Marshawn Lynch is running like a man on a mission, posting career numbers in recent weeks. Yet the rumour remains that the Seattle Seahawks are preparing to run Lynch out-of-town, in spite of claims to the contrary by the team. Will Lynch still be in Seattle in 2015? We take a look
The man they call Beast Mode—Marshawn Lynch, running back for the Seattle Seahawks—has proved why he carries this nickname again over recent weeks. Lynch appears to be playing some of the best football of his career, and is making a real case that he is the most valuable running back in football, doubly impressive considering the recent de-emphasis most teams have placed on that part of the game.
He is also an enigma. Notoriously media shy—Lynch was recently fined $100,000 for his second violation of the NFL’s media policy, after skipping out on post-game interviews, and even refused to visit the White House following his team’s Super Bowl win—he nonetheless appears more than happy to continue to do things which bring media attention on him—like remaining on the field during halftime that same game, going out of his way to return a wallet to a complete stranger, and staring in his own biopic.
All of these things—his recent performance, his dichotomous media personality—coupled with the fact that he has a very high salary cap figure in 2015, and the fact that his antics appears to have rubbed several in the Seahawks organisation the wrong way make him rife for rumour and discussion—most notably, the rumour that the Seahawks will not keep him around after the end of the season.
Though many within the Seahawks organisation have strenuously denied that there is any intent on their part to sever ties with Lynch, and have insisted that any perceived issues have more mundane explanations, even the fact that they feel the need to make such claims may indicate that not all is well for the team, and the star.
For example, the Pete Carroll recently addressed this publicly stating If you guys ever would have asked—which you didn’t—I would have told you we want him around here as long as he can play. There’s never been any hesitation and there’s never been another thought about that.
“That came totally from somewhere else. He’s under contract next year, and we’ll be thrilled to have him playing for us. We’ll do everything we can to get that done.”
At the same time, he also insisted there was nothing malicious about Lynch remaining on the field, rather than going into the locker room during half time against the Kansas City Chiefs, stating that he was “a little banged up” and decided staying on the sideline to receive treatment was his best option, it was not a statement by the player.
But in spite of the claims, the rumours won’t die, and not without good reason.
Lynch wanted a contract extension prior to the start of the season, and held himself out of camp to do so. Not only did he not get the extension he wanted, he didn’t even get a real pay raise—though he did get a few bonuses converted into guaranteed base salary, and moved up slightly in his contract.
His salary is already one of the biggest in the NFL for his position, and will represent a nearly $9 million cap hit next season if something cannot be worked out. The Seahawks can shed themselves of all but $1.5 million of that by cutting or trading him.
His heir apparent, Robert Turbin, who is still playing under his rookie contract, on the other hand, represents a cap figure of only around $750k, and while he has yet to reach Lynch’s level of production, has appeared solid enough for the team to be comfortable enough to give him a shot.
Even Carroll’s explanation as to why Lynch stayed on the sidelines sounded more like a political soundbite that a real explanation. Lynch went on to rush for more than 50 yards in the second half of the game, and while his treatment did appear to be ongoing during half time, many have wondered aloud how this could possibly be better served in the sub-zero Kansas City weather, than in the warm locker rooms, with all of the added medical equipment and resources it offers.
There are reports that Lynch was upset when the team traded his friend and teammate Percy Harvin to the Jets. There are reports that Lynch too was about to be put on the trading block prior to the the trade deadline but injuries forced the team to keep him around.
Indeed, the teams handling of Harvin could be telling. Like Lynch, Harvin was a player with a list of question marks as long as his arm. Like Lynch, he was a player with tons of talent and potential. Unlike Lynch, of course, he also had struggles translating that talent into on-field production, but by all accounts, it was his off-field persona, not his on-field performence which ultimately saw the Seahawks cut him lose.
Listening to Carroll’s comments on Harvin, post trade were telling.
“I couldn’t make it work for our team and our players.” Carroll told 710 ESPN Seattle.
“It was about the team moving forward and about us and the group and how we do our work and how we carry ourselves.”
Carroll added that, ultimately, the decision to trade Harvin came down to a need “to keep us team-oriented and moving ahead.” Reading between the lines, Carroll and the Seahawks offloaded Harvin because he was becoming an unwanted distraction for the team, and one which was splintering the locker room.
By all accounts, that description couldn’t fit Lynch more perfectly at the moment.
On those rare occasions Lynch does speak at any length to the media, like during his telephone interview with Michael Silver, after the Chiefs game, Lynch does not sound like the ‘team-oriented’ player Carroll desires on his roster.
“Do I think I’ll be gone after this season?” Lynch said to Silver “I don’t know, man. The Seahawks, their front office gets in the media; they talk a lot. I don’t talk too much. I just play the game.
“If they have something going on, I don’t know about it.”
He refers to his team as ‘the Seahawks’, ‘they’, and ‘their front office’, deliberately avoiding inclusive equivalents like ‘we’ and ‘our’ when referring to the organisation as a whole. When speaking about his teammates, Lynch still prefers to include himself, and ‘we’ and ‘us’ abounds in his speech, but his feelings towards the front office and coaches are noticeably cooler.
When asked about the reported falling out with his head coach Pete Caroll, and reports that he does not speak with him outside of the game, Lynch was diplomatic, but his response was telling.
“Pete’s my head coach. Well, I mean, you know, he’s really not in my position meetings. … It ain’t like we get to chop it up like that.”
Again, reading between the lines, Lynch all but confirmed the rumours—no, he doesn’t have very much to do with his head coach.
In some organisations, this may not ring any alarm bells. Many head coaches around the league have a hands-off approach with their players, choosing to defer most of the inter-personal stuff to their position coaches, but by all accounts that isn’t Carroll’s style. He’s known as a players coach. He’s known for being very involved personally with his players.
According to Carroll, he personally approached every one of his players on the team plane to inform them of their decision to trade Harvin, to make sure they were all okay about it—that simply doesn’t tally with the way Lynch describes his relationship with the coach.
And yet, in spite of all of this, Lynch continues to do all that is asked of him on the field, any given Sunday, and much more besides. He is one of the most prolific running backs in the game today. Time and again, he puts the Seahawks in a position to win, and each and every time they have tried to ease him out of the game, whether due to injury concerns, a desire to change their pace and style, a need to develop younger stars, or more political reasons, they have felt the strain. Lynch brings something to the table few other backs in the NFL do, big play ability each and every down.
He is the sort of player you need to scheme around, the kind of player you have to go out of your way to contain, and even then, he still possesses the ability to run wild on you. Having Lynch in your backfield frees up everyone else on the field a little more, as teams panic about how to stop Beast Mode this down, and the teams offence relies on this fact greatly, and uses it to great effect.
That kind of production, and that kind of fear-factor will buy you a lot of grace in the NFL, and may just be enough to convince the Seahawks to continue to put up with the headaches he causes them.
But like Lynch himself, and much of the media, we expect Beast Mode to be pounding the ball in another city, for another team next season, and hope that he finds himself in a happier and more productive situation than he currently finds himself in.