The last time Richard Sherman did not start at cornerback for Seattle, Pete Carroll had a losing record as an NFL coach, Russell Wilson was attending graduate courses at Wisconsin and the Seahawks’ best days seemed far behind them.
It was Oct. 23, 2011, the game was in Cleveland and running back Marshawn Lynch was a late scratch with back spasms. Charlie Whitehurst filled in for a banged-up Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback and threw for 97 yards. The Seahawks lost, 6-3.
Sherman entered the game off the bench and recorded four tackles. The next week, Carroll moved the rookie from Stanford into the starting lineup and that’s where he remained for 99 consecutive games. The franchise would never be the same.
That streak will come to end an Monday, after Sherman ruptured his right Achilles tendon last week in Arizona.
“He has been just a bastion of consistency and competitiveness and toughness,” Carroll said of Sherman after the game.
Some have suggested because of Sherman’s age and sizable contract, his days with the Seahawks may be over for good.
Whether this is the end of Sherman’s Seattle tenure or just an interruption, there’s a lot to look back on.
“Through all of the stuff we’ve worked through together, it’s been awesome” Carroll said. “It’s been hard. It’s been challenging. He’s been an extraordinary, almost iconic player in this league.”
Much has changed since that loss in Cleveland and Sherman’s string of 99 straight starts began.
The day after his first start — a home loss to Cincinnati in which he snagged his first career interception — the United Nations officially recognized the world’s population as 7 billion. It’s estimated we’ve added nearly 600 million people since.
Barack Obama was re-elected a week later. Donald Trump won office four years after that. College football formed a playoff. The Cubs even won a World Series.
Meanwhile the Seahawks, in the middle of their fourth consecutive losing season, suddenly became contenders. With Sherman locking down the left side of the field, Seattle went 67-31-1 in the regular season, 8-4 in the playoffs and won the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history.
Seattle toppled the Niners for supremacy of the West, outlasted the Cardinals and are now chasing the Rams.
Sherman intercepted a league-leading 32 passes during that time, was named an All-Pro three times and earned a name for himself as one of the NFL’s best and brashest players.
Through it all, he pointed to his teammates as inspiration.
“You go out there and play for your teammates,” he said after his injury. “You go out there and try to give them all you got because they deserve it.”
Along with Sherman, teammates such as Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, Doug Baldwin and Wilson have gone from upstart youngsters to distinguished veterans.
They’ve been involved in some of the most exciting games in recent memory, enjoyed the height of success and endured epic defeat.
“To see Richard Sherman go down, that was tough,” Wilson said. “It’s a tough sport we play. When you see guys like that go down, you get a little emotional. The guy’s worked so hard to be great and be who he is and he’s going to be a hall of fame corner.”
So much has happened since Sherman’s first start for the Seahawks it’s almost hard to believe it’s only been six years.
For now, the team will turn to veteran Jeremy Lane and rookie Shaquill Griffin as starters Monday night against Atlanta. They also re-signed veteran Byron Maxwell for depth.
With or without Sherman, there’s no telling what the next six years will bring for the Seahawks. There’s no doubt, though, the first 99 starts of his career also coincide with the greatest stretch of football in franchise history.