I would like to preface this article by saying that I absolutely understand why some people don’t like Richard Sherman. Sherman is undeniably cocky (some people would say ‘confident’ but I think it’s pretty clear he’s both), he is opinionated and he can be abrasive. That combination isn’t going to work for everyone and I think Mr. Sherman knows that, though I doubt that he cares. Sherman’s appearance on ‘First Take’ is stirring up a great deal of controversy and many are being critical of him, and to an extent it’s fair. He didn’t have to claim to be better at life than Skip Bayless and by making comments of a more personal and unprofessional nature the intelligence of his point was lost on many. I don’t blame people who are tuning Sherman out because of the way he conducts himself, but they are missing out on a sharp guy who has some insightful things to say if you are willing to sift through some of the noise.
What Richard Sherman really did today was something that people don’t do nearly enough, he tried to get a sportscaster to provide some kind of objective basis for his statement. The world of sports is so full of clichés and contrived narratives that people start believing things very strongly without even really knowing why or having a coherent explanation for their opinion. Although the whole unedited clip is worth watching (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nun5scYroxA) what truly interests me starts around the 6:30 mark. Sherman astutely points out is that people can state whatever opinion they want but those opinions can easily be discredited because there are no facts behind them, whereas his case as the best corner in the NFL is based on statistics that cannot be disputed. Ultimately he challenges Bayless by saying, “What are your facts?” Below is the main body of Bayless’s response:
“You get to play across from another corner who is really good and in your league, and it helps you, and your front seven is really good, so it really helps you. It’s made you- you’re in a perfect spot on one of the best defenses in football and you’ve gone along for that ride.”
After which, Sherman responded, “Once again I haven’t heard a fact yet. I’ve heard a lot of opinions, so I’ll tell you a couple facts…”
In this case Sherman is 100% right. If we break it down a little further we realize there is nothing valid about Bayless’s rationale. Bayless claims that Brandon Browner makes things easier for Sherman but I’m not sure how that makes sense. Browner and Sherman are all the way across the field from each other and have no ability to influence each other’s performance on any given play. I suppose an argument could be made that because Browner is a quality player Sherman doesn’t have to follow the opposing #1 receiver on 100% of the snaps but he did that often anyway and did not show a dip in his play when Browner was absent due to suspension. Browner helps the Seahawks defense be effective but I don’t exactly see how Browner improves Sherman’s play. It would have made more sense for Bayless to claim that Earl Thomas’s excellence allows Sherman to be more aggressive which, while true, is far too little to account for Sherman’s All-Pro season.
The second claim that Bayless makes is that Sherman is helped by an excellent front seven that the Seahawks have assembled. While the Seahawks’ #1 ranked scoring defense does indeed have a talented front seven it is unreasonable to credit it for Sherman’s success. The way that front sevens assist cornerbacks like Sherman is with a great pass rush that doesn’t give receivers time to get open or quarterbacks time to throw the ball. The thing is the Seahawks have had a mediocre pass rush as long as Sherman has been in the league. Although sacks aren’t the be all and end all of pass rushing evaluation the Seahawks were 18th in the league in sacks last year and 19th in 2011, suggesting this is not an elite pass rush propping up Sherman’s production. Pass-rush has been a major concern over that time period and continues to be, especially with Chris Clemons’s injury. If anything, the Seahawks’ elite secondary may be helping the front seven get coverage sacks.
The thing is that the things that Bayless says aren’t entirely wrong, they just aren’t right. Brandon Browner is a really good corner, but it’s not clear how that makes Richard Sherman better. Yes, Seattle has a good front seven, but not in a way that demonstrably inflates Sherman’s production. When Bayless is explicitly asked for facts, he provides opinions and ones that don’t really hold up upon further review. This happens all the time and yet Richard Sherman is one of the few to call someone out on it. He tries to hold Bayless to a fairly modest standard. He wants a man whose career involves providing information to provide an objective basis for his claims and Bayless fails in this task. In my opinion that’s what makes this video clip and Richard Sherman awesome. The world deserves a better class of sportscaster than one that spews assertions that he not only has no means for supporting but no intention of supporting. Otherwise what’s the point in watching these shows? Go to any bar and you can find a drunk guy with an unfounded but strong opinion on something in the world of sports. Without providing some kind of objective information I really don’t see how a Bayless is any better than that guy, in fact he may well be less entertaining. I don’t mean to target Bayless in particular; today he merely serves as an example of what’s wrong with some, not all, sportscasters and sportswriters.
Ultimately I’m not saying that Sherman is necessarily better than Revis. Bayless may well be right. Sherman may well be wrong. I’m not sure there is a definitive answer, but maybe there is. That is a debate for another day. It really doesn’t matter. Sherman had a case to make and he went about trying to make his case the right way. Bayless had a case to make and he went about it the wrong way. Mr. Sherman pointed that out, he might have considered doing so in a less confrontational way, but in my opinion, telling the truth, even if bluntly, doesn’t make you a jerk. Some people’s opinion of Richard Sherman has gone down over the last couple days, mine has gone up. Both options are perfectly understandable. I expect there is a massive spectrum of opinions of Richard Sherman’s character, but hopefully we can all agree the guy knows how to make a point.