The election of Terrell Davis to the Pro Football Hall of Fame could set a precedent that might help former Seahawk Marshawn Lynch.
The Seahawks received one obvious piece of good news from the Pro Football Hall of Fame voting on Saturday with the election of safety Kenny Easley — just the fourth player who spent all of his career in Seattle to get the call.
Some wondered if another famed Seahawk — running back Marshawn Lynch — might also have gotten some good news in the election of fellow running back Terrell Davis.
First, some background.
Assuming Lynch stays retired (and there’s zero reason to think he won’t) then he will be eligible for the Hall beginning in 2021.
As of the end of the 2016 season Lynch is 37th all-time in rushing yards with 9,112.
That alone seems to make Lynch’s immediate Hall odds appear rather long.
Consider that there are 13 other running backs already eligible for the Hall of Fame who have more yards than Lynch who have yet to be voted in.
The list includes Edgerrin James, who is 12th all-time in rushing with 12,246, Fred Taylor (17th, 11,695), Corey Dillon (20th, 11,241), Ricky Watters (23rd, 10,643), Jamal Lewis (24th, 10,607), Ottis Anderson (28th, 10,273) and another former Seahawk, Shaun Alexander (34th, 9,453).
Cases can easily be made for any of the above players as having at least an equal resume to Lynch, with some having earned the kind of accolade that could lift their cases just a bit above their pure career numbers (Lewis having rushed for 2,066 yards in a season, third all-time, or Alexander winning an MVP award in 2005, one of just three running backs to do so since 2000).
And it goes without saying that longevity is important at any position when deciding on such honors and has been particularly so when it comes to Hall of Fame running backs — 15 of the top 21 rushers in history make up what are the 28 players who were primarily running backs who are in the Hall. And of the six in that group not yet in the Hall, three are not yet eligible (Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore and Steven Jackson).
Simply put, there’s a long line of running backs with good cases to make the Hall who appear to be in line ahead of Lynch. And with the Pro Football Hall of Fame holding to a rule of never electing fewer than four but never more than eight, the position of someone’s place in line tends to matter a great deal.
Lynch’s case will rest in having packed a significant amount of productivity into a somewhat smaller time frame than some other running backs — only one of the running backs ahead of Lynch in total rushing yards played fewer seasons than did Lynch (Earl Campbell, with eight).
Which is where Davis comes in.
Davis was a relative shooting star, rushing for 6,413 yards in four seasons and leading Denver to two Super Bowl wins, including a 1998 season that is among the best in NFL history (2,008 yards, 21 touchdowns) before injuries then scuttled his career — he finished with 7,607 yards in seven seasons, 55th most in NFL history, retiring at the age of 29, the same age as Lynch.
Of modern-era running backs in the Hall, only three have fewer yards than Davis — Leroy Kelly (7,274 with the Cleveland Browns from 64-73), Floyd Little (6,323 with Denver from 67-75) and Gale Sayers (4,956 with the Bears from 65-71).
Sayers was similar in career arc (if not in style) to Davis, with a career compressed to just seven seasons and 68 games due to injuries.
Kelly and Little, meanwhile, each have the kind of resumes compiled during what now seems a bygone era that probably wouldn’t get a running back of this era elected, and as a result probably aren’t real useful comparisons anymore. But that each is in does provide ammo for those who want to make a case for players such as Lynch (Little, like Easley, was a Seniors committee nominee, getting elected in 2010).
When Lynch first retired, I brought up the case of another running back in the Hall to whom his numbers compare favorably – Campbell.
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Campbell had 2,187 attempts, 9,407 yards, 4.3 yards per carry and 74 touchdowns while Lynch had 2,144 attempts, 9,112 yards, 4.3 yards per carry and 74 touchdowns.
And while Campbell never got to a Super Bowl, Lynch got to two, while rushing for 937 yards in 11 post-season games, eighth all-time.
In other words, if Campbell, then why not Lynch?
And of the seven running backs to rush for more yards in the post-season than Lynch, each is now in the Hall of Fame — a list that now includes Davis, who is just ahead of Lynch with 1,140 post-season rushing yards.
So to repeat a refrain, if Davis then why not Lynch? If Davis is getting in based on the fact that he was maybe the best running back in the NFL while he played — even if that was a short time — and because he was so good in the post-season, then shouldn’t Lynch down the road?
But conversely, if Lynch then why not Alexander or Anderson or Lewis?
In other words, Lynch has a good case. But so do a lot of other running backs. And as the Pro Football Hall of Fame also showed this week with the controversial decision to leave out Terrell Owens, it’s impossible to predict what might happen.
Given that Lynch’s career featured so many moments where you never really knew what might happen next, maybe that is only fitting.