BY Art Thiel 07:05PM 10/01/2018

Thiel: The lost legion of Earl, Kam and Richard

Yes, Earl Thomas did a foolish thing. But that does not diminish his legacy, nor the irony of the Legion’s demise in just 11 games over two seasons, all in the same accursed joint.

From left, Richard Sherman, DeShawn Shead, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor. All gone boom. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

As long as the topic isn’t about house secrets or the latest national story about team dissension, Pete Carroll usually has an answer for just about every question. But as to the question of losing to injury the foundational Legion of Boom in a space of 11 games over two seasons, the Seahawks coach offered little but a shrug Monday.

“I don’t know where to put it,” he said, pausing. Then he repeated: “I don’t know where to put it.”

That likely puts him in step with the 12s.

After a broken leg Sunday ended the Seahawks career of FS Earl Thomas, he abruptly joined CB Richard Sherman and SS Kam Chancellor on the Boom to Gloom list of casualties ravaged by the game. It is nearly unfathomable.

Circumstances were each a little different. But to have the end happen so swiftly in their primes, so close together in time and in personas, bewilders the logicians at MIT and the theologians at the Vatican.

And all went down in the same demon dungeon of a stadium in Phoenix, where also was played the Game That Cannot Be Unseen.

“I don’t know what that means,” Carroll said of the desert house of horrors. “I’m not making any statement about that.”

Coincidence is the only answer. But the curious human mind always searches for connections, conspiracies and con jobs. We have a ravenous need for explaining the inexplicable, for quantifying the experience, for digitizing randomness. But in fact, our feeble minds are no match for an old, cold universe where order is outlawed.

Carroll did offer some poignance about the epic sense of loss surrounding three players who combined to do feats unknown, like leading a defense that gave up the fewest points in the NFL for four consecutive years. If you don’t grasp the significance of that, you  understand neither the collective bargaining agreement nor human sinew.

“They’re all such extraordinary performers for us,” he said. “Great competitors, iconic players in our community too — how they affected it with their play and our success, all the flavor they brought over the years.

“It’s just amazing they would be grouped together in getting banged up. I don’t know what to make of it.”

Sherman went straight outta Compton to Stanford to NFL oracle. Chancellor was a quiet Christian kid from Virginia with a menace that soiled laundry. Thomas brought an intensity from Texas that bent light waves around him.

They gathered in Seattle in a spectacular football combustion, and the NFL knelt before them.

Of Thomas, teammate and former foe WR Brandon Marshall mused recently: “You ever see how big his eyes get?”

Thomas generated so much personal energy that even he can’t control it. Remember the time he was so happy he hugged a referee? Best 15 yards Thomas ever lost.

Sunday, the same boil, but a different outcome, not so hilarious.

After seeing his arduous, controversial plan to land a lucrative third contract crumble after breaking his left leg in a futile defense of a Cardinals touchdown pass, Thomas was being transported via cart when he looked across the field toward Carroll and flipped the bird.

Post-game Sunday, Carroll tried to deflect a question about the target for the gesture: “It’s a big stadium,” he said, providing one of the most unintentionally funny quotes of his Seahawks tenure.

But the photo went around the internet, inspiring anger, dismay and disappointment from some Seahawks fans, as well as some contempt for Seahawks management for helping create the situation in which everyone is a loser — Thomas, the Seahawks and other teams who may have sought his services over the past nine months.

By Monday, Carroll acknowledged the gesture, and chided Thomas’s critics.

“People that are criticizing whatever happened don’t understand that this is an earth-shattering moment for a kid,’’ Carroll said on his weekly radio show on ESPN 710. “This is as emotional as you can get.

“Give him a little slack. This is a very, very difficult moment that most people would never understand what it’s about.”

He elaborated at his media session Monday afternoon.

“With all he knew about the injury, and all that’s going through his head, you’d give anybody a break,” he said. “You can have expectations for people to do exactly as you would think they should do. But until you’re doing it and understand it, you’re guessing.

“That’s exactly how I feel about it. Other players in that situations understand. I get it, and won’t pass judgment.”

Carroll is right.

