By Mike Gastineau
The Seahawks get an early bye week in this year’s NFL schedule and while coaches can always find ways to justify the week off coming “at a good time” no matter when it falls, the Hawks brain trust is no doubt happy to have a week without a game to see if there’s anything they can do to fix their offense.
The offense has been dormant for much of the first five weeks of the season. They were OK at Tennessee and they were outstanding in the second half against the Colts. Statistically, they rank about in the middle of the NFL in most team offensive categories. But remove the 46 points they scored vs Indianapolis (36 in the second half) and the Hawks would fall to 29th in the league in scoring.
Obviously, you can bend stats to prove any point you want to make. But savvy Seahawks fans don’t need numbers to tell them that the team is sputtering offensively.
It’s also easy to credit the Hawks D for the team’s modest success so far this year but the defense has not been airtight by any means. They really struggled at Tennessee in what felt like a winnable road game. From a pure numbers standpoint the D is similar to the O in that they rank right about in the middle in most statistical categories.
An area where the defense has been outstanding this year has been in forcing turnovers. They rank fifth in the league in takeaways with nine and that’s a number that’s almost certainly going to have to grow in the coming weeks if the Seahawks fancy themselves playoff contenders.
If the defense continues to smother teams the way they smothered the Rams last week the Seahawks will be in every game they play the rest of the way. And if that happens, you can bet Richard Sherman will be at the center of it all.
Sherman has become such a presence with the Hawks and in the NFL that it’s sometimes difficult to remember that he wasn’t drafted until the fifth round in 2011 and at the time the Hawks were probably reaching a bit because they were taking a guy who had been recruited to Stanford as a wide receiver.
Sherman led the Cardinal in receiving in 2006 and was named to the Freshman All American team. Four games into his junior season he had 81 career catches and seven touchdowns. But after a season-ending knee injury in game five (he subsequently redshirted) he came back for his final two seasons as a cornerback. He was good enough on defense to be drafted in 2011 but not until 153 other players had been taken.
Fifth round picks don’t shake the Commissioner’s hand, they don’t get interviewed right after they are picked by ESPN, and they aren’t given much immediate time by the team that selects them because the breakneck pace of the draft at that point forces teams to say hello quickly and then focus on their next pick.
Sherman also was drafted in the middle of a labor dispute between the league and players. Normally the Seahawks are aggressive about setting up interviews with all their new draft picks but in this case their hands were tied since they were limited in the contact they were allowed with. Anyone wishing to talk to a late round draft pick was going to have to be creative.
Enter my longtime KJR producer Kevin Shockey.
“Richard Sherman is really active on Facebook,” he told me during our daily meeting. “I’m going to send him a message and see if he’ll respond.”
“Great,” I heard my mouth saying even as my mind said, “fat chance!” I just didn’t think it would be all that likely for a guy to agree to do an interview via a request sent on Facebook.
But Kevin was absolutely correct. He had Sherman booked within a few minutes for that afternoon’s show. Getting a new Hawk on was potentially good but I still had my reservations.
Conversations with drafted players are often bland, dull, and predictable. These guys are young and usually not all that experienced in doing interviews. In addition they are cognizant of their rookie status and don’t want to do anything perceived as rocking the boat. This usually leads to a lot of very polite, very short answers to questions.
Richard Sherman’s first Seattle radio interview was very polite. But his answers weren’t short. Almost immediately I could tell that if this young man could make it as a player he was going to be a great interview. He listened to the questions and gave thoughtful and humorous answers.
I asked him about coming back from an injury and then switching positions. He told me the idea to move to defense was his and downplayed it as no big deal. When I pressed him, and pointed out that switching from offense to defense after missing an entire year with a knee injury certainly sounded like a big deal he said he could adapt to anything and then delivered one of my favorite all-time quotes.
“If you put me on the moon,” he said, “I’ll learn to be an alien.”
We’re now in our seventh season of watching Sherman’s fiercely competitive and at times combative style on the field. He’s been that way off the field at times, too, and that’s been equally entertaining. He’s helped to create and personify a defense that will always be talked about as one of the NFL’s all-time best.
Since the Seahawks remaining games in 2017 are scheduled for Earthly environs he won’t have to become an alien. But given the way the season to date has unfolded he and the rest of the 2017 edition of the Legion of Boom may have to be super-human to keep the Hawks winning.