Richard Sherman gives new meaning to cover corner

Posted May 5, 2014

Monday metatarsal musings: The play Richard Sherman made to ice the NFC Championship game, and emotional display that followed, has led to the Seahawks’ cornerback being recognized for his significance and his influence.

From Sports Illustrated to Time, Richard Sherman has it covered.

The Seahawks’ talented and talkative All-Pro cornerback has become cover worthy for all seasons and all reasons. And there’s a tie that binds his appearances on the cover of SI after his “Immaculate Deflection” iced the victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game and inclusion in the cover story in the current issue of Time that salutes “The 100 Most Influential People.”

As Sean Gregory writes in the Time capsule about Sherman, who is included in the “Pioneers” section, it was Sherman’s “rant” after the play and the bigger-picture conversation that followed which warranted his inclusion with an eclectic group of prominent people and personalities that includes Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton; Robert Redford and Beyoncé; Pharrell Williams and Miley Cyrus; Steve McQueen and Serena Williams.

“Sherman’s rant solidified his reputation as one of the brashest and most candid players in the buttoned-up NFL,” Gregory writes. “More important, it sparked a national conversation about race, stereotyping and sportsmanship.”

That’s because critics deemed Sherman a “thug,” which prompted Sherman to ask if the term had become today’s N-word.

Concludes Gregory: “In a heartbeat, Sherman altered the discourse and emerged as the smartest voice in the room. At a time when most pro athletes flee social questions, Sherman tackles them head on. And he backs it up on the field too, leading the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl win. So keep talking, Sherm. We have much more to learn.”

Sherman’s take on being included in such prestigious company? “It was a great honor,” he said Monday, when the Seahawks’ kicked off Phase 2 of their offseason program. “There are some real important, real influential people on that list. It was a real humbling experience just to be mentioned with those names.

“You never think in the moment, when things are flying around and you’re doing all these interviews, that you’ll make it on a list like that or you’ll get any accolades or any appreciation for it. But I’m really appreciative.”

An interesting twist to all this is the way Sherman was vilified by the sports media for his post-game interview, while he was revered by the news media for what it led to.

“The sports people aren’t looking at the grand scheme of things a lot of time,” Sherman said. “They’re looking at the short term, the immediate impact and trying to make a story out of it, a headline, trying to find the sound bite out of it.

“I was really trying to step back and look at the grand scope of how it will affect the world and what message I was sending, and I wanted to make sure it was the right one.” 

As for the on-field play that led to Sherman’s emotional display – the one where he tipped a pass intended for Michael Crabtree in the end zone that was intercepted by linebacker Malcolm Smith – the readers of overwhelmingly voted it the most significant in the 38-season history of the franchise.

Of the 5,676 who made their voice heard, 68 percent (or 3,865 votes) went for Sherman’s “Immaculate Deflection.” Second, with 28.5 percent (or 1,615 votes), was Marshawn Lynch’s 67-yard “Beast Quake” touchdown run in the 2010 wild-card playoff game against the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints – into the south end zone at CenturyLink Field, where Sherman made his play. The other “nominees” were drops in what proved to be Sherman’s bucket: Jordan Babineaux’s stop of Tony Romo in the 2006 wild-card playoffs game, 73 votes or 1.3 percent; Steve Largent’s 100th touchdown catch, 70 votes or 1.2 percent; Curt Warner’s 2-yard TD run to ice the upset of the Dolphins in a 1983 divisional playoff game in Miami, 34 votes or 0.6 percent; and the holding call against the Giants to nullify a TD pass in a victory that led to the Seahawks securing their first playoff berth in 1983, 19 votes or 0.3 percent. 

“It’s right up there,” Sherman said when asked where that play stacks among all the plays he’s made since joining the Seahawks as a fifth-round draft choice out of Stanford in 2011. “It’s one of those things where you do what you always do – you stop the play. It just happened to be at a time where it was a big deal and it really helped the team.”

That play helped the Seahawks right in to the Super Bowl, where their top-ranked defense slammed all portals on the highest-scoring offense in NFL history during a 43-8 romp over the Denver Broncos on Feb. 2.

“With so many sacrifices to get us to that point – so much had to happen, so many guys made so many big plays – I just had to do my part to keep us in it,” Sherman said. “It just happened to be at the end. It was just the last one of all those good things that happened.”

Just what happened on that play? The 49ers came out with three receivers to their left side – the side opposite Sherman. So while the rest of the defense was playing zone coverage, the alignment left Sherman in man-to-man coverage against Crabtree – and an obvious option for 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick.

“Kam (Chancellor, the Pro Bowl strong safety) was the middle-field safety, and he was leaning to the other side,” Sherman explained. “So it was basically one-on-one, zero coverage for me. And the matchup you do if you’re the quarterback. If you’re looking over the scene, that’s the matchup you’ve got to go to. It’s just normal football. You go to the one-on-one matchup.

“So he (Kaepernick) challenged me on a one-on-one matchup and Malcolm was in great position from his zone drop. I got a good tip to him, and the rest is history.”

Not to mention historic stuff, as the play and what followed helped Sherman step from the cover of SI to the cover story in Time.

Significant. Influential. That’s Richard Sherman, and so much more.