Thomas shouldn’t have done it, but he did. He didn’t get the extension from the Seahawks he wanted, nor did he get traded to a team that might have paid him. Now he’s re-broken the same leg that cost him part of the 2016 after a friendly-fire collision with Chancellor. At 29, Thomas’s career is threatened, and he’s furious.

Some fans say that it was a classless way to end a splendid career, and that it diminishes his Seattle legacy. Yet Marshawn Lynch once made the same gesture to the Seahawks sidelines, and no fan thinks less of him. Lynch so popularized the crotch-grab that it trended in grade schools around the Northwest.

It’s a little early to be talking legacies, but Thomas’s body of work, as with Lynch’s, speaks much louder. If Thomas is worthy of criticism, it was his locker-room pursuit of Cowboys coach Jason Garrett 10 months ago to “come get me” that crossed a line, because it potentially undercut teammates and management.

But all of that becomes moot in light of his injury. The Seattle career has ended for a marvelous player who helped take the Seahawks to places never before reached. Sadness rules the day.

But if you can help Carroll and Seahawks fans figure out how to manage the melancholy and irony around the abrupt demise of a theatrical cabal of majestic football characters, please share.

Recurrence of non-Hodgkins lymphoma for owner Paul Allen

Nine years after he underwent treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a potentially fatal but treatable form of cancer, Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen says the disease has returned.

Allen, 65, who bought the Trail Blazers in 1988 and the Seahawks in 1997, had a blog post that said doctors are optimistic about his chances. Allen intends to stay involved with his Vulcan Inc. holding company and the research institutes that he’s founded.

Treatments can include chemotherapy, radiation and drugs.

In 1982, Allen was treated for Hodgkin’s disease a more serious condition that was a factor behind his departure from Microsoft, which he co-founded with Bill Gates.


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YourThoughts

  • tor5

    I’m trying to heed Pete’s (and your) call for understanding, but that middle finger was hard to take. Like Sherm’s screaming on the sideline last season. The Hawks drafted, developed, and nurtured these guys, got them a Super Bowl ring, and they can’t see one inch past their own ego to show an iota of gratitude. I can understand players getting mad about their contracts, but don’t get how they can scream and give the F-You to Pete. The 12s are being asked to appreciate the greatness of these players despite their classless moments, but can’t we ask them to appreciate the greatness of their Hawk experience despite their difficult departures?

    • Ron

      The lack of players’ respect for Pete can be traced to the day that he called for a pass from the one yard line in the Super Bowl. You don’t see that lack of respect from the players who came here afterward.

      • Matt Kite

        I’ve never blamed the playcalling alone for that loss. As soon as Avril went down, Brady torched the Seahakws defense. Just lit ’em up. Sure, the offense could have scored more — and should have scored in the final moments. But it was a team loss. I noticed as soon as the players got their big contracts, they changed. They were less hungry, less unified, and more apt to gripe. As the Not-a-Puppet-You’re-the-Puppet would say, SAD.

        • Ron

          Maybe you don’t blame the playcall, but the players did. Marshawn, Sherman, Bennett, Avril.

          http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/23611488/cliff-avril-says-seattle-seahawks-began-questioning-pete-carroll-super-bowl-interception

          • jafabian

            Doesn’t mean they’re right.

          • Effzee

            In this case the players are right. That call should have literally never happened. They should have two rings. End of story.

          • jafabian

            Yeah, right.

          • Matt Kite

            Definitely not disputing that.

        • Effzee

          All you say about attitudes and injuries is right on, however the defense continued to play well enough to have that game won if only the right play was called at the goal line. It was the single worst play call in the history of the sport. I don’t think this is disputable.

          • art thiel

            A pass was better than a run against a jumbo package, even with Lynch. I’ve always said the error was the choice of throwing to Lockette in traffic.

          • Effzee

            You could be right. I’m not sure about the other WRs in the formation. I will always think that in the Super Bowl, against the Tom Bradys, as the clock is winding down, that has to be one of those “four runs from the goal line and if they stop it all four times then good on the defense” things.

          • art thiel

            I doubt that if Lynch was four times denied, people would forgive the playcalls. They would be screaming, “Throw it to Lockette!”

