BEASTLESS IN SEATTLE
Marshawn Lynch left the Seahawks at just the right time
Drop Marshawn Lynch in the middle of Seattle, and locals would swarm like a group of would-be tacklers. They wouldn’t try to take him down, though. They’d probably just wrap their arms around one of the most iconic — and iconoclastic — athletes in the Emerald City’s history.
Beast Mode — who will take on his former team as a Raider in London on Sunday — will be forever beloved in Seattle. And it is for the following three reasons:
1) He was likely the most influential player in transforming the Seahawks into a championship-caliber franchise.
2) His anti-authority, march-tothe-beat-of-his-own-subwoofer attitude struck a chord among fans. 3) He got out just in time.
I’ve been thinking about that third reason a bit lately, because the first two are beyond well-documented. We know the Seahawks’ run game was responsible for most of their war-of-attrition wins during their Super Bowl days. And we know his rebellious, “I’m just here so I don’t get fined” approach spawned respect, not resentment, among the 12s.
But do we know if Lynch would have still been admired had he stuck around another year or two? Are we sure “godspeed” wouldn’t have become “good riddance” the way it seemed to for Richard Sherman and now Earl Thomas?
As a columnist, you know you’re in trouble when you start making “Dark Knight” references — but is Lynch the hero only because he wasn’t around long enough to become the villain?
In sports, winning is the ultimate makeup. A division title, or a deep playoff run, or a Super Bowl title provides enough foundation to cover virtually any blemish.
There was a lot of chatter about tension between Bill Belichick and Tom Brady last year, but when the Patriots’ duo landed in their eighth Super Bowl, the volume on that that chatter’s volume sank all the way to mute.
So even if there was friction during the Seahawks’ finest years, it was swallowed up by Beast Quakes, a tipped pass and a parade through Pioneer Square.
It’s only after the winning stopped that the pimples start to appear.
Sherman is a Seahawks Ring of Honor lock who made the most memorable play in franchise history. But like an epic trip to Vegas, I think fans were after last season.
The sideline blow-ups leveled at coaches weren’t well-received. The arrogance hurled at reporters was rejected by sound-minded supporters.
He had become the face of an increasingly unlikable team, and as the postseason streak ceased, so had his fans’ unwavering adoration.
Thomas was similar. He may never have had the panache of a Sherman or Lynch, but he is the most likely Hall of Famer from Seattle’s Super Bowl team.
The idea of Thomas creating a divide between him and the Seahawks’ faithful seemed impossible given his contributions to the franchise over the years. But then he griped incessantly about his $40 million contract, which led him to skip practices and ultimately flip the bird at an organization that once made him the NFL’s highest-paid safety.
Thomas is a Ring of Honor lock, too, and like a once-disgruntled Shaquille O’Neal in L.A., he ultimately will be remembered fondly by fans. For now, though, the frustration seems to be outshining the fawning.
With Lynch, though, I’m not sure that turning point ever came. Not with Seahawks die-hards, at least — and certainly not with teammates.
Sure, the brass may not have been too amused with him. They didn’t love when Marshawn sported a Kam Chancellor jersey during practice in the middle of Chancellor’s holdout. They probably didn’t love that Lynch mocked the Super Bowl decision not to feed him the ball at the 1-yard line on an episode of “The League,” either.
The fact that he rehabbed his sports-hernia injury in Oakland probably wasn’t ideal — nor was his decision not to board the team bus before the opening-round playoff game vs. Minnesota in his final year in Seattle.
Marshawn has kind of been a handful for every coach he’s played for, a reporter said this week to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
“I don’t know if that’s the case,” Carroll said before smiling. “I wasn’t there in Buffalo.”
But with players, Lynch is pure royalty. Receiver Doug Baldwin gushed over him for nearly 14 minutes during a media scrum Tuesday. In a Seattle Times story from two years ago, a slew of Seahawks past and present — from Ricardo Lockette to Cliff Avril to Bobby Wagner to Justin Britt — all praised Beast Mode for his random acts of kindness, motivational tactics and genuine interest in their family lives.
That’s a glorious way to be remembered. I have a feeling fans’ image of him is just as magnanimous.
But given the Seahawks’ decline over the past couple years, I think Lynch’s legacy benefited from him bouncing one year after that Super Bowl loss. He didn’t quite go out on top in Seattle, but his pedestal was still higher than most who came through this organization.
The tactics he employed could have worn on people. But because he got out early, his welcome in Seattle will never wear out.
We’ve all heard the words “winning isn’t everything.” True.
But timing is.
Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch (24) carries against the Browns on Sept. 30 in Oakland, Calif. Oakland may always be home for Lynch but Seattle was the city that truly made him a star. The Seahawks (2-3) will get an up-close look at Lynch again this week for the first time since he retired following the 2015 season when they travel to London to face the Raiders (1-4).
In this May 23, 2017, file photo, Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch stretches during a practice in Alameda, Calif.