Prior to writing this Tuesday night, I decided to use Google as a way to prove a point here. When did an easy, basic search for “Browns 49ers” the top story that came up was #HandshakeGate. It wasn’t about the fact that the Cleveland Browns were dominated, outcoached, outplayed, and just completely run over by the San Francisco 49ers with the entire NFL world watching on Monday Night Football. It wasn’t about the fact that Baker Mayfield was just 8-for-22 with 100 yards and two interceptions. It wasn’t that the Niners ran for a whopping 275 yards. It had nothing to do with what happened in the game. While there were plenty of other stories talking about what took place between the lines during the 60 minutes of actual playing time on the football field, the biggest story seemed to be what did (or didn’t?) take place prior to kickoff.
So let’s rewind a little here. Following Monday night’s game, 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman took it upon himself to call out Baker.
“What’s amazing, and annoying, was him not shaking hands at the beginning,” Sherman told NFL.com’s Michael Silver. “That’s some college s—. It’s ridiculous. We’re all trying to get psyched up, but shaking hands with your opponent — that’s NFL etiquette. And when you pull bush-league stuff, that’s disrespectful to the game. And believe me, that’s gonna get us fired up.
“Respect the game. You can have rivals, but pay your respect in that moment — especially when you’re young. He hasn’t earned anything in this league. How many games has he won? He’s acting like he was the MVP last year. If [Patrick] Mahomes did that, it would be one thing. But he would never do that because he has too much respect for the game. And when you see a guy who doesn’t? You humble him every chance you get. Because eventually, he will have respect for the league — or he’ll be out of it.”
Keep in mind, Silver also doesn’t seem to like Mayfield too much as well. Remember, Silver and former Browns head coach Hue Jackson, tied to the hip as it were, as much as an NFL head coach and a supposed objective journalist can be. The reporter has had a history of being critical of the quarterback ever since Jackson was fired last season.1
So, back to the actual story. Not only did Sherman say that to Silver, but he also took to Twitter to express his displeasure about Mayfield supposedly not shaking his hand prior to the game.
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) October 8, 2019
Ironically, the tweets have since been deleted.
Unfortunately for Sherman, it’s 2019 and there are cameras everywhere. Whether it’s cell phones or actual cameras, with a stadium full of thousands of people, there’s bound to be multiple angles showing whether Mayfield shook Sherman’s hand at midfield. The first camera angle came from the 49ers’ Instagram Story, one where it looked as though the two shook hands but you couldn’t definitively tell for sure. Then came a video of the jumbotron. It looked a bit clearer that Baker shook Sherman’s hand but it still wasn’t 100%.
Then came the video that tells it all.
So Richard Sherman claims Baker Mayfield refused to shake his hand at the coin toss. This video seems to indicate otherwise: pic.twitter.com/4CgOsLKLPL
— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) October 8, 2019
With all of these videos surfacing, Sherman changed his story from that Baker never shook his hand to that the quarterback didn’t shake his hand after the coin toss. Then, it turned into that No. 6 gave a petty/BS handshake. Keep in mind, when the Browns are set to get the ball on offense to start the game, Baker runs off the field like this every time. He wasn’t even the only Browns captain to do so either.
In a matter of hours, the story took quite a turn. If it weren’t for cameras and videos, everyone would have likely believed Sherman. But now, he is stuck backtracking. Not only did he delete those tweets that are posted above, but he then changed his story after all the videos surfaced, telling The MMQB that the 49ers were just angry that Baker darted away so quickly following the coin flip.
Asked @R_Sherman25 about the video out there.
He said it was Baker Mayfield darting away after the toss that angered the Niners: "That’s it. They are making way too big of a story of a blowout. He pissed us off. We put a foot in his ass. End of story."
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) October 8, 2019
Keep in mind, when the Browns are set to get the ball on offense to start the game, Baker runs off the field like this every time. He wasn’t even the only Browns captain to do so either.
So Richard Sherman is mad Baker Mayfield ran off the field and didn't shake hands a second time during the coin toss? This might be the dumbest controversy of all-time pic.twitter.com/zZssOt7CMW
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) October 8, 2019
With all this now circulating throughout social media, Sherman then took it upon himself to not only delete those tweets that were previously shown above but tweet out some more stuff as well.
So you don’t see any difference in the way I shake everyone else’s hand and the guy who stands back with the petty shake. Was Bs and I took offense to it then turns and runs off. It’s not that big of a deal.
— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) October 8, 2019
Ppl freaking out over a handshake gave me a good laugh. I will lose no sleep over it and have moved on to the next opponent.
— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) October 8, 2019
So let’s recap here. Sherman originally made up that Baker didn’t shake his hand while talking to Silver after the game and now he’s backtracking so much that he’s tweeting out things such as that people need to stop freaking out of a handshake? It seems as though if the 49er didn’t freak out in the first place, none of this would have been a story at all. Yet here we are.
This is just a friendly reminder that Sherman has had his fair share of beef with other players, including Darrelle Revis, Patrick Peterson, A.J. Green, Tom Brady, Calvin Johnson, and Michael Crabtree, among others. ESPN once did a story on all of it.
It’s almost like he tries to create these little individual rivalries with multiple players throughout the league. It’s a weird way to gain some motivation. But to each their own.
So while it absolutely sucks that the Browns got destroyed in all aspects Monday night, I would just like to thank Richard Sherman for keeping much of the focus on the pregame handshake more than the game itself. All of the Dawg Pound appreciates you, Richard.
Editor’s note: NFL Network updated their initial column and added another article indicating that Sherman was apologetic about the entire situation.
Sherman acknowledged the initial shake Tuesday on Twitter and then offered a mea culpa during an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show.
“It’s definitely my bad,” Sherman said Wednesday. “I never want anyone to deal with some s— that they didn’t do. The questions that he is going to get, the annoying, nonsense questions about some stuff that happened in the game, that’s already been done, you know, sure, he’ll get an apology for that. I’ll probably reach out to him via text or social media to actually get a hold of him to talk to him on the phone.”
Sherman added: “He definitely deserves an apology, that was my bad on that.”