Ode to Beast Mode
I’m sitting here watching football and I’m thinking about running backs. Specifically how many “bell cow” backs are left? By my count 11, maybe 12, backs get the overwhelming bulk of their team’s carries. If you play fantasy football, you know running back is a crapshoot because you never know who is going to get the ball. The featured running back is dying a slow, multi-faceted death. You better be really good, and be versatile, if you want to get a lot of carries.
Today I watched a good bit of the Seattle vs. Kansas City game that ended 24-20 to the Chiefs. I watched Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch treat Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium like a china shop. I watched Jamal Charles treat the Seahawks line like it was butter and he was the hot knife. Lynch’s line was a study in chunking out yards: 24 carries for 124 yards, averaging 5.2 yards. Charles simply cut it up: 20 carries for 159 yards (8-yard average) and two touchdowns. It was two bell cow backs steadily pushing the rock forward. The Chiefs and Seahawks combined for just 286 passing yards, which these days, is pedestrian for a single offense. It felt like an aberration.
I like watching Jamal Charles. I love watching Marshawn Lynch. He turns losses into gains, and gains into what looks like bouncing down a hill in a giant tire. Tackles fall off him. The hardest part of this article was choosing which of his bevy of YouTube clips to link to. Here, here, HERE.
Lynch is the straw that stirs Seattle’s drink (likely a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, right?). He’s rushed for 1,204, 1,590 and 1,257 yards the last three years for the Seahawks, after having a reconnaissance of sorts from three lackluster seasons. Through ten games in 2014 he’s rushed for 813 yards and nine touchdowns. That is a 1,300-yard pace. He’s still one of the best backs in the league and wildly effective for Seattle.
By all accounts, however, his time will likely be up in Seattle after this year. This is due to apparent character issues. But would a 28-year-old, elite quarterback with similar character issues be let go? No way. Such is the running back world we live in. The NFL chews up ball carriers before they see a ripened 30-years-old. Running backs’ careers last about three seasons on average, the shortest span in the league, according to besttickets.com. This is Lynch’s ninth season.
Lynch is in the third year of a four-year deal, with dead money of just $1.5 million if he were released in 2015. He could also be traded. But how much is he even worth anymore? Does he have two good seasons left, three? Just one? Will his production dip after this year?
Here’s my point: Marshawn Lynch’s future is in question, and honestly, I bet his NFL value is too. The tumultuous (see what I did there) relationship with his team doesn’t help. Also, I love watching Lynch run, but just about every week his injury status is questionable. There are only so many knocks a man can take, and Lynch takes so many knocks. When Lynch is running at his best he turns into a human-shaped Tonka truck. But eventually the wheels are going to squeak on that truck, the suspension is going to get wonky and the bumper is going to fall off. Lynch’s time is running out.
The Seahawks are going to have to give Russell Wilson a big new contract. So far Wilson’s career has been greatly helped by Lynch’s regular dominance. If you’re Seattle though, you’re going to bet on the 25-year-old quarterback, right? You’ll always need a running game, but can two backs you scrape together get you 85 percent of Lynch’s production? Unknown New England running back Jonas Gray had 199 yards and four touchdowns in the Patriots/Colts Sunday night game. It’s not too hard to find fillers in the backfield.
I suppose this is an appreciation essay, in truth. Lynch runs with purpose always and he runs often. It’s a joy to watch. Even as his relationship with Seattle has frayed, his otherworldly effort is above reproach. Lynch has not stopped exploding forward, continually rumbling downhill. Who knows where he will be next year. Where he will go. How he will run. How much time he has left. Despite a good 2014, it’s all question marks.
But rumors of his demise have been greatly exaggerated before. Never count out Marshawn Lynch. Just when you think you have him cornered, he puts his head down and churns the tree trunks attached to his hips, pushing forward the great masses holding him back. Nobody beats Father Time, but I know Lynch won’t let the good Father bring him down easily.