Catching up with Marshawn Lynch’s time in Seattle

We are back with our series on reconnecting with Ex-Bills players. Today, Matthew Heuett from Seahawk Addicts dishes the dirt on Marshawn Lynch. Some interesting nuggets in regards to how the media and fans portray him there in comparison to here.  Enjoy and tell a friend or two.

1) How happy have you guys been with the way Lynch has played?

Ecstatic, I’d say.  The Bills may have a long history of netting phenomenal running backs, but the Seahawks don’t.  Sure, they’ve had their fair share of solid RBs and FBs – Sherman Smith, John L. Williams, Chris Warren, etc. – but they’ve been pretty light on legitimately great ones.  Really, I can only think of two, Curt Warner and Shaun Alexander, and Lynch reminds me a whole lot of Warner.

Most football fans outside of the Pacific Northwest don’t remember him, but Warner was an incredible runner who could cut around, bulldoze through, or outrun defenders with equal skill (seriously, he looked like he was just effortlessly gliding through tacklers), plus he was a damned fine blocker and receiver.  The guy led the AFC in rushing his rookie year in 1983 and looked to be on his way to becoming one of the all-time greats, and he was a big part of why the team went to the AFC Championship game that year.  Unfortunately, Warner tore his ACL in the ‘84 season opener, and when he returned from injury the following season he was no longer the same guy.  He was still great, mind you, but his cut and burst were gone and I believe that decline had more than a little to do with the Hawks going a combined 1-3 in the playoffs for the remainder of the ‘80s.

By the age of 29, Warner was reduced to hobbling through one last injury-plagued season with the LA Rams, and Hawks fans were left with a lot of what-ifs.  Getting Lynch feels a whole lot like we’ve lucked into a second chance at a healthy Warner in his prime, and we’re loving every second of it.

(For the record, Lynch doesn’t remind me at all of Alexander, who was equal parts exhilarating and maddening to watch.  Alexander was absolute magic at times and nigh unstoppable in the red zone, but he was a crappy receiver, an even worse blocker, and it was pretty rare to see him to stiff arm his way through tacklers when he wasn’t in sight of the opponent’s goal line).

2) One weakness I always thought Lynch had when he was in Buffalo was that he sometimes didn’t seem to have patience when picking a hole to go through, has he gotten better in that regards?

I’d say yes, to a point.  The Seahawks’ offense makes heavy use of an Alex Gibbs-derived zone blocking scheme for its run game, so Lynch is mainly asked to do a lot of quick, decisive one-cut-and-get-upfield type of running, which doesn’t necessarily need a whole lot of patience to execute.  The Hawks are also one of the few remaining teams that use a fullback on a significant number of run plays, in no small part because Lynch seems to excel when he has a lead blocker to help him pick a running lane.

But while Lynch is helped out quite a bit by Seattle’s offensive scheme, he’s also matured a lot.  His Beastquake run versus the Saints aside, his 2010 season was pretty average and forgettable. Then midway through the 2011 season he took it upon himself to become a better student of the game by going to Tom Cable and asking the o-line coach to teach him how he could become a better fit for the ZBS running game, and having watched a lot of tape from that season I’m here to tell you that comparing Lynch’s decisiveness and production in the run game in first half of that season to his in the second half is night and day (1st half of 2011: 3.93 yds/att; 2nd half: 4.47 yds/att).  He also set a franchise record that year for most consecutive games with a touchdown scored (10), so there’s that, too.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not so sure he would’ve come around if he had been allowed to stay in Buffalo.  Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider really went out of their way to make sure Lynch had plenty of support on and off the field.  For instance, his primary backup his first two years in Seattle was his good buddy and old Cal backfield mate Justin Forsett, so he had a confidante/minder available to him right off the bat, and apparently he also learned a lot on how to be a professional and take care of himself from watching Leon Washington go about his business (according to Lynch, before he spent time with Washington he didn’t even bother with basic stuff like stretching).

3) Are you still shocked you guys only got him for a 4th round pick?

A bit, yes, although if four years of watching Schneider work his magic has taught us anything it’s just how extraordinarily valuable those mid to late round picks can be in the right hands.

I think the context of the trade is important here, though.  I mean, earlier that same year the Hawks traded for Lynch we had already seen them acquire malcontent RB LenDale White on the cheap in a trade with Tennessee, only to cut him about a week later when he tried to pull the same childish crap he did with the Titans.  Just sayin', in hindsight the trade for Lynch looks a lot like highway robbery, but at the time a fourth-rounder felt about right to pick up yet another troubled-but-talented retread to add to a team that was populated almost exclusively with a mixture of has-beens from Holmgren’s Seattle glory days and gleanings from the NFL’s scrap heap.

4) How has Lynch been perceived by the media and the fans in Seattle?  Some fans and MSM people in Buffalo couldn’t let go of his off the field stuff and the fact that he didn’t talk to the media.  If you thought during SB week some folks in the media hated how he was silent, it was like that constantly here from the press.

Really?  Good lord, no wonder his career took a nosedive there.  I’m not sure if this is just a Northwest thing or if it’s a trait common to the West Coast in general (I know it’s true of Western Washington & Oregon and parts of Boise, at any rate), but out here we love our eccentrics something fierce.  The fans treat him like a rock star, and the local media tends to characterize him as a playful, good-natured dude who’s genuinely uncomfortable in the spotlight rather than a petulant prima donna who just refuses to talk out of spite.  It also doesn’t hurt that his cadence and diction reminds a lot of fans and reporters alike of another of Seattle’s favorite sons, Sonics star point guard Gary Payton.  In short, the dude’s got it made out here.

5) What have been some of his best moments in Seattle over the last few years?

For starters, there’s his 67-yard Beastquake run in 2010.  The next time it comes up on a highlight reel, pay attention to just how crappy the o-line’s blocking was on that play – that’s pretty much how pathetic they were all year long.  Between that and being traded during the season by the Bills, at the time I can remember thinking I’d just witnessed a man exorcizing an entire season’s worth of frustration in one glorious run.

The other great one that stands out to me was his performance in December of 2012 against San Francisco.  All week long we had been subjected to a parade of folks droning on about how the 49ers were going to annihilate the Seahawks (‘cause surely the big wins they had against the Cardinals and Bills in the weeks previous were just flukes, you see), and come Sunday we were treated to a 42-13 blowout win courtesy of Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch (111 yds & 1 TD rushing, 19 yds & 1 TD receiving).  God damn was that ever satisfying to watch.

Beyond those two, there’s the 107 yards he put up against the 49ers in late 2011 that broke the streak San Francisco’s defense had going of 15 games without allowing a 100+ yard rusher.  Granted, the Hawks did end up losing that game, but some years you have take your victories anywhere you can find ‘em, you know?

Speaking of 2011, Lynch was one of the biggest reasons that season didn’t end in complete catastrophe (and by that I mean a 2-14 record was a real possibility).  The Hawks turned a horrific 2-6 start into a 7-9 finish in large part because of the way he rededicated himself to football and upped his game in the second half of that season.  Lynch’s ability to push just about any pile across the first down marker seemingly at will helped take a lot of pressure off of Tarvaris Jackson, who was forced to gut his way through most of that year with a 50% pectoral tear (his career in Minnesota be damned, to me he’ll always be one of the toughest SOBs to ever play the position).

Hell, it’s entirely possible that Lynch’s production that season is what made the difference between Carroll getting fired after that season and him sticking around to lead the Seahawks to the Super Bowl two years later.  Or not – Carroll had bought himself a lot of goodwill with that improbable playoff run in ’10, after all.  Either way, I’m damned glad that Marshawn is on the roster.


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