The Seattle Seahawks completely rebuilt their defense in the offseason, bidding farewell to Pro Bowls Richard Sherman, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, while safety Kam Chancellor retired following a nagging neck injury.
Long gone are the days where the Legion of Boom would punish and suffocate opposing offenses. Seattle led the league in scoring defense every year from 2012-15, which propelled them to a Super Bowl 48 championship and an appearance in Super Bowl 49.
Only three players remain from the defense that led Seattle to its last Super Bowl appearance four seasons ago: Safety Earl Thomas and linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright.
In order to display just how much the legendary defense has changed over a short four-year span, Sportscenter used Thanos from the Marvel Comics in a graphic:
The Legion of Boom from Super Bowl XLIX looks drastically different today. pic.twitter.com/94YHXhtiWH— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 18, 2018
Now, the salary cap makes it almost impossible for teams to keep together a large group of star players for more than a few years. But the Seattle defense was dismantled in a way that nobody could have seen coming at the start of last season.
Seattle decided it was time to fix up a defense that, although still effective and a top-10 unit in the NFL, was ageing and expensive. The 30-year-old Sherman was released, and he'd wind up signing with the arch rival San Francisco 49ers.
Earlier this month, Greg Bishop and Robert Klemko of Sports Illustrated detailed the rift in Seattle's locker room that led to the departures of many key players. Bishop and Klemko talked to former Seahawk players about the toxic environment, which led to the dismantling of a potential dynasty.
Players accused head coach Pete Carroll of defending quarterback Russell Wilson on a non-stop basis. Carroll warned his players to not badmouth Wilson in practice, and that the latter could do no wrong.
Some believe that Carroll's ill-fated decision to have Wilson throw from the one yard line in Super Bowl 49 was just a way of trying to help his QB win the big game's MVP award. That pass was picked off by Malcolm Butler, and the Seahawks were never the same after the costly championship gaffe.
The front office took a risk and decided to start cutting loose its key players, hoping a change in direction will ignite new life into this team. We'll find out over the next several years if it works out.