BEASTLESS IN SEAT­TLE

Mar­shawn Lynch left the Sea­hawks at just the right time

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - WEEK 6 - By Matt Calkins

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.

[D. ROSS CAMERON/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS]

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).

[ERIC RISBERG/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS]

In this May 23, 2017, file photo, Raiders run­ning back Mar­shawn Lynch stretches dur­ing a prac­tice in Alameda, Calif.

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