BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 01/10/2014

Thiel: Lynch speaks the big truth about Harvin

A man of few words, Lynch offered up some honest ones Thursday about what WR Percy Harvin’s return means for a Seattle offense that needs him.

Marshawn Lynch probably flipped when he heard Percy Harvin was returning for the playoffs. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

The cautious will shudder. The superstitious fear jinx. The standard-issue Seattle sports fan is bewildered, after having been a many-time frog-kisser with only one prince (from the Sonics in 1979) to show for it. But having none of those particular conditions, let me offer up a declarative for the record:

On the eve of the playoffs Saturday, the best team in the NFL took a needed leap to a championship with the return of Percy Harvin.  Please, someone find a ticker tape machine. Seattle will need it.

If you don’t trust my judgment, please listen to RB Marshawn Lynch. Ordered by the NFL to get his thumb off his personal mute button, Lynch immediately spoke the truth Thursday.

While reporters at his locker were amused and bemused by his minimal answers to minimal questions, someone asked him about Harvin’s return. He suddenly became The Accidental Oracle of Occidental Avenue with this statement:

“It opens up a lot of stuff for us.”

By itself, the statement sounds like another tablespoon of oatmeal that Lynch is trying to force-feed the media so they will leave him alone. But in his time in Seattle before this season, Lynch was sometimes a willing conversationalist who could be counted on for honesty. Which is enough, around the NFL, to draw an admonishment from the powers to mind one’s mouth.

Perhaps Lynch figured if he can’t be honest, he best shut up.

But by being honest, Lynch described in eight words why Seattle fans can feel free to enjoy the ride.

He addressed what his teammates and Pete Carroll have avoided saying during Harvin’s absence — the lack of a deep passing threat is limiting the offense to the point where it is the weakness that could cost a title.

Over the past four games the Seahawks averaged 263 yards of offense and 19.3 points per game. Yes, it’s true that in that time, they have faced some of the NFL’s best defenses (San Francisco, NY Giants, Arizona and St Louis). It’s also true they were 2-2 in those games, and there is this: Teams playing ball this late in the season all have good defenses.

At some point, the Seahawks defense could falter, by as little as a single play (we’ve all seen it), and 19.3 points isn’t going to cut it.

The remaining Seahawks receivers are NFL average, plus or minus, which is hardly bad, but no one in Seattle colors wants to impugn them. Nevertheless, defenses have become smarter about defending Lynch and QB Russell Wilson. In the injury absences of Harvin and fellow WR Sidney Rice, defensive coordinators can take greater risks with man-to-man coverage on receivers to devote manpower to stopping Seattle’s two biggest assets.

So the return of Harvin is not the luxury that some may perceive: It’s a necessity for championship ambitions. Remember that even with Rice, the Seahawks bosses thought Harvin was worth three draft picks and a guaranteed $26.5 million because he was a rarity in the NFL talent pool: A genuine game-breaker.

It might be a dead heat between Lynch and Wilson as to who is happiest about Harvin’s return. Certainly, Wilson is more loquacious about it.

“If we can get him out there, that’s a great thing for us,” Wilson said this week. “He’s an explosive football player, that’s for sure.  He looks unbelievable so far.

“He’s one of the best players in the National Football League. He’s just been itching to play. He’s got a lot of speed, he’s got a lot of quickness, got great hands, he’s very physical, loves to block, and loves to do things the right way.”

Sure, they’re teammates and pals, and even if they weren’t, the next bad thing Wilson says about anyone in the world will be a personal first for him. Still, the gushing is genuine from anyone who has seen the guy practice in Seattle, and for the tantalizing glimpse he gave everyone Nov. 17 against Minnesota.

Publicly, Carroll has been ultra-cautious about creating expectations around Harvin because of the false starts since his Aug. 1 hip surgery. Similarly, many fans have lowered expectations because Harvin’s multiple physical problems, here and in Minnesota, have given him, at 5-11 and an alleged 200 pounds, a porcelain-doll image.

The injury history means no teammate, coach or fan wants to get amped about the possibilities, because the first hit may knock Harvin from the game. But here’s a little secret: It’s the same for every player on the field.

