Of course, it’s tempting to say, “Bring back Marshawn, and let the party resume!”
After all, he’s Beast Mode, the legend of legends. Life is just more fun when he’s in the picture. And Marshawn Lynch’s return to the Seahawks last year for the final three games went off without a hitch, if you don’t count the hideous delay-of-game penalty against the 49ers that deprived him yet another chance of 1-yard-line splendor.
Regardless of where the blame for that debacle lies, you could make the case that Lynch still has “unfinished business.” That was his stated justification for coming out of retirement in December after season-ending injuries to Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny and C.J. Prosise left Seattle in a terrible predicament.
Certainly, Lynch’s stint did not end in a blaze of glory, though his “Take care of y’all chicken” soliloquy after the season-ending playoff loss in Green Bay deserves a page in Bartlett’s. Yes, you could dream about Lynch coming back to the Seahawks, as he revealed Monday that the two sides are discussing, and this time leading them back to the Super Bowl title that was so shockingly torn away in Arizona.
Or, you could make the case I’m going to make: Leave well enough alone. Do not risk the devaluation of one of the greatest sports legacies in Seattle history.
We saw that happen, to an extent, when Ken Griffey Jr. came back for his second Seattle stint in 2009. Junior didn’t set the world on fire — he hit just .214, and was a shadow of his former brilliance — but there were enough feel-good moments sprinkled into a surprisingly successful Mariners season to make it a perfect send-off. When Griffey and Ichiro were carried off on their teammate’s shoulders after a victory in the final game, you couldn’t have asked for a better parting moment.
But Griffey ill-advisedly came back in 2010. At age 40, he had nothing left. The Mariners, who had gone from 101 losses in 2008 to 85 wins in 2009, stumbled back to 101 losses. Griffey was hitting just .184 in June, and then shortly after an article that detailed him sleeping in the clubhouse during a potential pinch-hitting opportunity, he drove home unannounced to Florida, surreptitiously calling it a career.
Now, Griffey’s reputation survived that ignominious ending, just as Lynch’s would if he indeed came back and it ended poorly. Time heals most wounds.
But I am speaking out of respect, admiration and, yes, affection, when I say, why risk it?
Lynch just turned 34, which in running-back years makes him the equivalent of 40 — especially with the toll that so many seasons of his fearlessly physical running style surely has taken on Lynch’s body. That aggression is a big reason Beast Mode is so beloved, but also the source of concern that this could be a case of diminishing returns.
Lynch certainly had his moments last year, scoring four touchdowns in three games. He was, by all accounts, a gigantic positive in the locker room, beloved by youngsters and veterans alike. But he also gained just 2.2 yards a carry (30 carries, 67 yards), with 15 of those coming on one carry against the 49ers. Lynch’s average on his other 29 carries was 1.79 yards.
I realize Lynch is his own counsel, and he will do what he wants, as he always has, always will, and always should. In a year when it doesn’t look like there will be minicamps or organized team activities because of coronavirus concerns, nor perhaps preseason games, it would seem to be an optimal time for Lynch to come back.
Yet the Seahawks are not in such dire straits as they were in December. They fully expect Carson to be ready for the season opener (whenever that will be) after last year’s hip injury that didn’t require surgery.
Penny, who had surgery for a torn ACL in late December, has posted some encouraging training videos, but there have been hints he could start on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. That would sideline him, minimally, for the first six games.
Beyond that is Travis Homer, who gained 114 yards on 18 carries (6.3 per carry) in the regular season as a rookie, but just 25 on 14 carries (1.8) in the postseason. Then there’s DeeJay Dallas, a recent fourth-round draft pick, and a couple undrafted rookie free agents.
You can see why a proven warrior such as Marshawn Lynch would be awfully tempting for the Seahawks, if for nothing more than a short-yardage touchdown machine.
But I think the risks of Lynch falling prey to Father Time, as Griffey did, as everyone does eventually, makes this a dangerous game. I prefer to think of Lynch’s Seahawks valedictory being a noble contribution when they desperately needed him.