          • Effzee

            They could have handed it to the FB or called a QB sneak at least once. I wasn’t saying give it to Lynch every time, though I am sure that given four chances, he would have made it in. I’m sure that there would be more forgiveness for that than for the Play Which Cannot Be Unseen.

          • Ron
          • Husky73

            Nope…not having it…As Chris Collingsworth noted, it was the worst call in the history of the Super Bowl if not in the history of the NFL. You are attempting to defend the indefensible (no pun intended).

          • art thiel

            We’ll agree to disagree. No doubt it was the worst play outcome in SB history, but I don’t question the choice to pass.

            And Baldwin on the left was open for a fade.

          • SalishSea8

            Lynch was known for the fumble at the goaline. Even during a big NFC championship game. We forget the fumbles. Now the pass was poorly thrown or should not of by RW. Throw it out of the endzone.

        • art thiel

          Big contracts always change players some, in nearly every sport on every team. They go from risk-takers to risk-avoiders. Not saying it’s right or wrong, just human nature. Ask yourself how you would act in the same position.

          • SalishSea8

            These players also went from 21 out of college to family men with kids and huge estates and businesses. The brain changes …Not For Long league. Wanting 3rd giant contracts in Earls case …since he was a first rounder in 2010. They blame the team …but it is the NFL which they were begging to get involved with and paid them personally multi …multi millions.

      • art thiel

        When a reversal that dramatic happens, everyone, players included, wants someone to blame. People need a target for rage, and Carroll was in charge. He has to wear it, and has done so. What he doesn’t quite get is how players have hung onto it. He can’t believe they can’t move on.

      • Tman

        Who did make that call? Was it Mr. Carroll? The Offensive Coordinator? Mr. Wilson? Agreed it was the bad call of history but that’s because it failed. If it succeeded, it might be remembered as the “Seattle Special”. A still unanswered question is, how did the “Patriots” know it was coming and why had they practiced defending it the Tuesday before the super bowl ? Had the hawks used the play before that fateful day? Have they used it since?

      • SalishSea8

        It came from guys that had huge egos the size of the state’s they came from. Looking to blame others for team mistakes …while taking personal credit for its wins.
        These guys can be great young and winning but awful to a team atmosphere when older and looking to be paid even higher then what a 53 player salary capped team can pay. What about the rest of the team guys…didnt they help you? Don’t the minimum paid athletes sacrifice? Doesn’t the defense blow leads?

    • art thiel

      Your conflicted feelings are legit, tor. Thomas’s gesture made him seem ungrateful and selfish. But sometimes impulse prevails in the best of us. I saw a Supreme Court nominee lose his stuff on national TV, which I found far more offensive than a football player acting out in the moments after a broken leg cost him millions.

      • Ron

        What this country really needs right now is an angry, lying, biased, alcoholic supreme court judge who will have dementia because of the copious beer at a young age.

        • art thiel

          Is his name Ralph?

          • Ron

            Have you boofed yet?

          • SalishSea8

            Bart O

        • Husky73

          MAGA = Moscow Agent Governing America

      • tor5

        Well, that does add perspective. It seems civility is diminished by the day. Of course, I could forgive the occasional impulsive act. But it’s really up to Earl to apologize or explain himself, otherwise it’s not so “impulsive.” We’ll see. My point is that, yes, Earl is great. But if he’d played the last 8 years for the Browns, would he have developed into the same player? Would he have a ring? I’d admire his talent and dedication in any case, but his greatness benefited from the team he was on and the whole organization. You’d have to be pretty blinded by ego to raise a middle finger like that.

        • art thiel

          Earl would have been great on any team. But certainly Carrroll’s priority on the secondary made him look better. I would agree that Earl’s impulsiveness could be mitigated with a sincere public apology.

    • WestCoastBias79

      This may speak poorly of me and my upbringing, but on the freeway this morning I made the same gesture when someone forced me to slam on my brakes and cost me probably 1.5 seconds of inconvenience. Definitely didn’t cost me a likely seven figure payout delta from before it happened and my leg was not broken.

      • SalishSea8

        Yes you didn’t also just make 60 million over 9 seasons from the person who made you slam on your brakes or let a touchdown happen and then run into a player on the ground …that could of easily been caused by an accident in your house like walking into a chair wearing flip flops and shorts hanging your shin.

