BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 01/20/2016

Thiel: The awkward end of the Lynch saga

Pete Carroll signaled the parting of ways has begun with Marshawn Lynch. His awkward, “everything is normal” remark signals that it isn’t normal. Which is as it has always been.

Marshawn Lynch, entering the field Sunday at Carolina, likely has played his last game as a Seahawk. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

In an unpredictable afternoon Sunday in Charlotte, one moment regarding the playcalling by the Seahawks was utterly knowable. On the first play from scrimmage, RB Marshawn Lynch was going to get the ball.

The Panthers defense knew it. All of the football nation knew it. I haven’t yet heard David Bowie’s final album, “Blackstar,” released after his death, but I’m willing to bet there’s an allegorical reference to it.

Such is the gravitational pull of Beast Mode.

He was stuffed for a three-yard loss.

Apparently, it was politically impossible for Pete Carroll or offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to call anything else, even if anything else would have been a better play.

That explains why Lynch’s time is over.

When coaches feel compelled to keep one player happy at the expense of the team — or feature him in futile plays –  it’s over. Just as with WR Percy Harvin, whom Carroll tried to placate with special plays, it didn’t work.

Harvin already burned locker-room bridges with his uncontrolled rage that led to fights with Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin. But it was also midseason when the decision was made to trade or cut him. Seahawks bosses needed some cover, so they leaked the fight stories anonymously to national media.

With Lynch, matters are more convenient. The season is at an end. He will be 30 in April. He was twice injured in 2015, including one requiring surgery. And it’s been explained frequently since he signed his contract extension that the Seahawks would save $6.5 million of his scheduled $11.5 million salary in 2016 if he were cut.

On top of that, they seem to have found a reasonable facsimile of a replacement in Thomas Rawls, presuming he recovers fully from a broken ankle.

So the delicate removal of an enormously popular, powerful player is underway. But it is still awkward. That was plain in the way Carroll spoke of Lynch Monday.

“I don’t know how that’s going to go,” Carroll said. “I don’t know how any of these guys are going to go right now. I don’t know.

“Everything is just normal right now. Just everything remains to be known.”

What?

Carroll occasionally can take unplanned exits from his rhetorical freeway, but this time he knocked down some signs and scraped the guardrail.

Just normal? When it comes to Lynch, nothing is ever normal, at least as it compares to other pro athletes.

Lynch is a genius athlete. He knows it and Carroll knows it.

As is often the case with geniuses in other endeavors, he must be indulged in his eccentricities, quirks and defiance. Geniuses aren’t like the rest of us. In order to flourish, they get special rules. Organizations employing them rarely admit it is so, but since success is more likely with outlier talents, managing the pouts of everyone else is worth it.

Thinking about it that way, it is remarkable that Lynch and Carroll made it work so well for so long; almost six years at or near the pinnacle of the NFL. The Buffalo Bills gave up on trying to manage Lynch, as would just about every other coach this side of the Cardinals’ Bruce Arians.

Regarding Carroll’s “everything remains to be known” remark? No. Everything is known. Carroll and general manager John Schneider want to be done with the Lynch drama, especially after the going/not-going pump-fake he gave Carroll before the the flight to Minnesota.

But the severing of ties has to be done carefully, because another part of the Lynch genius is that he has nearly everyone else in the world on his side. This is not the case of a diva who shuns and disparages the lessers, or Steve Jobs intimidating his managers.

Sunday in the visitors’ locker room in Bank of America Stadium, Lynch went out of his way to the corner of the space that held the offensive linemen, and he shook every guy’s hand. No clasping or bro hugs, just the polite, white handshake known to every Lutheran minister standing on the church steps after Sunday services.

Late-night comedians will sell off their chief writers to host Lynch. Students of football are astounded by him. Little kids adore him. Charity organizers can’t say enough about how generous he is with his time.

Some of us in the media can’t stand him for selfish reasons. But how can you not admire a guy who so owned the Super Bowl media day with his “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” meme that the president and every speech-giver in the world over the following week opened with the line?

In a moment of accidental candor in the previous season, Carroll explained Lynch too simply, but it was nevertheless illuminating.

“Marshawn,” he said, “doesn’t like to be told what to do.”

