What if: Some Packers lobbied for Marshawn Lynch in 2010
NEWARK, N.J.—All week Seattle Seahawks officials had to absorb the media backlash over running back Marshawn Lynch flouting an NFL rule that players must take part in daily interview sessions during Super Bowl XLVIII week.
It is a nuisance they could do without, but it is also part of the package they signed for when they traded for the talented back three years ago.
“Not everybody is the same,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “In our program, we understand that, to a point that we made the statement that we celebrate the individuality and the uniqueness of our guys.
“I think that we would like to comply and do everything that we can to the best of our abilities, but we are who we are.”
Lynch might be just messing with everybody, playing a game before the big game. But when you perform the way he does, a lot of leeway is given. There’s nothing quirky about the way Lynch handles his job.
He treats every game like he’s climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. He will triumph over the challenge in front of him, and if he doesn’t get to the top, he’ll try again the next Sunday. No one runs harder than the 5-foot-11, 215-pound terror, who in the last three seasons with the Seahawks has 4,775 total yards from scrimmage and 39 touchdowns.
This season he carried 301 times for 1,257 yards and 12 touchdowns while hauling in 36 receptions for 316 yards and two touchdowns. If there were a stat for causing opponent black and blue marks, he would be among the league leaders.
“He’s like Jerome Bettis,” Denver cornerback Champ Bailey said. “Except he’s a lot quicker.”
And that’s what separates Lynch from a new breed of bruisers led by Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy, Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell and the Broncos’ Montee Ball. Seven years into his career, he’s still someone who won’t turn down a collision or accept that one tackler can bring him to the ground.
But he can still break your ankles with one of his cuts.
As good as Lacy has turned out to be, Packers fans may always wonder what would have happened if general manager Ted Thompson had pulled off the deal that his former underling, John Schneider, did in his first year as Seahawks general manager.
At the trade deadline in October 2010, Schneider dealt a 2011 fourth-round pick and a 2012 fifth-round pick to Buffalo for Lynch, who had worn out his welcome after three-plus seasons. Lynch had produced, but he was unhappy being 3,000 miles away from his hometown of Oakland, Calif., and what seemed like a million miles from his mother, to whom he is very close.
Schneider had been in the Packers draft room in 2007 when Thompson and others had their fingers crossed Lynch would drop to them at No. 16, only to see the Bills snatch him up at No. 12. The Packers had hosted Lynch on a pre-draft visit to make sure that he would be comfortable playing in Green Bay.
The fourth-round pick the Seahawks gave up was No. 122 overall. The Packers’ fourth-round pick was No. 129 overall. Thompson wasn’t fond of trading future or multiple picks and passed.
Had he offered the Bills his third-round pick, No. 96 overall, he would have had Lynch. That might have seemed too high, but when you consider he used that selection on running back Alex Green, who was cut in training camp last year, it would have been worth it.
The big question is whether Lynch could have been happy in Green Bay.
“I think he would have,” said defensive lineman Brandon Mebane, who played with Lynch at California and came out the same year in the draft. “It’s a slow-paced town compared to a lot of other cities around. I think it would have been a good idea. It seems like a college environment. He would have been able to do it.”
At the time, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Desmond Bishop, both of whom went to Cal and played with Lynch, were lobbying for the Packers to make the trade. Veteran back Ryan Grant had been lost for the season in Week 1 and Brandon Jackson and Dimitri Nance were handling the bulk of the carries.
Luckily for the Packers, rookie James Starks came out of nowhere to become a playoff hero and help lead the team on a run that concluded with a Super Bowl XLV victory. But in 2011 and ‘12, the run game was a mess and one could only wonder if the 15-1 team that lost to the New York Giants in ’11 might have gone further with a dynamic player like Lynch.
With Schneider pulling off the deal, Lynch quickly fell in love with Seattle and Carroll’s new-age way of handling players. He has thrived in that environment and anyone who thinks he’s a loner who can’t get along with anyone is dead wrong.
It’s just that he’s not like everybody else.
“Marshawn is not a bad person,” Seahawks running backs coach Sherman Smith said. “We knew he was a little different, but not different wrong, just different. We embraced the differences, just said don’t become a distraction. Marshawn is not a distraction.
“He just does things a little different than everyone else. He plays football. He prepares well, he plays hard, he’s a good person.”
Lynch has been a huge part of the rebuilding effort in Seattle. Despite all the attention paid to quarterback Russell Wilson, it is Lynch who is the centerpiece of the offense.
If the Broncos don’t find a way to slow him down Sunday, it might not matter how well Denver quarterback Peyton Manning plays. He’ll have a hard time throwing completions standing on the sideline.
When it comes to tackling Lynch, it’s best to come with some friends.
“You watch him on TV and you see the big runs and all the broken tackles, but the thing is, he’s a really smart player,” Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. “He finds a lot of holes a lot of backs in this league don’t find. He makes cuts that you see Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy making.
“We’ll just have to hit him. We can’t relax out there and leave it to one guy to make the tackle.”
The Seahawks run a lot of zone plays, but they will mix in some gap scheme where they pull guards or tackles. They love to stretch the field and let Lynch decide which hole he’s going to press.
And if there isn’t a hole, he’ll just create one.
“He’s strong and he’s got a mean stiff-arm that I don’t want to get caught with,” safety Mike Adams said. “He’s tough. It’s going to take all 11 guys swarming to the ball to get him down.”