was saying something else. I needed those two guys to go sit down and have a little timeout and talk it over and figure out what we should do next.”

The Seahawks ran fullback Marcel Reese on the next play, and he was stopped for no gain. On third down, the Seahawks went with a pass, Baldwin juking cornerback Troy Hill so hard he was wide open.

And later, after the Seahawks scored on a pass from the 1-yard line no less, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell came back and said something to Sherman. The fact that it was a pass that produced the touchdown didn’t allay Sherman’s feelings afterward.

“I’m upset about us throwing from the 1,” he said. “I’d rather do what most teams would do and make a conscientious decision to run the ball straight up the middle.”

That would be considered mutinous on most NFL teams. Afterward, Carroll praised his cornerback’s emotional intensity and ability to reel in his emotions.

“That was one of our guys who has as much emotion and passion for this game as you could ever want,” Carroll said. “And sometimes it goes one way where you’ve got to reel it back in. And he did exactly that. He did a nice job of coming back to poise and finished the game really well.”

Carroll has made a choice other coaches never would. It’s not that he tolerates more, but he embraces it because of everything it brings.

On Thursday night, we saw the tradeoff. You build an environment in which players are emboldened, you can’t be surprised if there are times they push beyond what would be tolerated on most teams, which is exactly what happened on a night that should have been remembered for the Seahawks winning their fourth division title under Carroll.

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Richard Sherman’s criticism of Seahawks’ offense a part of what makes them the Seahawks