Amid the hype and fanfare of the NFL draft, football folk hero Marshawn Lynch did the most Marshawn Lynch thing of all: slipped out the back door when no one was looking.
Lynch announced his retirement last week, at exactly the time when the NFL world was least equipped to deal with it … which almost surely wasn’t a coincidence. Lynch was always the NFL’s equivalent of a pop-up storm, materializing and then vaporizing before you’d even realized he was there.
Lynch is a key figure in two of the most famous plays in NFL history, plays we’ll be discussing 50 years from now. So with that in mind, it’s time to start talking legacy. A simple question: Does Marshawn Lynch’s story end in the Hall of Fame?
Marshawn by the numbers
Let’s break this down. Lynch’s 10,379 career rushing yards rank 29th all-time, and his 2,441 attempts rank 26th. There are 32 running backs already in the Hall of Fame. But career numbers don’t tell the whole story; retired players on the career yardage list ahead of Lynch include Edgerrin James, Fred Taylor, Steven Jackson, Corey Dillon, Warrick Dunn, Ricky Watters, Jamal Lewis, Thomas Jones, Tiki Barber and Eddie George. Star-level backs, all of them, some among the best of their era … but will they all end up in the Hall? Unlikely.
Breaking in Lynch’s favor is the fact that his 2011-14 seasons rank among the best quartet any running back has ever produced. He was a Pro Bowler all four years and a first-team All-Pro in 2012. He led the league in rushing touchdowns in 2013 and 2014. His Seahawks went to the playoffs in three of those four years, won a ring in 2013, and came this close in 2014. (More on that debacle later.)
The knock on Lynch, of course, is that those four years comprise pretty much the entirety of his star-level output. He was reasonably productive in Buffalo — Marshawn Lynch once played for the Bills, remember that? — and less so in chunks of two seasons with Oakland. He walked away from the game entirely in 2016, leaving his age-30 year on the table. He still gobbled up yards like Skittles every time he touched the ball, averaging more than four yards a carry right on into retirement, but those carries shrunk every game.
Let the record show that Lynch’s final game came against, of all teams, Seattle. The Raiders lost in a blowout, 27-3, and Lynch’s final play was a five-yard run right up the middle. Of course.