One way or another, we all went into this offseason at least 98% certain that Marshawn Lynch had played his last game in a Seahawks uniform. So, in that sense, what happened on Sunday isn’t really all that shocking. Nevertheless, leave it to Beastmode to still manage to surprise us, both with his timing and execution.
It really is more bittersweet than anything. We all knew the day would come, and we all figured it would come sooner rather than later. But, I wouldn’t have been upset at all to see him give it one more year. Even though it probably would’ve done a number on our cap, and there’s a decent chance it would’ve smacked of a guy playing one year too long. But, you know, sometimes it feels okay to just be a dumb fan who’d like to watch his favorite football player give it one more go.
I’m not upset, or even disappointed. I totally get it. The guy has done everything there is to do in the NFL. He was selected in the first round of the draft. He got to play in both conferences, on both ends of the country. He had six 1,000-yard seasons. He played for five playoff teams, two Super Bowl teams, and won it all once. He racked up over 9,000 yards rushing, another almost-2,000 yards receiving, and a combined 83 touchdowns. He even threw for a touchdown in his rookie season! You trivia buffs will want to remember the name Robert Royal, tight end for the Bills for three years, as he was on the receiving end of Lynch’s only pass completion in the NFL.
Marshawn Lynch retires 36th all time in NFL history in total rushing yards (regular season), with 9,112. The best comp is one we’ve heard a million times, Earl Campbell, who is a Hall of Famer and shows up 34th all time with 9,407 yards. Except for a few old timers, the magic number to get as a running back is 12,000. Everyone except Frank Gore, Edgerrin James, and LaDainian Tomlinson who has over 12,000 yards has made it; Gore, obviously, is still playing, LDT hasn’t been eligible until next year (I believe), and I feel like it’s only a matter of time before James makes it in (he’s nobody’s first-ballot guy, but he certainly belongs). There are a whole mess of retired guys in that next tier – above Lynch, but below Edge – who have yet to make it in the Hall, and likely will NEVER make it in the hall (including guys like Shaun Alexander, Clinton Portis, Ricky Williams, Eddie George, Tiki Barber, Thomas Jones, Jamal Lewis, Ricky Watters, Warrick Dunn, Corey Dillon, and Fred Taylor). But, early consensus appears to give Lynch a real shot.
Obviously, time will tell as to how this thing shakes out among Hall of Fame voters. Lynch is a very polarizing figure among the media. Some people hate him for his shenanigans the last few years (his not talking, then his bizarre Media Day appearances), while others couldn’t care less. I would hope that voters would focus more on his on-field play, but even then, if you factor in the numbers, you have to ask why a guy like Lynch deserves to be in the Hall, while a media-favorite like Eddie George has repeatedly gotten the shaft. There are ways to play the numbers in favor of both guys (total yardage vs. per-carry average, for starters), but if you strictly look at the numbers, there are a lot of overlooked guys Lynch would have to leapfrog over to make it into the Hall (good thing he’ll have Mike Sando in his corner).
I think Lynch belongs in the Hall of Fame, but I’m decidedly biased. He actually reminds me A LOT of Edgar Martinez’s case to be a Hall of Famer. Someone who, on the surface, doesn’t quite have the numbers compared to some of these other guys (Lynch and total yards; Martinez and total hits/homers/RBIs), but once you dig a little deeper, it seems so obvious why they should be honored. For starters, just listen to how other players talk about them. Go around the league and talk to guys who pitched from 1992-2003 and ask them who were the toughest batters to get out; just see how highly ranked Edgar falls among the people who know best. Similarly, go around the league and talk to guys who played defense from 2007-2015 and ask them who the toughest running backs were to bring down; you won’t find many – if any – ranked ahead of Beastmode. There are raw stats, and there’s The Way He Played The Game. Edgar played a clean game in an era full of rampant cheating with steroids and whatnot. Lynch played like a battering ram in an era where speed and elusiveness ruled the day. They don’t make running backs like Lynch anymore. I feel like that ultimately deserves more credit, compared to guys who are quick to go to the ground or run out of bounds.
There’s also the factor of shortened careers. Edgar’s career was shortened in the sense that he should have been promoted to the Major Leagues WAY before the Mariners finally did so. He could’ve had an extra 2-3 years added onto the beginning of his career, which likely would’ve given him the raw numbers to be in the Hall already. With Lynch, you could argue he still has another 2-3 years left in his legs. Even with the way he plays the game, he was only really seriously injured one time, in 2015, when that abdomen injury required surgery to expedite his return for the playoffs. I don’t think anyone would’ve been shocked if the Seahawks released him from his contract this year, followed by him signing with the Raiders or 49ers or something, to play an extra couple years and get over that 10,000-yard hump. But, you know, he would’ve been on the downside of his career, and by the end it probably wouldn’t have looked too pretty. This way, Lynch goes out on his own terms, with his body still mostly intact.
We may never know the extent of what the game took away from Lynch, but I have a theory that the hits you take in your 30s do more long-lasting damage than the hits you take in your 20s. I feel like if more of these guys who played too long gave it up the way Lynch and Barry Sanders and Jim Brown and others who went out while still in their primes did, we wouldn’t see nearly as many sad-sack cases of former players really struggling just to function. Obviously, you can argue that the NFL shielded a lot of this from the players over the decades, but some of it has to be common sense. You’re getting repeatedly hit, over and over again. You suffer injuries and multiple surgeries, you’re probably going to have some issues later in life. The warrior mentality is one thing, but playing through injury or overstaying your welcome isn’t doing anyone any good. I have the utmost respect for guys who give it up in their primes, just as I have the utmost respect for players who take themselves out of the game when they’re too injured to actually help their teams. Being a “warrior” is ultimately being a selfish asshole. It’s why people soured on the legacy of Brett Favre – and to be perfectly honest, why I’ll sour hard on Peyton Manning if he tries to play even one more game.
The coolest thing about Beastmode’s “announcement” is that it happened during the Super Bowl. Buttholes will try to spin it that Lynch was trying to outshine the Super Bowl, and make the day all about him, but those people are fucking dipshits. For starters, literally nothing will ever overshadow the Super Bowl. Isis could have literally descended onto the White House and jizzed all over it, and the Super Bowl would STILL be the number one story in America. So, there was no way Lynch’s tweet would’ve gotten the attention it probably deserved, outside of the Seattle area. He went out his way, which is 1) not talking about it to the media/not making a big to-do about a retirement tour or something; and 2) playing it so low key that most of the NFL fans outside of Seattle probably STILL don’t know that Lynch is retiring.
It’s a bummer that it’s all over. To be perfectly honest, I like that he is retiring as a Seahawk, but he’s so fun to watch I wouldn’t even care if he played for another team (even the God damn 49ers). I’d still cheer him on. It’s going to be weird not having him back there next year, taking handoffs from Russell Wilson. But, I’m glad he’s going out the way he wants to go out, relatively healthy and wealthy and wise and whatnot. We may not get to watch him truck guys anymore, but there’s a seemingly endless number of clips online we can go back and watch until we’re blue in the face.
Beastmode, there was no one like you, and there’s no way to replace you. I’m sure this isn’t the last I’ll have to say on the matter.