The Seattle Seahawks were supposed to replace the New England Patriots the Next Great Dynasty in the NFL, reaching back-to-back Super Bowls in the 2013-14 seasons, but they were upended by the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. Now the Patriots have extended their dynasty run with two titles in three seasons.
ESPN’s Seth Wickersham wrote an interesting piece on Seahawks CB Richard Sherman, who has struggled to overcome the Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, and how he’s been at ends with Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and head coach Pete Carroll.
“According to interviews with numerous current and former Seahawks players, coaches and staffers, few have taken [the Seahawks loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX] harder than Richard Sherman,” Wickersham writes. “He has told teammates and friends that he believes the Seahawks should have won multiple Super Bowls by now. And with just one trophy and the window closing fast, he has placed responsibility for that failing on the two faces of the franchise: Wilson and Carroll. Sherman, who like Wilson declined comment for this story, thinks Carroll hasn't held Wilson or many young Seahawks to the defense's championship standard. He's been disillusioned not only by that single play more than two years earlier but also by his coach's and quarterback's response to it.”
The Seahawks defense has been historic in recent years, rivaling some of the best in the history of the league. The team’s offense, however, has been anemic at times with a porous offensive line and an obviously limited Wilson.
Sherman and some other teammates supposedly believe that Wilson gets a pass from criticism by the coaching staff.
“Carroll hosts ‘Tell the Truth Monday’ during the season, when he breaks down film,” Wickersham continues. “Some Seahawks joke that it should be renamed ‘Tell the Truth to Certain People,’ because Wilson seems exempt from criticism. For as great as Wilson has played at times...only twice in his five years have the Seahawks finished in the top 10 in points scored. Sherman and the defense know the difference between very good quarterbacks and great ones. They see how Wilson, only 5-11, struggles to anticipate open windows; they see the offensive staff breaking down film of the Saints' offense to figure out ways to deploy tight end Jimmy Graham, an All-Pro in New Orleans and a highly paid, ineffective red zone weapon in Seattle. It galls the defense to hear Wilson, ever positive, stand behind a podium and insist that the offense "made some great plays" after games in which the Seahawks barely score -- and then be propped up as if he were Aaron Rodgers.
“‘Guys want Pete to call out Russ in front of the team,’ [Seahawks RB coach Sherman] Smith says.”
Carroll is an incredibly sunny coach, which can rub some players the wrong way. Protecting your quarterback from criticism is certainly one way to approach team building.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has a different stance on how to coach his star quarterback, per these four stories from Monday Morning Quarterback.
1. “I was sitting next to Randy Moss,” former Patriots WR Donte Stallworth recalled from 2007. “Bill talked about the prior AFC Championship Game, where they had a 21-6 lead at halftime, and how they blew it. Then, he started to go by players and position groups. The first person he had up was Brady. He didn’t introduce what he was doing. He just started showing plays [from the previous season]. He showed this pass that was probably the worst pass I’ve ever seen Brady throw. It was one of those passes where the quarterback takes a step back, and it’s usually a run play, but you’ll throw it out to the receiver real quick while he’s standing on the line of scrimmage. The ball just completely missed the wide receiver and ended up skipping to the ground and falling out of bounds. Bill was saying, ‘What kind of throw is this? I can get Johnny Foxborough from down the street to make a better throw than this.’ He had some expletives in there. Randy and I looked at each other and sat up in our seats. There was nothing said between us, but it was understood: If Brady is getting it, no one is safe. There were a lot of new guys, big-time free agents brought in that year also. Bill is this way anyway, but he was definitely trying to set the tone. I just immediately fell in line. That was all it took.”
2. “We were doing two-minute and I was the single receiver,” former Patriots WR Randy Moss remembered from 2007. “Tom Brady gave me the signal to run a 5-yard quick out. Make a long story short, me and Tom didn’t connect. For whatever reason, the ball was not caught. The ball was thrown, but it was not caught. Was it his fault or my fault? I don’t care; the ball was not completed. So we come in the next day, Bill Belichick puts up the film and basically says, ‘Are you kidding me? I have my such and such All-Pro wide receiver, and I have my All-Pro quarterback, and y’all cannot complete a 5-yard out?’ He said, ‘Tom, I can go down here and get the local high school quarterback to come and complete me a 5-yard out.’ And everybody was like, Oooh. So basically, when he humiliated Tom, in front of the boys, man, we went out there and put everybody up. I don’t care who it was; whoever was on that defense that day, they got it. And that was practice.”
3. “First squad meeting with the full team,” Patriots special team captain Matthew Slater recalled from his rookie year. “Coach is showing a clip, and he’s coaching Tom up, telling him, ‘We’ve gotta get better play from the quarterback on this.’ And I’m like, Wow, if Coach Belichick is coaching a Hall of Fame player this hard, then we are all going to be held accountable and held to a certain standard. It was eye-opening for me being my first meeting in the NFL.”
4. “It was my second day there,” former Patriots QB Brian Hoyer remembered from 2009. “The first team meeting after the first practice I was at. Bill is known for showing what we call the ‘lowlights’ of practice from the day before. I am not even sure what is going on. I come sit in the team meeting room and the lights go off and the film goes on. The first play is from the previous day’s practice, and it is Tom, and I remember this clear as day. He’s trying to throw a seam to [Wes] Welker 20 to 30 yards down the field. And the hitch route was open at five yards. Belichick was like, ‘Brady, how long have you been playing? And you’re trying to force the ball to this midget down the field, and the running back is wide open on a 5-yard hitch? It’s first down. Take the gain and move on.’ I remember thinking to myself, I am never going to make the team. If this is the way he’s talking to Tom Brady, I don’t stand a chance.”
Belichick rips into Brady in front of the entire team. He doesn’t protect him. Accountability starts from the top and there’s no player higher than Brady on the roster. As all of these players say, if Belichick can critique Brady so harshly, there’s no way anyone else can get away with not playing their best.
Carroll’s approach with Wilson stops being effective when the offense struggles because the defense feels they are held to a different standard- or that the offense will never have to face the truth.
Belichick’s approach might lose the team if they start to lose games- but so long as Brady is at quarterback, and so long as he stands up and takes the criticism, everyone else on the team will have to fall in line as well.
One last note from Wickersham about Richard Sherman and the Patriots:
“This offseason Sherman and Carroll held several private conversations,” Wickersham adds. “Sherman had told friends that he allowed himself to imagine playing for the Cowboys, maybe the Patriots, hoping [Marshawn] Lynch would come out of retirement and join him in New England.”
I guess we know the source of this offseason rumor.