When rumors emerged on Wednesday that the Seattle Seahawks are planning on releasing star cornerback Richard Sherman, it brought on a flood of memories surrounding one of the greatest figures in franchise history. “Figures” being a key word because Sherman is so much more than just a great player. In my mind, Russell Wilson is the number one reason the Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2013, but Sherman is a close number two based largely on the fact that I think he is the element on defense that turned the unit from “talented” to “historically dominant.” Not only with his play, but with his swagger, attitude, and mouth.
I don’t think that Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Brandon Browner, Byron Maxwell, Bobby Wagner and so on would be the same players that they are without Sherman. He came in with a rare type of confidence in 2011 and by the time he became a starter in his seventh professional game, he was arguably already the best corner in the game, fearing no opponent; trash-talking A.J. Green in literally his first game as a starter. Then two weeks later, with Sherman entrenched at his cornerback position for good, he helped start an unfathomably long streak of competitive games for Seattle, not losing a single game by double digits from November 13, 2011 to September 20, 2015.
Which makes it all the more unusual that Sherman was a fifth round pick out of Stanford and with virtually little-to-no development needed by the Seahawks coaching staff, was n elite cornerback. That was absolutely great news for Seattle’s fanbase, of course, but as every good sword has two edges, so does this one: because in conjunction with that era’s draft selections of Chancellor, K.J. Wright, Byron Maxwell, Malcolm Smith, plus the UDFA signing of Doug Baldwin, people became convinced that you could regularly find contributors, starters, superstars, on day three of the draft. Fold in the additions of Wagner and Wilson in rounds two and three in 2012, and others may say that the first round is only for “archaic teams besides the Seahawks who don’t have half the scouting skills of Pete and John’s staff.”
But that is not really the case, and the fallout in the five years since is that some fans believe that Seattle is very bad at drafting because they haven’t found “the next Richard Sherman or Kam Chancellor” on day three of the draft. Except that 2010-2012 was a rare exception to how draft results typically play out, not just for the Seahawks, but for any team in league history. That’s why it should go down as one of the best drafting eras for any franchise ever. And at some point we will need to snap back and realize that Sherman is special for many reasons, one of which being that players of his caliber are rarely available outside the top 5, let alone the first round.
From 1976-2010, the first year of the Seahawks and the last pre-Sherman, Seattle drafted 239 players from round four and on. Of those 239, the only players you can find today with more than three Pro Bowls are kick returner Michael Bates (150th overall in 1992, played two seasons in Seattle, then had five Pro Bowls in five seasons with the Carolina Panthers) and Chancellor, who went one year before Sherman.
The only three-time Pro Bowlers in that group are defensive end Michael Sinclair (155th overall in 1991) and running back Chris Warren (89th overall in 1990). So you can already kind of see how the Seahawks had an uncharacteristically good stretch of late round drafting from 1990 to 1994, finding Warren, Sinclair, John Kasay, Bates, Michael McCrary, Jeff Blackshear, Dean Wells, Larry Whigham, Antonio Edwards, Carlester Crumpler, and Lamar Smith in later rounds than a team should normally find good, fine, or serviceable players, honestly. Much of that credit must go to former general manager-turned-Seattle head coach Tom Flores, though it didn’t end up helping the Seahawks improve much or save Flores from getting fired in 1995.
So in Seahawks history, only 13 players drafted after round four have ended up making a Pro Bowl, and that includes three players taken between 2010-2011 (Chancellor, Sherman, Wright) and six players taken between 1990 and 1994. That only leaves four players in any of the other years in franchise history: Justin Forsett in 2008, Josh Brown in 2003, Alex Bannister in 2001, and Bobby Joe Edmonds in 1986.
That’s a change-of-pace back/returner, a kicker, a special teams coverage expert, and a punt returner/kick returner. That’s in the entire history of all the players that Seattle has ever drafted after round three. Ever. 285 names when you include 2012-2017.
Do you see now just how weird Sherman and Chancellor and Wright are?
Do you see?
Since 2013, Seattle has added these players among their day three picks: Luke Willson, Spencer Ware, Cassius Marsh, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Mark Glowinski, Alex Collins, and Chris Carson. What’s totally fair to keep pointing out is that these names range from “above-average to great” in terms of being a day three pick. Sherman made no sense. Glowinski makes sense. Chancellor is a mystery. Willson is a little bit more than what he should be. Wright is special. Carson has the potential to also be special.
So if this is really the end, then it is a good time to reflect back and thank Sherman for doing so much to transform and elevate the Seahawks defense to heights they’ve never seen before and my never see again. But also, a “no thank you” for making people believe you’re the norm. You were far, far from the norm.