"Richard Sherman, who?"
That was the prevailing sentiment among Patriots fans following Sherman's taunts tweeted on Sunday night directed at Tom Brady. If you didn't know who Sherman was before Sunday afternoon, you sure do now.
The thing is, Sherman isn't a nobody. He's been one of the best cover cornerbacks in the NFL this season, and his success dates back to last year when he took over as a starter in week eight as a rookie.
The Stanford product allowed just two receptions against the Patriots according to Pro Football Focus, one of those coming from Brandon Lloyd on a route where Sherman got crossed up with Wes Welker. He also added a key inteception, cutting in front of Deion Branch, who stood no chance against the towering corner, and a pass deflection. Sherman begged Brady to keep throwing at him, and wound up with seven targets for 32 yards. His quarterback rating against now stands at a shockingly low 38.8 on the season, good for third in the NFL among cornerbacks who have played at least 75-percent of his teams' snaps.
Sherman started out his college career at Stanford as a wide receiver, leading the Cardinal in receptions, yards and receiving touchdowns while earning freshman All-American honors. He switched over to the defensive side of the ball his junior year and used everything he learned on offense at cornerback including using quarterback signals, wide receiver splits and little idiosyncrasies from offensive players to tip him off to what play or route was being run by the opposition.
He was a fifth-round pick in 2011 after running a 4.54 40 yard dash at the scouting combine. Pete Carroll happened to see something in him that no other coaches did, and that dates back to the coach's days at USC when he recruited Sherman to play cornerback — Sherman chose Stanford for the better education. The former Cardinal's size is what really sets him apart. At 6-foot-3, 200-pounds he not only matches up with most NFL receivers, he towers over them.
Sherman's smarts also makes him unique. The Stanford graduate simply sees things in NFL offenses that others don't, and playing wide receiver in a west coast offense under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford only benefits him more. When you hear Sherman talk about the position, he treats it like a science rather than a game.
That's why Sherman is allowed to talk smack. And talk smack he does.
Sherman didn't make many friends in New England yesterday, taunting Brady on Twitter and using the dreaded word "gimmick" when referring to the Patriots' no-huddle offense. But what Sherman did was impressive. He and his fellow Seattle defensive backs shut down the Patriots' offense in the second half when the game was on the line. Sure, Brady is a legend and Sherman hasn't accomplished the same honors that the future hall-of-famer has, but bowing down to the opposition isn't what the Seahawks' defense is all about. They like being the team no one talks about and they use that disrespect to their favor.
Sherman's posturing would have appeared regretful if the Seahawks had lost, but they didn't. And that's why Sherman is allowed to celebrate a victory that few predicted. And fans may have been saying, "Richard Sherman, who?" when the Seattle corner first made headlines, but they know his name now, and it's well deserved.