  • Alan Harrison

    Nobody was right or wrong here. Earl Thomas gave the finger to a lot of things and deserves a break for that. To quote the Broadway show, “The Book of Mormon,” this well might have been his way to say, “Hasa Diga Eebowai.” His career might be over. And while he’s not a poor man (he made a lot of money), the thing that has defined him – to himself – may now be gone in the fracture of a tibia. The Seahawks were not wrong either – they had a signed contract for a great player. Now that the whole thing is moot, maybe it’s time for the union not to strike over the guaranteed contract, but to negotiate for greater health benefits and pensions for its ex-players. Even if Earl Thomas is financially comfortable, he is now as psychologically fragile as a person can get. For his and all football players’ sakes, It’d be great if the new CBA could provide him the security of knowing he’ll be taken care of beyond this injury, CTE, and beyond.

    • art thiel

      Wow. Someone who can see both sides. Wasn’t sure that was legal.

      • Alan Harrison

        Thanks. I may get cranky every now and then, but this was tragic in a very Greek sense.

    • WestCoastBias79

      All the bad feelings here can be traced to the CBA. I was a big proponent for resigning him, but completely understand why they didn’t. Beyond guaranteed money, I think the bigger issue for the Seahawks was the dead money and the cap. In the scheme of things Paul Allen and Seahawks budget, the dead money for Bennett, Kam, Lynch, Avril etc. they’ve had to pay are probably rounding errors. However, the dead money absolutely destroyed their cap and their ability to pay for other needs. If there was a mechanism to mitigate cap hits and not hamstring them in the future if things go wrong, I bet they would have paid Earl. In the NHL you can buy out bad contracts, including the cap hit. Something like that in the NFL would probably give the more free spending teams a bit more confidence to pay older guys. Whether or not the toothless NFLPA can get something like that remains to be seen.

    • SalishSea8

      They now do get pensions and healthcare past age 50.

  • jafabian

    I used to think the Seahawks would never get players who could top the Kenny Easley, Eugene Robinson, Dave Brown and John Harris secondary of the 80s. Then came the LOB. Coach Carroll empowered his players both professionally and personally and they responded and the club reaped the rewards. But because of the competitive personalities that made them get the attention of the Seahawks in the first place they didn’t know when to stop and resented when Carroll tried to bring them back into the system that was so successful. Pete has always supported his players almost to a fault. I was disappointed in his press conference in that he almost came across as chiding anyone who was cross with Earl for giving the finger as he was carted off the field. It’s called an obscene gesture for a reason. I get Earl’s emotions, especially at that time, but there’s times you have to rein it in. Years from now I’m sure he’ll realize that wasn’t a smart move. And now the Seahawks hold even more cards for Earl, assuming he returns. Wouldn’t surprise me if he follows Marshawn’s lead and retires, then returns a year later.

    Along those lines the Seahawks have lost 4 players to season ending injuries and a Super Bowl in Phoenix. We gotta break the jinx there.

    Though the return of his cancer probably wasn’t a surprise (it’s the reality of any cancer patient). It doesn’t make it any easier. I hope and pray for a healthy recovery for the man who saved Seahawks football and hope the players appreciate what he’s going through. It sucks.

    • art thiel

      If you look around the league, numerous premier players have clashed with managements about getting top dollar. Nothing unique in Seattle except for the stars getting hurt almost at once.

      Carroll’s remarks seemed to me to be more of a plea than a chiding.

      Every circumstance is a little different, but the fundamental conflict under a salary cap is that players want reward for deeds done, and clubs want protection from future calamity.

      • jafabian

        The Seahawks of today remind me of the Sonics during the glory years. Lenny Wilkens gave younger players like Gus Williams, Dennis Johnson, Jack Sikma and Marvin Webster a chance. He traded away Slick Watts and Tommy Burleson. He benched starters Fred Brown, Paul Silas and Bruce Seals. But after they won the championship Dennis Johnson groused about his role and Gus Williams held out for an entire season. They went from 56 wins to 34 in one year. They rebounded but were never the same until the Payton/Kemp years. That seems to be the road the franchise is on right now. Like the Seahawks the Sonics championship team was young but with youth can come differing priorities.

