The significance was lost in the heat of the moment. But with Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman already gone, and now Thomas unlikely to return, something special has been irretrievably lost.
We shall never see their likes again, never see such charisma, such talent, such individuality, such menace, in a secondary again.
When Earl Thomas was carted out Sunday with a broken leg and middle-finger salute to the Seahawks sideline – iconoclast until the very end – it marked the unofficial end of a Seattle sports institution: The Legion of Boom.
That significance was sort of lost in the heat of the moment, and the sound and fury over Thomas’ injury and his reaction to it. But with Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman having already left, and now Thomas highly unlikely to return to Seattle – all three, freakishly, felled on the same haunted playing field in Glendale, Ariz. – well, something special has been irretrievably lost.
Oh, there were other Legion of Boomers who came and went over the years, including founding member Brandon Browner. But let’s face it – the LOB, at its very essence, was Thomas, Chancellor and Sherman. And along with Marshawn Lynch, that unit will go down as the very essence of an era of Seahawks football – really, of NFL football – that will be remembered forever.
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Not always fondly, for sure, but this trio was always riveting, even when it was doing something maddening. Individually, the players were unique in the attributes they brought to the field, and the locker room. Collectively, they provided an air of intimidation and swagger that helped define the Super Bowl Seahawks.
“The group that we had, especially those guys, I don’t think you can duplicate that again,” said Bobby Wagner, whose legacy as middle linebacker throughout their run was impressive in its own right, though quieter.
“You had Kam, who was extremely smart and hit really hard. You had Earl, who was somehow able to get from sideline to sideline within the blink of an eye. And Sherm, who talked trash and backed it up.
“It was a great group of guys, a great group of individuals, very smart football players that I don’t think you can ever duplicate again. People have tried, and they haven’t come close.”
Wagner joked that one day, maybe 20 years down the road, there will be an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on all of them, when many untold stories will be revealed. I have no doubt that will be the case, but the told stories are more than enough to sustain us in the interim.
With Sherman, you had the brashness that practically demanded you pay attention to him, from confronting Patriots quarterback Tom Brady with the immortal line, “You mad, bro?” to changing his Twitter handle to Optimus Prime before a game against Detroit to tweak Lions receiver Calvin “Megatron” Johnson. Sherman feuded, lustily, with star cornerback Darrelle Revis and broadcaster Skip Bayless and, most famously, then-49ers receiver Michael Crabtree, moments after the defining play of his career, tipping away a Colin Kaepernick pass to put the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
Chancellor exuded danger and intimidation – just ask former San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis, who bore the brunt of a ferocious Chancellor hit in 2012. Denver was never the same in Super Bowl XLVIII after Chancellor delivered a first-quarter message to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, destroying him with a fierce hit that seemed to take the will right out of the Broncos. As Sherman said of Chancellor, “He’s a freakin’ monster. He damages people’s souls. He plays in a dark place.”
Thomas was an ethereal assassin, fond of talking about “intimidating with love,” an unparalleled student of the game and unmatched in the intensity he brought to both practice and games. And Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will attest to the power he could muster. Gronk has rated the blow Thomas delivered in Seattle’s 2016 game against New England as the hardest he had ever received. Gronkowski described Thomas as “a good, fast player who’s like a missile.”
All three would disappoint the fan base at times, Chancellor with his holdout in 2015, Thomas with his own this year, Sherman with his sideline tirades and other outbursts. Yet in totality, their contribution to the Seahawks was vast and indelible. I’d bet that in time, all three will be in the Ring of Honor.
This is a milestone that deserves to be noted, though coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday that it was an inappropriate time to deliver any kind of eulogy to Thomas’ career. Indeed, he remains a Seahawk, though it’s hard to envision any scenario whereby he would suit up for them again.
Carroll, meanwhile will move on to molding the new group of defensive backs, veterans such as Bradley McDougald and Justin Coleman, emerging stars such as Shaquill Griffin, youngsters such as Tedric Thompson and Tre Flowers. As always, Carroll is invigorated by the challenge of forging a new identity, which is a never-ending process in the NFL.
Carroll might succeed, and the Seahawks might develop another laudable secondary. But there will never, ever, be another Legion of Boom.