Richard Sherman has been accused of selfishness. How selfish is he?

The story after last night’s NFC Championship match could have gone in any number of directions:

  • Pete Carroll is now the third head coach in history to win both a college championship and an NFL conference championship.
  • Marshawn Lynch became the first RB to gain over 100 yards against SF all season, and his long TD runs in the playoffs are at risk of becoming routine.
  • Angry Pedestrian Doug Baldwin had his first 100-yard game and also had a crucial kick return go for 69 yards.
  • Kam Chancellor had himself a monster game, with several big hits and a crucial interception.
  • Russell Wilson continues to be the Messiah (even as he professes the real one is some guy named Jesus).
  • Did FOX really need to show us Navarro Bowman’s horrific leg injury a dozen times?
  • Etc.

In other words, the Seahawks’ victory was a whole-team effort. But the day after Seattle dispatched San Francisco, the entire football world has been talking about one thing, and one thing only: Richard Sherman.

In a masterstroke of self-promotion by the communications major out of Stanford, Public Enemy No. 1 made Richard Sherman a household name (which he should have been for a while now). And while I don’t have a problem with what Ringwerm Sherm said about the mediocre Crabtree (remind me, how does mediocre compare to pedestrian?), I think it’s tough to defend Sherman on at least one count:

That’s just another way of calling Richard Sherman selfish. His own coach, stabbing the star cornerback in the back!

Or did he?

Let’s assume for the sake of argument, that what Carroll had to say was not intended purely as criticism. Yes, football is a team sport, but it definitely has a place for selfish players. And Richard Sherman is one of the most selfish in the game – that’s part of what makes him so great. There is no “Richard Sherman” in Team, unless that team is the Seattle Seahawks, in which case they’re happy to have him.

In the words of one of his spirit ancestors (going with the Haida motif), Sherm wants the ball, and he’s gonna score. And since he’s no longer a wide receiver, the only way he can make that happen is when he manages to selfishly take the ball away from the opposing quarterback. Sherman’s selfishness isn’t just about getting the ball — it’s also how he gets pumped for the game, and why he’s able to make plays like the one that ended Sunday’s match-up.

Now, obviously, there’s a line. Selfishness is only a positive when it helps your team, and not when it comes at the expense of victory on the field or morale in the locker room. Any criticism of Sherm coming from the 206 might come on this second count. But this, of course, begs the question: how far over the line did Sherman really step? Did he expect his comments — not entirely uncharacteristic for him — to instantly earn him hundreds of thousands of new followers (this time, I mean on Twitter) and make himself the talk of the nation? Was this really all a calculated plot? Or was it just Sherm being Sherm and speaking in the heat of the moment?

Even if you can argue that this particular incident might have inadvertently turned out a bridge too far, so long as Sherman continues to play selfishly – that is, as he always has – the Seahawks should be OK. And given what happened just before Sherman yelled those comments in the general direction of Erin Andrews, I have no real concerns.

But first, some background.

You might recall a month and a half ago, when Colin Kaepernick’s Beats by Dre ad first came out. It depicted the QB under physical and verbal assault by a pack of rabid Seahawk fans:

Given the QB’s treatment at the hands of the 12th man, the scenario is not so far-fetched – as a metaphor. It’s just a metaphor. Nevertheless, it was enough to ensure Kaepernick didn’t make himself any friends in Seattle before his final visit of the season.

But Richard Sherman was not content with letting Kaepernick monopolize the Beats endorsement game. He selfishly followed up with one of his own, and it debuted just before gametime:

In light of what went ultimately down, the ad turned out to be remarkably prescient.

But enough background. Right before he made his way over to the sidelines for that fateful postgame interview, Richard Sherman was seen throwing a choke sign at the general direction of the 49ers. In this Monday morning’s MMQB tell-all/apology/not-apology, Sherman explained:

I threw a choking sign at 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Why? Because he decided he was going to try the guy he was avoiding all game, because, I don’t know, he’s probably not paying attention for the game-winning play. C’mon, you’re better than that.

So the message was for Kaepernick. Yes, Kaepernick choked. No, he shouldn’t have ignored his better instincts and chucked it up anywhere in the vicinity of @RSherman_25. That’s bound to be a fatal mistake – which is, coincidentally, what happens when you choke.

But I don’t think Sherman’s choice of gesture was entirely by accident. He wasn’t happy with just landing another Beats by Dre ad of his own – one that will probably get significantly more airtime going forward, while the original might turn up somewhere in Africa – he had to insert himself into Kaepernick’s:

richard-sherman-choke Beats by Dre screenshot

So selfish.

Next thing you know, Sherman will cop to trying to beat the other team.

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