By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Here in Boston, the No. 1 rated sports talk radio show is co-hosted by Felger & Massarotti, two fine gentlemen who (more often than not) expend every last ounce of energy figuring out ways to doubt and criticize the New England Patriots. (For real, check the tape of these guys making the AFC Championship Game seem borderline unwinnable for the heavily favored Patriots … who went on to win 36-17 in a game that was never close.)
Out in Seattle, the sports radio program director and morning show host is Mike Salk, a fellow who admitted to crying real tears twice during the Seahawks’ NFC Championship Game victory over the Packers. (Seriously, true story — check the 7:15 mark and keep your hanky nearby.)
Boston and Seattle are, unquestionably, different.
And, considering that trade possibilities continue to exist regarding a potential deal between the Patriots and Seahawks regarding Richard Sherman, it’s worth wondering exactly how well the All-Pro cornerback would fit in with the New England Patriots.
(Tom Curran reported Thursday that the Patriots aren’t in on the pursuit of Sherman, just after Jeff Howe reported that the Patriots were still weighing the possibility of acquiring the corner. Curran’s report was quite definitive, but with the Patriots … you can never really know. So let’s examine the situation anyway.)
There are two factors at play with a personality of Sherman’s magnitude. One is how he fits in with the team inside the walls of Gillette Stadium. The other is the impact and relationship on the local media covering the team. The former matters a whole lot more than the latter, but that doesn’t mean the second part should be dismissed entirely.
Obviously, some large personalities have made their way through Bill Belichick’s locker room in the past. People questioned whether Martellus Bennett would be a dreaded “distraction,” and yet he played an integral role in a Super Bowl-winning season. Randy Moss certainly came with some “baggage,” and all he did was set an NFL record most touchdown receptions in a record-setting offense for a nearly undefeated team. Corey Dillon also constituted a risky addition, and he also helped win a Super Bowl. Aqib Talib, for that matter, worked out better than most would have expected.
There have been some failures, too (looking at you, Mr. Ochocinco), but history shows that there is no one specific type of person who fits the imaginary “Patriot Way.”
From that perspective, Sherman would probably be fine. He’s loud, yes. He’s brash. He’s unapologetic. He’ll make strong statements at the podium when he believes strongly in something. He’ll criticize the league for making players play on Thursday night “poopfests.” He’ll call out Roger Goodell directly.
But there are a few incidents with Sherman that have to make you wonder if the Boston media market would be the right place for him. People here just have a way of making everything seem like the biggest story of all time, and these might qualify.
Richard Sherman became an instant meme on the night of Feb. 1, 2015, as his reaction to Malcolm Butler’s goal-line interception of Russell Wilson’s pass in the waning seconds of Super Bowl XLIX was unforgettable. Cue the meme!
Anyways, watching your coach call a pass instead of a run when the biggest bulldozer in the NFL resides in the backfield is sure to make a player question his coach. Throw in the conspiracies that maybe the Seahawks’ coaching staff didn’t want Marshawn Lynch to be named the Super Bowl MVP and instead might have preferred Wilson earn that honor? Well, then, that’s a problem that doesn’t go away quickly.
Such became clear this year, when Sherman voiced his displeasure at offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell in the middle of a game … while the Seahawks were in the process of scoring a touchdown. Following a near-interception on a pass from the 1-yard line, Wilson threw a touchdown, but Sherman didn’t like the play calling. Sherman was so mad that Bevell called for a pass from that spot on the field that he yelled at the coach in plain view of the world. It caused a bit of a stir.
Here in New England, people still talk about the one sideline blowup that took place between Tom Brady and Bill O’Brien six years ago. A star defensive player going after the offensive coordinator on the sidelines? That would be everywhere here for a very long time … especially if his response showed no regret.
Now add this part to the mix?
There’d be fireworks in Boston. Every talk show host and caller would be screaming about it. Every columnist would gleefully type away. Every player in the locker room would get asked about it. Bill Belichick would get asked about it (angry grunts and snorts would follow). It would really be something.
Make no mistake — it was a pretty big deal in Seattle. But remember, it’s different here. It wouldn’t go away too quickly, if at all.
It also must be noted: This took place during a game against the Rams. The Los Angeles Rams!
And that wasn’t even Sherman’s only sideline blowup of the 2016 season. In October, Michael Bennett and Bobby Wagner had to get in his face to calm him down.