        • SalishSea8

          Payton … Was basically Sherman and Thomas personality and ego! Then look at Kemp …basically pulled a Lynch. In substance abuse and changing contracts mid stream.

    • juliusvrooder

      I am with Pete in chiding. He gave us his all, for years (and was well paid for it,) and while he was in a fight for his future, this happened. I think Jon and Pete played this right. All of the legion have pissed me off at one point or another…But at the end of the day, we all made each other great. Now Earl’s gambit ends in failure and pain..

      Christ, it was almost a salute! You beat me. After all these years of thrills, and chills, and Superbowls. This is how it ends. A guy on a cart, with a broken leg, and millions of dollars just flying away from him. I’ll take that bird. I’ll take that bird from Earl. The guy that wore a crown and cape at his wedding. The guy that hugged a ref. The guy that founded the LOB. The guy that started it all. He gets to throw that bird. I will gratefully catch it.

      My first response was ‘right back atcha bitch!,’ but I was quickly called to grace. Pete is in exactly the right place. There was only one man on that cart. I was not that man. That was Pete’s point: Earl was on that cart alone, after all he did for us. He can do whatever he wants there. And I will say that anyone who does not have grace for Earl in that moment, has not been paying attention. I will take that bird…

      That is where I am. God speed ye Earl, and with my thanks. I love you.

      • juliusvrooder

        And this: Who among us has not wanted to flip off our boss? I chased one of mine out of the building, swinging a frozen salmon at his head! (Temperamental chef, right out of central casting,) He hid in his car for an hour. Then he came back, and we got to work. I am good with Earl flipping me off. He earned the right, and I have nothing but grace to throw back. And gratitude..

  • rosetta_stoned

    I’m glad the NFL continues to give me new reasons to not watch.
    Thanks, Earl.

    • Effzee

      So, you find the off the field stuff more entertaining than the sport itself? I ask because you never seem to have a shortage of opinion for someone who claims to pay no attention.

    • art thiel

      Yet you keep watching, reading, and writing. Your contempt rings hollow.

    • juliusvrooder

      Nice user name. Smoke another one, by all means. And maybe watch soccer, cause you sure don’t get football. Adios amigo!

  • DJ

    Thanks Art! Nice characterization of the Three Booms and strapping this strange story together and making some sense of it. It’s hard to imagine another defense coming along to do what The Legion of Boom did. We were so fortunate to be there and experience it, week after week, year after year.

    My favorite image of Earl is laid out horizontal as he flies toward his latest victim. He’s just amazing. Lost in the recent is also the study time that he logs, which was more noted in his first couple of years, and fed his ability to anticipate and direct so well on the field. He’s a football junkie.

    Pete is right, and I’m already there about understanding where Earl is coming from and his state of mind. I’m amazed that it’s an issue at all. Some people need to get real.

    It was an incredibly sad moment for me to see Earl strewn out on the field again.
    I wish him well, may God bless him, and can’t thank him enough for all of the amazement that he’s brought to the Seahawks – in his own unique way, BIG eyes and all! He will always be one of my favorite Seahawks and football players.

    • art thiel

      I get why people feel insulted by Thomas. All I can say is the passage of time works to let us consider the sweep of a career, not a final impulse.

  • Tman

    “a theatrical cabal of majestic football characters”. Deserves repeating. Thank you Mr. Thiel.They share the common attributes of Heart, Soul, Courage, Will and Community. This includes Mssrs Bennett and Carroll. Thank you all. It’s been a great run

    • art thiel

      Thanks for noticing. Not that I don’t enjoy rehashing the SB loss again . . .

  • bugzapper

    “…In a space of 11 games over two seasons…to have the end happen so swiftly in their primes, so close together in time and in personas, bewilders the logicians at MIT and the theologians at the Vatican.”

    Yeah, well, in the span of six months in 2011, the music world lost Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, all of whom at some point performed with Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Just months earlier they’d been in a band together, playing the festival circuit.

    And I should be concerned about 30-year-old football prima donnas who make more in a season than all three of those guys did in three lifetimes? Got Vatican?