It’s brutally painful to know that your team was a single decision away from a Super Bowl win. It’s haunted Richard Sherman from the moment that the Seahawks chose to pass from the 1-yard line in Super Bowl XLIX, according to a new feature from ESPN’s Seth Wickersham.
The news back in April that the Seahawks were open to the idea of trading Sherman, their vocal defensive leader, was surprising. Even more surprising was the revelation that Sherman was open to the idea of a trade. According to Wickersham, this was just one more side effect of Sherman’s lingering anger.
The Seahawks’ loss in the Super Bowl is at the heart of it all
In Super Bowl XLIX, the Seahawks were on the 1-yard line, poised to beat the Patriots and win their second consecutive Super Bowl.
On second-and-goal with 26 seconds remaining, and with Marshawn Lynch available, Seattle called a pass play. Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler picked it off, and the Patriots were able to knee it out to secure the 28-24 win.
Sherman’s heartbreak on the sideline after the play was palpable.
Right after the game, many Seahawks players were frustrated. Last season, after a close win over the Patriots in New England that came down to another 1-yard play, several players and Pete Carroll said they had moved on from the heartbreaking Super Bowl loss.
Sherman’s pain hasn’t subsided.
Sherman’s conflicts on and off the field escalated last season
That lingering resentment boiled over a few times last year.
Sherman had sideline altercations with coaches and teammates
Sherman got into heated arguments with teammates and defensive coordinator Kris Richard on the sideline last October after the Seahawks defense allowed a big play to Falcons receiver Julio Jones.
It happened again in December when the Seahawks decided to call a passing play on third down from the 1-yard line again.
The play worked. It was a pass to a wide-open Doug Baldwin for an easy touchdown. But Sherman went after offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on the sideline and exchanged words with Pete Carroll, too. Sherman said it was completely justified.
“I’d rather do what most teams would do — would make a conscientious decision and run the ball straight up the middle,” Sherman said.
Sherman was still angry about it when talking to the Seattle media the following week. He told a reporter who pressed him about the altercation with Bevell that he would ruin his career. Sherman apologized later the same day.
An unreported injury complicates things
After the season, Sherman made headlines again when Carroll let it slip that Sherman had been playing through a “significant” MCL injury. Sherman never appeared on the injury report with that injury, but Carroll said it “fed into” Sherman’s frustrations and the way they boiled over throughout the season.
The possibility of a trade emerges
Then came the trade talks in April, and while teams will often refute those rumors when they involve a key player like Sherman, the Seahawks were forthcoming about the fact that discussions were happening. So was Sherman, who insisted it wasn’t because of any frustration with the team.
“Very little chance it happens, but both sides are listening,” Sherman told MMQB’s Albert Breer via text. “I honestly don’t have much more to say about it than what I’ve already said. We have a great relationship. ... There is a lot of love and respect. There is no bad blood.”
A trade was unlikely because of Seattle’s high asking price for a 29-year-old player, and Sherman’s contract. But even though a trade didn’t materialize, Sherman’s time with Seattle still may be nearing its end. Seattle, which has a mounting salary cap, could save $11 million if it releases him next offseason.
Tension with Russell Wilson may be overblown
Wickersham’s piece includes other details about discord in the locker room, mainly stemming from claims that Carroll shows favoritism toward Russell Wilson. But Wickersham didn’t talk to Sherman or Wilson for the piece. The information comes primarily in the form of anonymous statements from former Seahawks assistant coaches and “witnesses.”
Sherman addressed that point on Thursday.
Wickersham describes an incident from 2014 when Sherman picked off Russell Wilson in practice and reportedly told the quarterback, “You fucking suck.”
Pete Carroll stopped practice and would later hold a series of meetings to remind the players they needed to build each other up, not tear each other down -- and that they needed to support their quarterback, further pissing off a defense that already thought the head coach went out of his way to protect him.
He also quoted a former Seahawks assistant who “has had many talks with Sherman.”
"He's always looking at what other people are doing," the unnamed source said, via Wickersham. "He's made it personal. It's your fault we're not winning. It wears guys thin."
Wilson and Carroll have similar personality traits. Both are upbeat and consistently positive. Sherman, and many of his defensive teammates, are more intense. Everyone handles losses differently. The Seahawks’ locker room isn’t an exception.
Like Sherman, Michael Bennett is also outspoken, but he refuted Wickersham’s claims about the relationship Sherman and other defenders have with Wilson, calling the article “trash” and “gossip” on Twitter.
I love @DangeRussWilson great teammate n friend and even better human .I was at his house last week and he gave me BBQ ribs— Michael Bennett (@mosesbread72) May 25, 2017
Center Justin Britt also spoke up in Wilson’s defense, saying, “There is no QB I’d rather block for.”
Whether there is tension between Sherman and Wilson or not, it is easy to believe that the way the Seahawks lost the Super Bowl still pains Sherman. Sherman’s competitive nature is obvious, and that was a pivotal moment in his Seahawks career.
Now we’ll wait to see if Sherman will be able to put that frustration behind him this season.