At first, I wondered if Richard Sherman knew what he was getting into when he said, “AJ Green, it’s just a lot of noise and bad roads.”
Sherman was a rookie when he said that, a fifth-round pick who had just started his first game, and Green was the No. 4 overall pick in the draft that led all rookie receivers.
Yeah, Sherman knew what he was doing: setting the tone for a playing career in which he was absolutely fearless in what he said publicly, whether it was taunting an opponent or challenging his own coaches. He was setting the stage to become a sports media heavyweight whenever he decided to get behind a desk. But now that he’s made that transition, I’m not so sure.
Richard Sherman is move your podcast to Volume, a podcast network co-produced by Colin Cowherd and iHeartRadio. It will also be part of Amazon Thursday night football coverage, a previously announced deal.
But to be honest, I don’t remember Sherman saying anything so interesting in the past two years. And maybe that will change now that his playing career is coming to an end, although he hasn’t retired. Maybe he’ll be ready to say what he really thinks of quarterback Russell Wilson, his former teammate in Seattle. But in the past two years, Sherman hasn’t said much to warrant the kind of attention he used to actively court.
I don’t approach this as a critique of Sherman, but rather as a comment on the difficulty of building a lasting media career. It’s as difficult for former players as it is for laymen of the profession. There’s a degree of consistency the job requires, reliability and being outspoken and controversial is absolutely brilliant, but it’s a risky proposition to base an entire career on that schtick because there might come a time when you don’t you’ll no longer be able to be considered so pissed off.
I’m not saying it happened with Sherman, but he became decidedly less interesting. It might not be a bad thing for him personally, but I wonder what it means for his media presence and it was something I had no doubts about.
I’ve covered Sherman for the breadth of his career in Seattle, first as a reporter at Seattle weather and later as a radio host in town. I’ve never met a player who’s better than Sherman at understanding and then explaining the defensive concepts and patterns his team uses and I’ve never met someone who thrives on conflict the way he does, whether it’s with opposing players, coaches or even my co-host whose career Sherman said it could ruin. For a very long time, I believed that this combination would earn Sherman millions in the media if he decided to do it.
And he’s probably already made millions, but Sherman once did a weekly column with Sports Illustrated as well as a podcast with Cris Collinsworth and none of it crossed the way I thought it would. I don’t know exactly why.
He is an incredibly endearing personality. He has a great sense of humor. As a veteran, he’s been incredibly generous with ideas and advice for young teammates, especially in the defensive secondary.
But Sherman’s opinions of other players aren’t as clear-cut as they were early in his career when he changed his Twitter handle to Optimus Prime before a game against Detroit, or said Steve Smith was a “little guy after facing Carolina. Maybe he doesn’t want to come across as a hater. Perhaps those opinions were a matter of football play as opposed to previewing what was to come as a broadcaster.
There is also another possibility: players and former players must do more than criticize media coverage to succeed in the media. Much more. That’s not to say you shouldn’t criticize media coverage, but it can’t be your only pitch. In fact, this shouldn’t be your most frequent pitch.
It made me think back to a conversation with Demetri Ravanos earlier this month on his podcast, Media noise. We were talking about Draymond Green and his “New Media” faction which I’m a big fan of. Green is enjoying the kind of success and acclaim I expected from Sherman. And maybe that will happen to Sherman as he leaves his playing career or maybe – like Sherman – Green will struggle to hold the public’s attention as his playing career slips from the top. which it currently achieves.
It seems like every time we come across an honest and charismatic athlete who is willing to say interesting things in public, we assume that player is going to be the next media star. It happened with Patrick Beverly earlier this year, and he didn’t have to do much more than publicly grind his ax at Chris Paul.
However, a career in the media is not limited to attracting public attention. You have to stick with it day after day, year after year, and that comes with a number of challenges in finding new angles or analysis or ignoring the backlash of contemporary actors who bristle at your criticisms.
I think adding Sherman’s podcast is a great bet in Volume. He adapts to what they do, and Cowherd is one of the best at ensuring the success of the people he works with. As far as media betting goes, this one is excellent. I’m just not as sure it will turn out as I was back when Sherman was at the height of his career. This uncertainty is not so much a criticism of Sherman as a comment on how difficult the industry is, even for someone as interesting as Sherman.