To think, this all started with a simple Facebook post.
Now, if you know anything about the San Francisco 49ers these days, you know two things:
1) The team has been utterly decimated by a series of coaching moves, roster changes and unexpected retirements; and
2) Their fans, despite everything, still relished the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl XLIX victory.
Why would they do that, you might ask? The answer is simple. And it only takes one GIF to sum up the Faithfuls’ collective joy:
That’s right: they got to see Richard Sherman lose.
Because, when it’s all said and done, Public Enemy No. 1 – in the eyes of 49ers fans, at least – is the brash, opinionated and cocky Seattle Seahawks cornerback, and venerable leader of the team’s “Legion of Boom”. It’s easy to root against the image he projects out to the public – that is, if you’re not a Seahawks fan. Between his rant to Erin Andrews after the 2013 NFC Championship game …
… and the image of Sherman and his Seahawks brethren eating turkey on after a Thanksgiving victory over the 49ers, LITERALLY in the middle of Levi’s Stadium …
It’s difficult for any Niners fan NOT to see blood red at the sight of him.
But, when this image started to pop up in 49ers fan pages all over Facebook in late March and early April of this year, I highly doubt THIS was the blood red anyone really had in mind:
It’s like seeing Tom Brady in a Jets uniform, Derek Jeter in a Red Sox uniform, or LeBron James in a Miami Heat uniform in 2010. It was utter blasphemy.
Nonetheless, that post showed up courtesy of Facebook user Marco Antonio Espinosa. Needless to say, 49ers fans were less than pleased at the sight of it.
Though, it did get me thinking: What if, by some act of God, the most hated man in Red-and-Gold Country were to decide to play for the 49ers? That’s assuming he could get out of his current contract, which is slated to pay him a maximum of around $52 million over the next four years. Would the 49er Empire welcome him with open arms? What would the ramifications be for both teams, moving forward?
So, let’s dive into this rabbit hole and explore this unlikely possibility:
“What If” Scenario: Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman – either by a loophole in his current contract, or via forced trade – ends up on the San Francisco 49ers 53-man roster in 2015.
Actually, the means by which Sherman ends up suiting up for Jim Tomsula and Co. is irrelevant. Let’s just say that, somehow, it happens. **Poof!** Richard Sherman is now the franchise cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers for the upcoming NFL season. What would it mean? I’ll tell you what it means:
1) One thing’s for sure: Cornerback wouldn’t have been a position of need (at least, according to most experts) in this past NFL Draft. Looking at this from purely an X’s and O’s standpoint, it’s difficult to say that Richard Sherman in the 49ers’ defensive backfield would not immediately make the defense, as a whole, better – and that’s taking into consideration the losses of LBs Patrick Willis and Chris Borland.
But it certainly would help. After all, Sherman has gained a reputation for essentially shutting down his side of the field (though, likely not in the same vein as a Darrelle Revis). Many a quarterback had lived to pay for throwing Sherman’s way over these past three years: he has amassed 65 passes defended and 24 interceptions since 2011. With that kind of production, it’s safe to say that, despite being constantly challenged, he will usually step up for the team.
You put him with the developing corners already on the team (most notably CBs Chris Cook and Dontae Johnson), and this secondary could start to look scary real quick.
2) His experience as a member of the “Legion of Boom” would likely rub off on the 49ers secondary right away. Speaking of the incumbent CBs, there are currently 6 cornerbacks and 10 total defensive backs (excluding safeties) on the 49ers roster. Most are pretty green – including new additions like the aforementioned Johnson, Kenneth Acker and Keith Reaser – and they could learn a lot from Sherman’s tried and true tactics.
With that in mind, the art of the cover corner, according to Richard Sherman, would likely be a part of the secondary philosophy in the 49ers’ defense. Combined with a revamped pass rush, and Sherman could help develop the defense into the kind that opposing offenses feared back in 2011 and 2012.
3) Sherman would likely be a lot less bitter playing for the 49ers … assuming he had genuine animosity towards the previous coaching regime, in the first place. Funnily enough, one of Sherman’s main contentions against the 49ers had been the coach he played for at Stanford – former head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Apparently, part of the massive chip on his shoulder originated from the fact that Harbaugh, then coach for the Cardinal, did not endorse Sherman during the 2011 NFL Draft process. He had wanted to stick it to Harbaugh, and his San Francisco 49ers, ever since. And, unfortunately, for 49ers fans, he succeeded in spades.
But the fallout of 2014 saw Harbaugh go back to college, coaching his alma mater at Michigan. And, while 49ers have been bitter about how it all played out, the thought of Sherman being receptive to, and playing for, the 49ers organization – assuming he brings his Seahawks production to the Bay – could do a lot to quell the bitterness. Conversely, Sherman playing for a new regime headed by the likable Jim Tomsula would take a lot of animosity out of his feelings for the Red-and-Gold.
4) Those of the 49er Faithful that have cursed his name for the past three years will have to come to grips with him being a 49er … and it will be easier than they might think. To be sure, it wouldn’t, by any means, be easy for 49ers fans to accept one of the 49ers’ greatest arch-nemeses – and one of the NFL’s biggest trolls – into their fold. Seriously – take one look at a Richard Sherman-centric post on any 49ers forum, and you would be looking at the biggest dose of vitriol from 49ers fans, every single time.
But, the 49ers have dealt with bigger mouths in the past. After all, need I remind you of one particular star wide receiver who was known as much for his brash behavior on and off the field as his impressive All-Pro production?
Or how about another cocky defensive back who was so good, he practically propelled the defense to a fifth Super Bowl win?
Above all, if there’s one thing I know about professional sports, in the vast amount of cases, it simply doesn’t matter who a star player used to play for – all that matters is who they are currently playing for. And, in this little scenario, the hated Richard Sherman would be playing for the Seahawks’ biggest rival. You can’t tell me you would reject him outright if you were a 49ers fan.