That story disappeared quickly, as the Seahawks went on to win the game. But it would have been quite the talker here in New England.
Threatening A Reporter’s Job
This one, again, was covered extensively in Seattle. But it probably deserved some more attention.
After that fight with Bevell, Sherman was asked a question about it. A reporter asked Sherman if he believes he has a “better handle” on play calling than Bevell.
“No, I just had a, we had a prior experience (the Super Bowl) so we talked about that,’’ Sherman replied. “But let me guess — you have a better play to call. Let me guess, you have a better experience.”
Moore replied with a no. Sherman said, “Then you should probably kind of stop.”
After stepping down from the podium, Sherman then told the reporter to not enter the locker room: “You don’t want to go there. You do not. I’ll ruin your career.”
When asked how exactly he planned on ruining the reporter’s career, Sherman said, “I’ll make sure you don’t get your media pass anymore.”
Once the news got out, Sherman apologized on Twitter … but he also made a joke out of it.
And the following week, he refused to give his weekly press conference, telling reporters that it is a “privilege” to get to talk to him.
“I’m just going to make sure people — it’s a privilege to have me up there,” Sherman said at the time. “You’re going to miss me when I’m gone.”
Even though there was an audio recording of the exchange, Sherman later said it was, essentially, fake news.
There was also a lack of trust and communication between Sherman and head coach Pete Carroll, though with Carroll being a player’s coach, there was no discipline instituted.
Do you think Bill Belichick would do the same?
Nope, Belichick would place some sort of punishment on Sherman, and no matter how light or how severe that punishment would be, it would be the top story in New England for days … or weeks … or months. Again, people still talk about the quartet of players who were sent home in 2009 for being late to practice during a snowstorm. People spent the entire Super Bowl run in 2014 wondering why Belichick was being so mean to Jonas Gray (note: Gray actually wasn’t playing because he wasn’t very good, but that reality eluded most people at the time.) Future Hall of Famer Darrelle Revis got sent home by Belichick. Coming off the Super Bowl heroics, Malcolm Butler had to feel the wrath of Belichick when his own travel plans to minicamp got messed up due to weather. Belichick benched Wes Welker for a series in a playoff game for making some harmless foot jokes.
So Sherman would have undoubtedly found himself in some trouble for this. The media would have circled and circled. And unlike most Patriots, Sherman would probably start answering eventually. And it might get ugly.
It may be a small thing now, but you might remember in the throes of “DeflateGate” being a national story, Sherman basically said that Robert Kraft and Roger Goodell were in cahoots with each other and would solve the situation by having a nice fancy dinner with red wine. Or something to that effect.
“Will they be punished? Probably not,” Sherman said during Super Bowl week in January 2015. “Not as long as Robert Kraft and Roger Goodell are still taking pictures at their respective homes. You talk about conflict of interest. As long as that happens, it won’t affect them at all. Nothing will stop them.”
Sherman also indicated that the Patriots were dirty rotten cheaters.
“Their résumé speaks for itself,” he said. “You talk about getting close to the line, this and that. I don’t really have a comment about that. Their past is what their past is. Their present is what their present is.”
Of course, on point No. 1, Sherman ended up being dead wrong. The Patriots got and walloped by the league. And Sherman later changed his tune, showing support for Tom Brady and saying, “It’s just guys getting justice, guys not being persecuted for things they didn’t do, getting a fair trial of sorts. A lot of times in this league, it’s guilty until proven innocent sometimes. And it’s good to see guys be able to get a fair trial. Unfortunately, it had to go so long. But it is what it is.”
Sherman did still make it a point to say that owners should be fined and punished much more harshly than players.
“People are just so focused on, ‘Oh, that’s a huge fine for the organization.’ It’s not,” Sherman said. “A million dollars is peanuts to the Patriots, who will make [hundreds of] million dollars this year. Brady … you take away four game checks, and you’re doing this to the organization?”
(Sherman also once engaged LeGarrette Blount in one of the most childish schoolyard fights in Twitter history. Coincidentally, both Sherman and Blount have been on opposite ends of postgame fights in their playing careers.)
It’s not the biggest deal. Obviously, a very opinionated player was bound to offer some opinions on what was the biggest story in the league. But in bringing in a player, both Belichick and Kraft have to feel that it’s a move that will work out and make the football team better. For several reasons, Sherman might not fit that bill.