For the miffed many, the Seattle Seahawks no longer are this anonymous army of opposing players — these are now the Richard Shermans.
Sherman put a face on Denver's Super Bowl opponent, first with his acrobatic deflection of a pass intended for Michael Crabtree — promptly intercepted by a Seattle teammate — which preserved Sunday's victory in the NFC championship game. Then the leader of football's best defense went all Vesuvius, erupting into your living room: “I'm the best corner in the game! And when you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you're going to get!”
It was not classy, more XFL than NFL. But you know what? I loved it.
I don't want this from every player all the time, but this quick glimpse of a player's (gasp!) actual thoughts and emotions after a huge victory was refreshing. Of course, Sherman's actions nearly broke the Internet. In our instant-reaction world, well, the world instantly reacted, some using outrageously inappropriate descriptions of Sherman — who, ironically enough, is an intelligent, introspective guy, a former honors student. But his bravado gave the Broncos' opponent an identity, fair or not. And when was the last time, heading into the Super Bowl, that a team's most discussed player was a cornerback? January 1996 with Deion Sanders, then with the Cowboys?
Regardless of your opinions about Sherman's persona, let's look at what really matters, that being the first seven words of his rant: “I'm the best corner in the game!”
Denver's Demaryius Thomas will be the target of Sherman's wrath. D.T. hasn't seen a cornerback like this all season. We'll learn much about the softspoken, stud receiver. In order to win the big game, Thomas will have to win the mind games against a master. In Denver's three losses, Thomas caught four passes in each game. In Denver's 15 victories, Thomas averaged 6.3 catches. He had seven catches for 134 yards in the AFC championship game.
Will Denver win if Thomas has four or fewer catches? Maybe. Will Denver win if Thomas wins the one-on-one battle with Sherman? You had better believe it.
“First off, he's just a wealth of talent,” Broncos coach John Fox said Monday of Thomas. “He is big, physical, strong, fast — all the things you look for athletically. I think he has worked extremely hard. Our quarterback is a fairly demanding guy, and I think it has really helped Demaryius in his growth.”
What makes Sherman so good, besides his unwavering belief that he's a hybrid of Sanders and Mr. T in “Rocky III,” are his instincts, length and consistency. He led the NFL with eight interceptions and was seldom targeted in the NFC championship game. But his braggadocio, at a position where confidence isn't optional, is his fuel. The great ones are fueled by confidence. No, we won't see Peyton Manning screaming into the camera lens with his syrupy accent: “I'm the best quarterback in the game! And when you try me with a sorry defensive back like Devin McCourty, that's the result you're going to get!”
But when No. 18 walks on that field, he knows he has prepared himself to beat a backfield of Deions if need be. Sherman knows it too. In the postgame news conference, Sherman was asked about trash talking with Manning. He said no, because, well: “If you try to get in his head, you'll get lost.”
Sherman vs. Thomas and Sherman vs. Manning will be two of the more fascinating matchups of the Super Bowl.
But here's hoping Richard Sherman goes all Richard Sherman before then, at least once.