Barber: 49ers’ Richard Sherman must shine in Super Bowl LIV
For most of the players preparing for Super Bowl LIV here, the frenzied week leading up the game has been something to tolerate, to endure. For Richard Sherman, it has been a tour de force.
Sherman, the veteran 49ers cornerback, owned the microphone in Miami. He was on the podium each day from Monday through Thursday, for a total of perhaps 2½ hours, and he never cracked. Not once did he stumble for an answer or say something off-note. Not once did he show the strain having to repeat himself over and over. He smiled and winked and charmed the most cynical people in America.
When the question was lighthearted, Sherman was lighthearted. “Viva Mexico!” he shouted to a TV duo from down south, fulfilling their request during Super Bowl Opening Night on Monday.
“I’ve never been to Japan,” he told a foreign reporter who asked him what he like most about that country. “And I wish I did! But the hibachi-style grill …”
And when the questions were serious, Sherman aced those, too. He eloquently mourned Kobe Bryant and vehemently dismissed the NFL team owners’ push for a 17-game season, mocking their public devotion to “player safety.”
When someone asked Sherman about the lack of diversity among NFL coaches, he crushed it out of the park: “Everybody feels comfortable asking a player a hard question, like, ‘Man, why don’t these black coaches get jobs?’” he said. “Ask the dudes who hired ’em! Ask the dudes who have all the power in the world to hire and fire these men. Then you’ll get the answers. Or maybe we’re not looking for the answers from those dudes, because we kind of know what they are.”
At 31, Sherman has become of the NFL’s most esteemed citizens. He speaks for himself, but also for teammates, for players around the league, for fathers and people of color everywhere. On the field, he experienced a rebirth in 2019. Opposing quarterbacks compiled a pathetic passer rating of 46.8 when targeting Sherman during the regular season. The scouting service Pro Football Focus gave him an overall grade of 88.9 during the regular season and bumped it up beyond 90.0 after adding two postseason tallies.
Sherman is revered in the 49ers locker room and admired throughout the league. So why does he still feel disrespected?
True, the man has mellowed quite a bit. The Sherman who screamed into a Fox Sports microphone after locking down the NFC title with a victory over the 49ers in January of 2014, crowing that he was “the best corner in the game” and that Michael Crabtree was “a sorry receiver” hasn’t made an appearance in quite a while.
“I’m a father now,” Sherman said Wednesday. “I guess that’s the biggest change, and it changes a lot of things in you fundamentally, gives you more patience, more understanding, changes your perspective of it. Got married. And just stayed the course. Went through the Achilles’ surgery, went through getting cut (by Seattle), so I guess those experiences changed me and moved the needle a little bit for me.”
But the veteran cornerback still takes every possible opportunity to find signs of disrespect, or to invent them if necessary. You probably remember the brief controversy over Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield refusing to shake Sherman’s hand before a game in October, a kerfuffle that died swiftly when video replays showed Mayfield, you know, shaking Sherman’s hand.