Since nobody else does, either, the fact that Lynch can act upon his contempt for authority and get away with it makes him the prototypical anti-hero of literature and film. Somewhere, somehow, we all want to be Marshawn Lynch.

His teammates love him the way English-lit majors love Shakespeare and the way music fans love Aretha Franklin: Ain’t nobody before or since . . .

On their side, the Seahawks bosses have football logic that impels the urgency to get better in 2016. Everyone else doesn’t want to lose Griffey again.

Once more, with feeling . . .

 


YourThoughts

  • Jamo57

    “but since success is more likely with outlier talents, managing the pouts of everyone else is worth it.”

    The interesting thing about Carroll and Scheider’s Hawks is they seem to seek outlier talents in every player which makes predicting and analyzing their drafts so challenging and the list of “who are these guys?” and analyst draft grades so fascinating. Of course it begs the question, is there “everyone else?”

    It must make managing the locker room and getting everyone moving in the same direction challenging but somehow Carroll has been able to do it. Perhaps that’s his outlier talent.

    • art thiel

      Good observation, Jamo. It is a Carroll strength, but nothing is perfect. He managed to get a lot out of Lynch, and little out of Harvin. To Carroll’s credit, he was willing to admit error and cut his losses.

      • Sonics79

        On of the reasons Lynch was successful here was the coaching staff allowed him to be himself. So you have that freedom, but now if you need to be placated too? That didn’t work with Harvin, didn’t work at the beginning of the year with Graham, won’t work with a declining Marshawn.
        Beast Mode was never forced. If it becomes so, then it’s truly time for it to end.

        • art thiel

          Managing a hyper-talented employee is always a tightrope. Ask any agent for a premier rock band.

  • JTravianDTeriusJacksonIII

    Cut his sorry ass.

    • Matt Kite

      Yikes. I’m amazed at how quickly the Beast has fallen in the eyes of the fans. He had a rough year. His salary is a burden on the team. He is mercurial on and off the field. But for many years he has been the face of the franchise. If he can regain his health, I’d love to see the Seahawks find a way to keep him for one more Super Bowl run. Regardless, I think his years here have been a gift. I can’t imagine ever being bitter enough to denigrate his contributions to the city and the team.

      • art thiel

        People who always live by the rules are never going to like Lynch. They see his independence as a threat.

    • art thiel

      You need to be a little more direct.

  • notaboomer

    i love the anti-hero. i hope marshawn speaks out about how fball causes brain damage like antwan randle el and chris borland have.

    • art thiel

      Don’t see him doing that. Then again, no one has ever made a dime predicting his behavior.

  • notaboomer

    Just everything remains to be known.

    translation: i’m going to the rams if kroenke delivers me the proper sized wheelbarrow of cash.

    • art thiel

      The subject will come up during the 2016 season, his last under contract. I think Pete would love to be a free agent after his Seattle success.

      • Scott Crosser

        Why? Could he find a better owner and GM ? According to Forbes Paul could buy kroenke.

        Also at some point when your rich its got to be more than about money. I’m just trying to figure out the alure of somewhere else. Seems like a stake in ownership would be the only thing i could see pulling him away. I think Pete knows there is 4 essential ingredients for long term success, a qb a gm a owner and a coach all the other ingredients are fleeting. Right?

        • MrPrimeMinister

          He founded and has nurtured an established foundation down in socal serving youth of which he is extremely proud.

          • art thiel

            “A Better LA” has been a large source of pride for Carroll.

        • art thiel

          I think it’s a great set-up for Carroll in Seattle. I also think he would love to be a FA to see how crazy it could get. Very flattering. But Allen is more than twice as rich as Koroenke. Allen can beat the best hand, but LA could trump all.

      • notaboomer

        since when did a contract ever stop an entertainer from entertaining at a new venue?

  • Howard Wells

    could it be that the coaching staff, with their “eloquent” first half game plan, showed that they are unable to creatively use Mr Lynch? They can react terrifically to what the opponent does but can’t take the first step? They embody Black on the chess board….and are good at it but too little too late against a quality white chess master.

    • art thiel

      Lynch’s use this season was limited by the line and his injuries, yet they still set the club record for ypg at 378.

