Of all the reasons Marshawn Lynch wanted to give football one more (last?) shot, his career legacy is surely far down the list.
Still, it’s fun to think about how one last Beast Mode run or two might impact how Lynch’s career is perceived when his name comes up as a potential Hall of Famer five years after he finally hangs up the cleats for good (and as coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday, who really knows when that will be?).
Lynch already has a decent shot.
One of the more prominent of the 48 voters for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Peter King, wrote in favor of Lynch making it earlier this year, stating, “When Lynch’s case comes up in 2024, I think he has a good chance at a bust in Canton.’’
Move that back now to at least 2025.
One regular-season game, of course, isn’t going to do much to the overall numbers. But it all helps, and an extended postseason run — especially at the age of 33 — could matter greatly.
Even just one regular-season game, though, could move Lynch a little bit up the ladder.
He’s currently 29th on the all-time rushing list with 10,379 yards.
With 81 yards Sunday he would pass Eddie George (10,441) and Tiki Barber (10,449) to move into 27th (Thomas Jones is 26th with 10,559).
Fifteen running backs ahead of Lynch are in the Hall of Fame including two active players who are slam dunks (Frank Gore, third at 15,321 and Adrian Peterson, fifth at 14,138) and another who probably is (LeSean McCoy, 22nd at 11,071). Others ahead of Lynch not in the Hall who have good cases include a few with local or Seahawks ties: Edgerrin James, 13th with 12,246; Corey Dillon, 20th with 11,241; and Ricky Watters, 24th, 10,643.
Both James and Watters are among the 25 modern-era semifinalists for the class of 2020.
Seventeen running backs with fewer yards than Lynch are in the Hall, many from earlier eras of the game when stats weren’t as easy to come by (a couple also from the two-way era) and a few who had injury-shortened careers such as Terrell Davis and Gale Sayers.
Lynch already had a résumé that was worth considering when he retired as a Seahawk after the 2015 season.
In fact, he had almost the same career stat line at that time as another slam-dunk Hall of Famer — Earl Campbell, who was elected into the Hall on his first year of eligibility.
Campbell’s stat line: 2,187 attempts, 9,407 yards, 4.3 yards per carry, 74 touchdowns.
Lynch’s after his first Seattle career: 2,144 attempts, 9,112 yards, 4.3 yards per carry, 74 touchdowns.
Some might note that Campbell’s best seasons were greater than Lynch’s.
But although Campbell turned in one of the better seasons in NFL history in 1980 when he had 1,930 yards, only one other time did he gain more than Lynch’s career high of 1,590 in 2012.
When he “retired” on Super Bowl Sunday 2016, Lynch was coming off a season in which he averaged 3.8 yards per carry, second lowest of his career, and seemed to be on the downside of his career.
But Lynch then returned for two more years and 21 games with the Raiders at ages 31 and 32 when he averaged 4.3 yards per carry — the same as his career average, which is better than Hall of Famers such as Thurman Thomas, Emmitt Smith (each 4.2), Franco Harris, Marcus Allen (4.1) and Curtis Martin (4.0).
Where Lynch’s résumé really shines, though, is in his playoff stats.
He ranks eighth all-time in playoff yards with 937 and is tied for eighth in rushing touchdowns with nine (and yes, that one more he maybe could have gotten might have burnished up his case that much more).
In each category, everybody ahead of him is already in the Hall, other than LeGarrette Blount (11 TDs, tied for sixth). And he didn’t just get a ton of TDs in one big game — his streak of five straight games with a rushing touchdown in the playoffs in 2012 and 2013 is tied for the fifth longest in history.
Piling up playoff stats, of course, is easier to do now that there are more rounds and also in part a product of the team you’re on (O.J. Simpson famously took part in only one playoff game).
Conversely, playoff games match the best of the best when it matters the most.
And Lynch has been at his best in those situations.
He has six 100-yard games in 11 postseason contests, tied for third in NFL history. The only two with more are Smith and Davis, who each have seven. Smith needed 17 games to get that many. Davis did it in eight, and his reputation as one of the best playoff performers in league history was a significant factor in his election.
Lynch has also averaged 4.85 yards per carry in the postseason, just off the top three in league history of those with 100 or more attempts (Arian Foster is third at 4.9).
There’s also the baseline test some voters use when trying to decide about players who are on the bubble — can the story of the game be fully told without their presence?
By that measure, Lynch is an unquestioned first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Not only has Lynch been one of the most consistent performers on the field over the past 13 years (it may be easy to forget he rushed for more than 1,000 yards each of his first two years in the league for Buffalo teams that finished with losing records) but his Beast Mode persona — which by itself seems Hall of Fame worthy — has been as defining as any during an era that will be remembered as one when players took greater control of their careers and images on and off the field than they ever had before.
In a video he released via YouTube shortly after signing with Seattle on Monday, Lynch talked about unfinished business.
It was a reference to trying to get back to another Super Bowl and this time getting that elusive second ring.
No doubt, that’s the core objective here.
But if Lynch were to somehow reach that goal, erasing any last doubt that he deserves a bust in Canton will come along with it.