Five years after the “No Fly Zone” helped propel the Broncos to a Super Bowl 50 victory, cornerback Aqib Talib still believes the unit is “definitely” the greatest secondary of all time.
“I definitely don’t think no one better came after us… The argument would be for (Seattle’s) ‘Legion of Boom’ and other (units) that came before us. But we got picks, we scored touchdowns, we got big hits. We were number one for a while and we still stand on that.”
Talib spoke to media by Zoom on Tuesday to promote the latest episode of his “Call To The Booth” podcast. The show is billed as a five-year anniversary of the “No Fly Zone,” which was the NFL’s top-ranked pass defense in 2015 and 2016. The roundtable podcast, co-hosted by Talib and Harrison Sanford, features fellow “No Fly Zone” members Chris Harris, T.J. Ward, Darian Stewart and Bradley Roby. It will debut on Sunday, one week ahead of Super Bowl LIV as the Chiefs face the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on Feb. 7 in Tampa Bay.
Next Sunday on @CalltotheBooth YouTube & podcast feed
NO FLY Zone 5-Year Anniversary show with @BossWard43 @darianstewart26 @ChrisHarrisJr @BradRoby_1 @HarrisonSanford & myself pic.twitter.com/pyfg5MlyHq
— AqibTalib21 (@AqibTalib21) January 24, 2021
The era of the “No Fly Zone” — a moniker coined by Harris’ wife Leah in 2014 — officially ended last offseason when Harris signed a two-year deal with the Chargers, though its zenith was several years prior to that. Harris was the final remaining member of the unit after Ward was released in training camp in 2017, Talib was traded to the Rams in 2018, and in 2019 when Stewart was released and Roby signed with the Texans.
Harris’ signature pass break-up celebration became a trademark of the “No Fly Zone,” while “baby No Fly Zone” members Justin Simmons and Will Parks added to the unit’s depth when they were drafted in 2016. The secondary thrived under the detail-oriented approach of defensive backs coach Joe Woods, now the defensive coordinator for the Browns. But following the trade of Talib, the unit wasn’t quite the same.
“Joe was the Master Splinter of the DB’s, and he was the brains of it,” Talib said. “He had us playing a different technique, and as the year went on, we bought into that technique and it made our coverage a lot better, especially with me and Roby on the outside.”
What began as a nickname also emerged as a full-fledged brand. There were T-shirts and hats, custom leggings worn at practice, and even a youth camp. And Talib argues the legacy of the “No Fly Zone” extends to this day.
“Any secondary that says they’re the best, we can line up the stats, the (championships), the Pro Bowls,” Talib said. “We were the best, and that was a super special group.”
Talib retired last September and has turned his focus to broadcasting. In addition to his bi-weekly podcast, the 34-year-old made his NFL broadcasting debut in Week 10, providing color commentary on FOX for the Washington-Detroit game.
“I started knowing that I can do (broadcasting) when I played for the Rams, and I was going to the NFL Network and going on Total Access on Tuesdays, on our day off,” Talib said. “I got in the routine with it and I was cool with it, and I could see myself getting paid to do it… That’s when I started feeling it a little bit. This last year has been cool and a smooth transition, because I honestly didn’t want to play anymore. I can’t play with those young boys no more.”
The Broncos haven’t made the playoffs in the five seasons since the “No Fly Zone” reigned supreme. And that fact doesn’t surprise Talib given Denver’s quarterback shuffling following Peyton Manning’s retirement following Super Bowl 50.
“It’s a quarterback-driven league, we know that, and The Sheriff left the building,” Talib said. “It doesn’t surprise me, because they haven’t had (another Sheriff) come into the building yet, so that’s why they haven’t been to the playoffs since.”
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