It always seems to come back to Marshawn Lynch, doesn’t it?
On a Seattle team full of compelling personalities, Lynch is the magnet that keeps drawing us to him with more strength than any other Seahawk. You’re sucked in, and you can’t turn away — but that doesn’t mean the team won’t turn away from him when this year is over.
Lynch’s future is the No. 1 backstory playing out this season while the main event — the Seahawks’ battle for the playoffs — unfolds on the main stage. And Lynch’s mercurial, multi-faceted presence was on display this weekend in Kansas City, highlighting the complex dynamics that make his future status so confounding.
On the field, Lynch was his usual beastly self, running with the ferocious determination that has endeared him to fans, teammates, bosses — everyone who admires a person expending every ounce of effort. Lynch’s prowess will be a powerful force field drawing him back to Seattle.
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But surrounding that undeniable and tangible contribution — 24 carries, 124 yards — was the sort of Lynch drama that will no doubt play a factor in the decision facing the Seahawks at season’s end.
There was the picture of him flipping off a picture-taker in the hotel lobby that circulated around the internet — a minor, perhaps even playful, thing, but indicative of a quirkiness that is endearing to some, off-putting to others.
That goes as well for the curious scene that played out after the game, when a crowd of reporters gathered around his locker. Word had filtered out, via ProFootballTalk.com, that Lynch faced a hefty fine — a reported $100,000 — if he didn’t talk to the media after the game. Lynch has mostly avoided that obligation this season, and the Pro Football Writers Association was applying pressure for Lynch to talk, as mandated of all NFL players. But Lynch departed without a word. I know that many fans side with Lynch on this issue, yet it’s just another sideshow that may wear thin with the organization.
The weirdest Lynch moment, however, occurred at halftime when the team filed into the locker room — a custom so routine that the notion of flouting it seems remote and far-fetched. Yet word filtered out that Lynch, rather than leaving the frigid Arrowhead Stadium field to conduct whatever business takes place at halftime — instruction, treatment, nourishment, warmth — had elected to stay outside on the sideline the entire time.
Was that a message, as posited by the NFL Network’s Michael Silver, being sent by Lynch because of his unhappiness with the Seahawks and particularly coach Pete Carroll? Or was Lynch, in the words of his former teammate Michael Robinson — also with the NFL Network — simply tired. Robinson said, “He told me he couldn’t walk.”
Oh, I forgot to mention — Lynch had called Silver and Robinson from the team bus after the game and conducted an interview, perhaps his attempt to circumvent the aforementioned fine.
Two things stand out from the Silver interview and resulting article: Lynch’s bullish defense of his teammates (“We have the heart of a champion”), juxtaposed with hints of his strained relationship with the team.
Asked if he thought he’d be gone after the season, Lynch told 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.”
Silver wrote that Lynch’s solitary halftime — something I’ve never seen or heard happen with any other player at any level — “seemed to make a statement about the disconnect between him and his bosses.”
Silver also wrote of the continuing speculation that Lynch won’t be back next year: “According to a source close to the 28-year-old running back, such reports have contributed to his deteriorating relationship with Seattle coach Pete Carroll, as Lynch partially blames him for the existence of such stories and for the possibility that his Seahawks tenure might end after the 2014 season.
“Last month, I reported on NFL Network that Lynch harbors bitterness toward Carroll, the residual effects of a training-camp holdout and organizational proclamations over the offseason that his workload would be reduced. My NFL Media colleague Ian Rapoport said on NFL Network’s ‘NFL GameDay Morning’ that Lynch ‘does not communicate’ with Carroll.”
It’s hard to imagine the Seahawks without Lynch, who is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down. The eye test says he’s hitting the holes as quickly as he ever has, and fighting for yards as vigorously. The statistics say he is heading for another monster season, on pace for precisely 1,300 yards. That would be the second-highest total of his career and 43 yards more than last season, which was widely regarded as superb. That hardly sounds like a back about to hit the wall.
But as Bob Condotta points out, Lynch’s injuries this year are mounting — mostly of the nagging variety, but perhaps ominous. And the actuarial tables are unforgiving for most 29-year-old running backs (though not unanimously so, complicating the Seahawks’ decision even further).
There are financial considerations that will come into play along with the football decisions, of course. And it would be naïve to think that behavioral issues won’t factor in as well. I still find it hard to believe the Seahawks would wave (waive?) goodbye to a player as productive as Lynch, one they acknowledge is the linchpin (Lynch-pin? OK, I’ll stop) to their entire philosophy, without a surefire replacement on hand.
But if they do, things won’t be nearly as interesting around here next year.