Harvin hasn’t played a full NFL game in 14 months, but the plan is to have him return kickoffs, catch passes, maybe have a rushing play, and also block downfield. So, a full game. Purely out of respect for the attributes Wilson describes, New Orleans coach Sean Payton, one of the game’s brightest, and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will have to adjust on the fly to Seahawks options that they haven’t seen on video.

Just when Payton hoped to design a game plan to be better than the Seahawks of Dec. 2, the Seahawks became better. As Lynch said, Harvin opens up a lot of stuff.

“It was frustrating for a lot of people,” Harvin said Thursday. “My hat’s off to this organization just for staying patient for me. So I’m just ready to make it all pay off.”

Harvin’s hat is off. Be prepared to toss yours.


  • jafabian

    Right now I’m thinking the NFL’s game breaker is Cordarrelle Patterson. Used to be Harvin, before him Rice. The Hawks need to get whoever it is that scouts WR’s for the Vikings over to the VMAC.

    The great thing about getting Harvin now is that he changes the landscape for the Hawks offense but opposing teams have no idea how to prepare for that. They have nothing to go on beyond how he perrformed as a Viking. The week off and the fact that Harvin was a participant in full practices makes things even better for the Hawks.

    Haven’t heard much about Jermaine Kearse but I assume he’s ready to go. No news is good news. I wonder if the Hawks painted the Saints logo on their practice fields during this time off???

    • art thiel

      Kearse is healthy.

      Patterson is who the Seahawks could have taken if they had kept the No. 1 pick that went to the Vikings.

      And Rob Ryan is in his Seattle hotel room re-drawing defensive schemes.

      • jafabian

        Right now the Saints are looking out their hotel room windows and thinking how much the weather sucks and want the game over with so they can get out of here. That plays right into the Hawks favor! Especially when it was reported that the Saints cancelled practice today because the couldn’t find an indoor practice facility. Wimps.

  • Gary S

    There aren’t many players in the NFL that opposing teams must account for at all times, Percy Harvin is one of those players. His impact on the game will be more than his actual reception and yardage numbers. His presence on the field will open things up for Lynch, Tate, Baldwin, Kearse, Miller, Willson, and Wilson. Like you said Art, there’s good reason he was paid the money that he was. Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      When Seattle has seen so little of him, the skepticism is understandable. Just be prepared when he ignites the thrusters.

  • Troy

    Interesting quote about Lynch’s silence, Art: Lynch could be “counted on for his honesty. Which is enough, around the NFL, to draw an admonishment from the powers to mind one’s mouth.” Any specific evidence this was the case?

    I think most people would agree that Lynch has made mistakes, but he has his act together. He’s a unique personality and his teammates love him for it. He prizes substance over showmanship. If he’s not comfortable answering questions, or has some other reason to mistrust what’s written or interpreted about his comments or way of delivering them, I think the NFL should embrace it. At the very least, they should work with him to try to find a solution instead of throwing the book first. Obviously I don’t know what’s gone on behind the scenes, but I have a hard time believing that threatening a guy to talk will lead to the types of press conferences the league is hoping for…

    • art thiel

      I have no evidence, and it’s doubtful Lynch would supply evidence. But I’ve been around the NFL awhile, and I know free thinking/speaking is not well received. Ask Chris Kluwe.

      Lynch has known for awhile he was breaking the rule, because the club told him. And the NFL is after him to try with the media, not necessarily become William F. Buckley. Lynch tried, and looky here — I came up with a column from eight words he offered.

      He just needs to be patient and stay cool, and he keeps his $50K as well as his dignity.

      • Donkey Punch

        I get the feeling he has stage fright and a fear of public speaking. He looks really nervous in interviews. He was fidgeting nervously with his hands in the first press conference. In his next interview, Mike Rob was there for what I believe to be moral support. He won’t even go on camera for the Real Rob report which is his best friend’s video blog. I could be wrong but that’s what I saw. In that light, I feel bad for him.

  • M.

    Reminds me of those old advertisements: “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.” This definitely applies to Lynch the Laconic (aka “The Accidental Oracle of Occidental Avenue”). :D

    Speaking of Percy, this reel of his plays and highlight from 2012-13 should get you all pumped up. By the way, the unusually high number of Ponder to Harvin lateral passes seemed highly effective. I wonder if Bevell will scheme a lot of those into the playcalling with Percy’s return.