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Seahawks can thrive with or without Lynch

7/29/2014

RENTON, Wash. -- The Seattle Seahawks needed Marshawn Lynch to reach the pinnacle of the NFL. The Seahawks do not need Lynch to stay there.

Lynch has been the heart and soul of the Seahawks' success for four seasons. Other than Mount Rainier, the two best-known words in the Pacific Northwest are Beast Mode.

It’s an iconic term used to describe Lynch’s relentless running style, a symbol of the physical presence he brings to a team that takes pride in its aggressive style of play.

But as good as he is and as much as Lynch has meant to this organization, the Seahawks do not need him for the team to continue to play at a championship level.

Want a little statistical proof?

  • The Seahawks won the 2014 Super Bowl by 35 points over Denver on a night when Lynch rushed for 39 yards on 13 carries.

  • The Seahawks played seven games last season when Lynch rushed for fewer than 70 yards. They were 7-0 in those games.

That’s not to downplay his contribution. Lynch has led Seattle to many important victories. He is a unique player and one of the best running backs in the NFL. But because of this team's depth and talent, they can keep winning without him.

That’s why Lynch made a mistake in holding out to try to force changes to his contract. And it’s one reason his holdout could end soon, possibly Tuesday. The likelihood is this distraction will end and Lynch will be the team’s starting running back again.

The Seahawks, however, have talented running backs waiting in the wings -- second-year player Christine Michael and third-year back Robert Turbin are more than capable of carrying the load for a team that emphasizes a run-first philosophy.

“Both of those guys are going to be tremendous backs for us,” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “Obviously, we want Marshawn to come back. We love the guy to death and all the things that he does. We have tons of respect for how Marshawn plays. But at the same time, Robert and Christine will be ready to go, that’s for sure.”

Exactly how good Michael and Turbin can be is a bit of an unknown, but neither of them can be what Lynch has been. Lynch is a throwback to a bygone era, a relentless power runner who sacrifices his body to do whatever it takes to move forward. Former Houston Oilers running back Earl Campbell might be the best comparison to Lynch.

That style of running also takes a huge toll on a player’s body. Lynch has rushed for 4,051 yards over the past three seasons while carrying the ball 901 times. No man can take that many hits and continue to play at a high level over the long haul.

That has been proved and is one reason the Seattle hierarchy is not inclined to give Lynch more money. General manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll made it clear last week that they expect Lynch to honor his four-year, $30 million deal, which has two years to go.

Neither side is all right or all wrong in NFL contract issues. For example, it’s easy to say Lynch should honor his deal, but the team could release him after the 2014 season (a good possibility for salary-cap reasons) and owe him nothing on the final year of his contract.

So it’s not unreasonable for Lynch to want more money or some type of guarantee on his 2015 salary. But his leverage isn’t nearly as strong as he thinks. The Seahawks would move on without him if they had to without much concern.

“I feel good about it,” cornerback Richard Sherman said Sunday. “I think [Lynch] will be fine. I think whichever decision he makes, I will be fine with. I’m sure he is in shape and can take his 300 carries and be our workhorse. But if it’s his time [to quit], then other guys will step up.”

Sherman was speaking about the idea that Lynch might retire, which isn't likely because it would cost him $6.5 million in salary and bonuses this season.

Wilson has spoken to Lynch on the phone and texted with him the past few days.

“He wants to play,” Wilson said. “He loves playing. I hope that he comes back. He’s a great football player, and he can do so many great things for us. We love him in the locker room. We love him on game day. So we definitely want him back.”

Of course they do. But this team has a quarterback who is starting his third NFL season and is well on his way to becoming one the league’s top players. It has a receiving corps with a healthy Percy Harvin, one of the NFL’s most explosive players. And it has young running backs capable of becoming 1,000-yard rushers.

Everyone on the team wants Lynch to carry the load again this season, but the Seahawks don’t need him to carry it.