  • 1coolguy

    “On the first play from scrimmage, RB Marshawn Lynch was going to get the ball.
    The Panthers defense knew it. All of the football nation knew it.”

    I had expected a fake to Lynch and a run/pass option from RW, putting Carolina on notice the Hawks were going to be unpredictable. I put that play in the same category of inexcusable play calling as the pass on the last play of he SB – it elicited a “WHAT?” from every spectator.
    That said, Lynch is a helluva player and apparently well-liked by his teammates, yet as good as he has been, Rawls certainly opened all of our eyes as to the “what could be” aspect of the running game.

    • art thiel

      We may never know how much Lynch’s hamstring and hernia limited him in the games he did play. Rawls began playing regularly around the time the line jelled.

  • Comrade Suge

    “On the first play from scrimmage, RB Marshawn Lynch was going to get the ball.
    The Panthers defense knew it. All of the football nation knew it.”

    I’m willing to wager that most people who read that line in the column thought to themselves, “why didn’t they just pass?” Those same people (myself included) criticized Bevell for passing in last year’s Super Bowl when pretty much everyone in football knew the Seahawks were going to run. I suddenly don’t feel as bad about Bevell’s call in that Super Bowl.

    • art thiel

      Playcalling is the fan’s easiest aspect to gripe about. Rarely is it justified, because fans and media rarely know the strengths/weaknesses of either side that typically are paramount in playcalling.

    • John M

      If you read Art’s column regularly you should know that Pete told Bevell in last years SB, “I want a pass on this play.” In retrospect, most of us thought this OK because if Lynch was in the game it’s pretty certain he would have been stuffed by the run-D lined up like machine guns on Omaha Beach. The issue was Bevell called THAT pass play which went right at the teeth of that front.

  • MrPrimeMinister

    On some personal level he must have checked out when he was not called upon to get that final yard. Nobody likes being passed over.

    • art thiel

      Unlikely. On the field, Lynch has always been committed to his teammates. None have ever hinted otherwise.

  • Vasili

    I think it’s a big supposition to assume that Marshawn will be cut, though it seems the majority of fans and pundits are assuming it to be true. John and Pete need to tread carefully on how they handle what may be Marshawn’s exit with the Seahawks, given how much he is loved and respected by his teammates. As much as management and fans may have grown tired with Marshawn’s seemingly oppositional behavior, I doubt his teammates share that opinion.

    As such, I’d suggest trying to renegotiate first at a discounted salary; then entertaining a trade second. If neither of those work–last case scenario–cut him. If you could pair him with Rawls, and have Michael on the bench, that could be a pretty good running back situation.

    • art thiel

      There’s no democracy in pro sports. No voting on the roster.

      A trade is possible, but Lynch would have to demonstrate he’s not damaged goods. Sunday proved nothing.

  • Warchild_70

    This is Lynch swan song? I don’t think so as a mentor to Rawls and with Michael’s attitude improving Lynch could be a good player coach. His contract though has to be negotiated and adjusted if not he’ll be leaving hopefully with a nice send off. Offensives Tackle Okung should be on the block not Avril or Lynch

    • art thiel

      Lynch as a player-coach? Not in my wildest . . .

      • Warchild_70

        You’re right just some ramblings from a old football fanatic. Hawks for life.

  • coug73

    So long Marshawn, thanks for all the yards.

  • bugzapper

    You find me a white, hand-shaking Lutheran minister who can pound the rock like that and we’ll tawk. Otherwise, that’s Pete in the corner choosing his religion.

    • art thiel

      The church of Thomas Rawls opens in Sept.

      • bugzapper

        Okay, he may be Lutheran, but… ;)

  • Breon Smith

    Has it ever came to anyone’s attention that our play calling sucks ass, play calls need to be better and we need to have better reads on Russells part, Bennett Needs to get traded or need to quit jumping the line I’m done

    BEASTMODE.

    • art thiel

      The suckass play calling resulted in the most average yards per game (378) in club history

  • DaleR

    Those of you who want to keep Lynch need to decide which starter you want to lose. Michael Bennett and Cam Chancellor both want and deserve more money. Irvin, Kearse, Lane, Okung? Rawls proved to be a good replacement at much, much better price. This is Russell’s team now, not Marshawn’s. Lynch is a thirty year old running back who’s body has absorbed an enormous amount of punishment because of his running style. Don’t forget that RBs decline like going over a cliff. The great franchises know when to move on from a popular player. The Beast Mode run will forever be an iconic moment in sports but for the Hawks to stay relevant they need to part ways now.

