So Marshawn Lynch is retired … we think.
He hasn’t said he is. Of course, he seldom says anything. Nevertheless, reports indicate the 33-year-old running back is finished with the Oakland Raiders and the NFL.
So let’s assume they're accurate. Let’s assume he never plays another down.
Based on what we know now … is he a Hall of Famer?
No question, he gains attention when he becomes eligible in 2024 … and he may eventually make it. But if you’re asking me how I’d vote today, I know where I stand, and it hasn’t changed from where I was three years ago when he first quit the game.
The reason is simple: Marshawn Lynch wasn’t the best back in the history of the Seattle Seahawks. Ricky Watters and/or Shaun Alexander (take your pick) were, and not only is neither in the Pro Football Hall of Fame…. neither has been a finalist or semifinalist.
So until or unless we talk about either I don't want to hear about Marshawn Lynch. The line forms at the rear.
Watters ran for more yards, albeit with three teams, and was one of the premier all-purpose backs in the league. Alexander was a single-season rushing leader, set a then-NFL record for touchdowns and was a league MVP and Offensive Player of the Year.
He also produced more career TDs (112) than Lynch (93).
So why does Marshawn Lynch get to jump the line and be discussed? More to the point, why is his candidacy more valid than, say, Watters, who, like Lynch, was part of a Super Bowl champion but who scored three times in that game, ran for more yards in his career, caught more passes and produced more yards from scrimmage?
Answer: It isn’t.
Look, Lynch was an outstanding running back. He was Beast Mode, a battering ram who pulverized opponents and caused a seismic reaction – yes, literally – when he broke nine tackles en route to a 67-yard TD in the 2010 playoffs, with fans so jubilant their response registered on the Richter scale.
But he was known as much for a run he didn’t make as the runs he did … and rewind the videotape to Super Bowl XLIX. That’s the game where, for reasons known only to coach Pete Carroll and then-offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, the Seahawks decided to throw the ball from the New England 1 instead of giving it to Lynch.
The rest you know.
In this week’s NBC Sports post, Hall-of-Fame voter Peter King makes the argument for Lynch’s inclusion in Canton, citing his playoff performance as compelling evidence. And I get it.
But I’m still not sold.
Yes, I know, it was Terrell Davis’ playoff history that in 2017 pushed his Hall-of-Fame candidacy over the top despite a short career. But Davis was a two-time Offensive Player of the Year. Lynch was not. Davis was a league MVP. Lynch was not. Davis was a two-time Super Bowl champion. Lynch was not. Davis was a Super Bowl MVP. Lynch was not. Davis ran for 2,000 yards in one season. Lynch did not. Davis was an all-decade choice. Lynch was not.
I think you get the idea.
But there’s more. As King points out, Lynch had nine TDs in 11 playoff games … and, I agree, that’s terrific. But what about Watters? He scored 12 times in 11 postseason games.
King’s most powerful argument hits not on numbers but on Lynch’s impact, and he points to his performance from 2011 through 2014 when he averaged 1,339 yards rushing, 4.53 yards a carry and 14 touchdowns per season.
Nice, huh? Now let's look at Alexander. From 2001 through 2005 -- or one season more -- he averaged 1,500 yards rushing, averaged 4.53 yards a carry and 16 touchdowns per year.
Yet I don't hear anyone banging the drum for him … or for Watters, who seven times ran for 1,000 or more yards and five times scored 10 or more TDs.
Marshawn Lynch did neither.
Watters is 26th on the career rushing list. Lynch is 29th , just behind Eddie George and just ahead of O.J. Anderson. George has more career yards from scrimmage. So does Anderson. But how many people are pushing them for Canton?
That doesn’t mean they don’t deserve consideration because they do. Eddie George was a complete back. Anderson was a Super Bowl MVP. But when their names are raised today, all you hear are crickets.
Yet Marshawn Lynch somehow is different because he’s … what? Beast Mode? A salesman for Skittles? Tough? Rebellious? Mysterious?
Marshawn Lynch was an accomplished running back, but so was Edgerrin James. James is also an all-decade running back who twice led the league in rushing. And he’s not in Canton.
I’ve always pushed former 49ers’ great Roger Craig, one of the most complete backs in the game’s history and the first to rush for 1,000 yards and catch 1,000 yards in passes in the same season. He's not in Canton, either, and was discussed only once (2010).
Yet somehow, some way, Marshawn Lynch is more worthy? The answer is as easy for me as it was three years ago.
Follow on Twitter @ClarkJudgeTOF