A five-year waiting period for consideration begins when Lynch's recently announced retirement becomes official, so there is no need to draw hard conclusions. But as I pulled together initial thoughts during a return flight from the Super Bowl, here were a few points that came to mind when assessing whether Lynch has a case:
1. Lynch was a dominant force
We will not remember Lynch as a compiler of stats. He was a game-changing force. A long list of running backs have rushed more times for more yards than Lynch, but few struck fear into opposing coaches and players the way Lynch consistently did during his five-plus seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. I've watched game tape with coaches who pointed out defenders making what they called "business decisions" to avoid collisions with Lynch. The way Lynch ran, preserved by his "Beast Mode" run against the Saints in the playoffs five years ago, is what differentiates him.
Lynch's career stats are not great enough to ensure his enshrinement, but they're good enough for him to be considered seriously. He gained only 44 yards on 17 carries in his first game with Seattle. The Seahawks were playing with a makeshift lineup in their early days under Pete Carroll, against a Bears team that would finish that season (2010) ranked second in defensive expected points added. It was an ugly game in some ways, but in a conversation with former quarterback Matt Hasselbeck some years later, he recalled Lynch's performance as something special. That was the thing with Lynch. He didn't have to put up numbers to affect games.
"I thought when Marshawn showed up, he dominated from the get-go," Hasselbeck said. "That first game, we played Chicago and he didn't have a ton of yards, but they were the most impressive yards you ever saw -- a 2-yard run that should have been a 9-yard loss. It was just really helpful having that kind of guy."
2. Seattle rode Lynch to a championship
Team success can be an overrated component when evaluating players for the Hall of Fame. Quarterbacks are typically the position players most able to affect the bottom line if supported adequately. Lynch played an outsized role for a running back.
While the league has shifted toward passing to set up the run, Seattle ran its offense through Lynch, increasing his value. Lynch led the league in carries, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns across the 2011 through 2014 seasons as Seattle ran the ball 45.5 percent of the time, the NFL's highest percentage. This was part of the Seahawks' championship formula as they reached consecutive Super Bowls, winning one.
Even the best players cannot always control how many playoff opportunities they get. How they perform when they reach the postseason does carry weight. Lynch ranks third in NFL history with six 100-yard rushing games in the playoffs, behind 2016 Hall of Fame finalist Terrell Davis and 2010 enshrinee Emmitt Smith.
3. The Campbell comparison is intriguing
The numbers associated with past Hall of Famers aren't always relevant when considering current candidates. The fact that, say, Travis Henry has more rushing yards than Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren doesn't get Henry into the discussion.
I do think similarities between the stats for Lynch and Hall of Famer Earl Campbell make for an intriguing comparison based on their similarly violent running styles. Both carried more than 2,100 times for more than 9,000 yards. Both averaged 4.3 yards per carry. Both scored 74 rushing touchdowns.
The statistical similarities mean little by themselves. Thirty-three players have more career rushing yards than Campbell. Thirty-five players have more yards than Lynch. However, people who watched Campbell play and thought he belonged in the Hall could reasonably feel the same way watching Lynch. This is one case in which overlaying stats with what people witnessed could help complete the picture.
4. Lynch was a very good all-around back
Lynch was a complete player. He could take on defensive ends in pass protection. He could detach from the formation and run routes to catch passes. He was a power back with a nasty playing demeanor, but he was also light on his feet.
5. Testimonials from opponents should help Lynch's case
I've always enjoyed speaking with candidates' opponents in private to gain a better understanding for whether a player is worthy of enshrinement. These testimonials usually count more than the ones teammates provide, for obvious reasons. There will be no shortage of testimonials for Lynch, who was one of the most respected players in the league over the past few seasons.
I'll close with an example from August 2014, before Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson proved he could flourish this season without a top back. I was polling players around the league for thoughts on quarterbacks when a veteran safety explained why he wasn't ready to push Wilson into the top tier of quarterbacks at that time.
"You have to take away Marshawn Lynch first and foremost," this safety said at the time. "Once you do that, it leaves a lot of single coverage on the outside. [Wilson] is not really throwing the football with extra droppers underneath, with double coverage, having to read coverage. He pretty much knows what he is going to get because you have to take Lynch away."