    • Topcatone

      Keep both Lynch and Rawls, and they can keep healthy by spelling each other. Let Chancellor go, as he was the main reason for the terrible start and never played that well for most of this season. We have no need for selfish players. NEVER give in to contract holdouts, when they already have a contract. How would the players like it if the team refused to pay them their contract salary, but wanted to cut it due to poor performance for a game or season?

      • art thiel

        Chancellor had a somewhat down year. I think Carroll/Schneider still resent the holdout. But what we still don’t know is what promises were made to get him to come back.

    • art thiel

      That is the logic. Which, when it comes to most fans and sports, rarely trumps emotion.

  • Greg Miller

    Thanks for the great article. I can’t see Lynch staying. It’s sad but we have 17 free agents, among them some great players who we need to keep. Dropping Lynch’s salary would help immensely with that. I believe his best years are behind him. It always feels like losing an old friend when this happens but remember the last time we went through this?…… SHAWN ALEXANDER

    • art thiel

      I think Lynch has more tread on his tires than Alexander, and brings to the team more than rushing yards. But the salary cap logic is irrefutable.

  • Quezebo Jones

    For a peek into where Lynch’s head is really at, go to the Friday before Carolina when the team was getting on the bus and he came out wearing his pants down, saggy ghetto style What other person going on 30 years old would do it.

    • art thiel

      Matt Hasselback used to wear argyle sweaters to press conferences. I’ll take Marshawn’s fashion statement, as long as we’re basing football prowess on clothing.

      • Quezebo Jones

        So Art, if you had a twelve year old son that saw Lynch and decided if he can do it why not me, you would be OK with it. I don’t think so.

        • art thiel

          It’s always about the chillruns, isn’t it? Please. They find many worse things daily on the net than Lynch’s fashion sense.

          • Quezebo Jones

            As I understand your answer, you would have no problem with your 12 year old wearing his pants saggy ghetto style..

          • art thiel

            I’d advise him of consequences he may not have considered and let him make a decision, What would you do?

          • Quezebo Jones

            It’s pretty obvious what i would do. Thanks for the conversation.

  • Paul Harmening

    Good stuff Art. Were you a Lutheran once upon a time?
    Bella head chopping chick would have not run that first play. He wouldn’t have even started the crotch grabber in this game. That’s why my most reviled but alas, most respected franchise keeps repeating Super Bowls.

    • art thiel

      I was just passing through.

      Guessing that Belichick may not have tolerated Lynch to get as much out of him as Carroll has.

  • lb

    Let’s all imagine the run he didn’t make against New England that totally undermined our franchise because Bevel outsmarted himself and Carroll let him call it, How about we move on from them and keep Beast? Managing the best is the easiest job in the world, if everybody could be so lucky. That’s BS to think Rawls is an equal, or we are better without ML. Carroll and Bevel and that wife beating drunk O-line coach have divided the locker room more than Harvin or Beast ever could. Retire Pete, love you, but retire, or cut the damn coaches who are killing us every year, and get people the locker room can rally around.

    • art thiel

      Seahawks had a record stats year offensively and defensively and you want to fire the staff? Let me know when your list of mistake-free coaches is ready.

  • John M

    Insightful article, Art, and you got plenty of ink back for it. Yes, I anticipated this being Lynch’s last year some time ago. I think he could still go a year or two, but as you point out when he’s in the game the Hawks are too easy to read. Russ has shown he can zing an accurate ball like the top QB’s and they have a couple less-famous backs to run it. For awhile there they looked like a well balanced team that could mix plays in a much better fashion. If they can keep the best of their FA and find a couple stud O-linemen, they could be back on top next year . . .

    • art thiel

      The team is now Russell’s. Lynch was the formidable face until now, but transition is inevitable.

      Ink. I remember ink. Now it’s link.

  • http://rip-ragged.com/dross Raymond Meyers

    NFL careers end – even the really great ones. It was a great run.