The Legion of Boom is no more. The unit officially passed away this Friday after the team informed Richard Sherman he would be released. Born in 2011, the Legion was a bold, wildly successful experiment.
John Schneider and Pete Carroll combined forces in 2010. They constructed one of the most dominant defenses in the 21st century through a combination of superb scouting, believing in underrated players, and infusing the defense with attitude.
Free Safety Earl Thomas had the distinction of being the Legion’s highest drafted player. Even at 14th overall, many executives expressed concerns about his size. Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor both joined Seattle as 5th round selections. Brandon Browner crossed over from the CFL. This was the original LOB – young, discounted, and hungry.
From 2012-2015, Seattle’s defense led the league in fewest points allowed. Only one other team in NFL history has ever accomplished such a feat: the Cleveland Browns from 1953 to 1957. All in all, the Legion of Boom combined for 14 Pro Bowl selections, two Super Bowl appearances, and 52 interceptions.
The unit rode a voracious “us against the world” wave to becoming something never-before-seen in the modern NFL. In a league bent on opening up the passing game, Seattle shut it down. Brutally. Decisively. Earl Thomas roamed centerfield with coverage comparable to Willie Mays. Kam Chancellor laid the hurt. Richard Sherman might as well have been Stickum. There was no logical reason to target his side.
It all came to a head in the 2013 NFC Championship Game. Seattle vanquished their rivals, the San Francisco 49ers, and Sherman cemented their arrival with a legendary post-game tirade aimed at Michael Crabtree. Seahawks fans fed off the energy. Most opposing fans despised it. That’s sports, and that was the Legion of Boom.
Seattle’s first Super Bowl appearance as the Legion equated to a victory lap. The Seahawks tore Denver apart and won 43-8. Peyton Manning, in some circles considered the greatest quarterback of all time, looked more like a helpless human sacrifice to the 12th Man Gods.
The Legion of Boom returned to Super Sunday the following year. Visions of a crushing dynasty with no end in sight flooded every Seattleite’s head. Instead, the game served as a partition. There’s the Legion of Boom before Super Bowl XLIX, and there’s the Legion of Boom after Super Bowl XLIX.
A transformation wasn’t immediately apparent during the following season. Seattle still boasted the NFL’s top scoring defense and second best in yardage. They remained a top five squad until injuries became too much in 2017. The defense hovered just outside the top ten even then.
However, their actions after Malcolm Butler’s goal line interception did serve as a harbinger of change. The Seahawks displayed the walk to back up their talk more often than not, but they lost any semblance of class by igniting a fistfight as the Patriots attempted to run out the clock.
Seattle’s stacked roster of characters slowly but surely morphed into a locker room without character. Discord between the offense and defense seeped into the media as the Seahawks entered their “cantankerous old man” stage. The chip on the shoulder felt manufactured now. It became harder and harder to view the defensive unit as anything more than frontrunners – tenacious but contained when leading; emotionally unhinged if the game got away from them. This was never more clear than in the waning moments of a 2017 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Michael Bennett repeatedly attempted to ruin Center Brandon Linder’s knee. It was far too easy to trace a pattern of behavior back to Super Bowl XLIX.
Injuries struck Seattle hard too. In the end, that’s what truly led to the demise. The aforementioned drama simply fanned the flames of ruin. Earl Thomas broke his tibia on a freak accident play in 2016. Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril both might never take the field again due to neck injuries. Richard Sherman, now less than a month away from 30, suffered a ruptured achilles last season.
Seattle missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Carroll and Schneider have rightfully hit the reset button. There’s no going back. Michael Bennett is an Eagle now. Jeremy Lane and Richard Sherman will both experience free agency. Even Earl Thomas might depart in a trade if the price is right. This offseason marks the definitive end of a brilliant, divisive era that won’t soon be forgotten.
The Legion of Boom is survived by frenemy Russell Wilson, their head coach Pete Carroll, and their GM John Schneider. In lieu of flowers, please send Seattle an offensive line.
Header Photo: SI.com