BY Art Thiel 06:25PM 10/09/2018

Thiel: Beloved Beast now the Seahawks’ burden

The games in London are big, but the story Sunday is the first meet between Marshawn Lynch and his old team. Doug Baldwin explains the hold Lynch had on his teammates.

The Seahawks loved themselves some Marshawn Lynch. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

To this day, the biggest single difference in the Seahawks from the glory days is the absence of RB Marshawn Lynch. Coach Pete Carroll and management won’t admit to that publicly, and there’s only eight of his teammates remaining, so the internal eyewitnesses dwindle. But one, WR Doug Baldwin, was willing Tuesday to testify to Lynch’s ability to command a field and a locker room.

“He’s had probably the greatest impact on all of us that have known him,” said Baldwin before practice. “In a world full of people trying to project a facade of their life — you see it on Instagram,  you see it on Facebook, you see it on Twitter — he was not about that. He was genuinely who he was, whether it was in the media, at my house on my birthday, in the locker room, out on the street with his family, it didn’t matter. Marshawn was very honest and true about who he was, and where he was.

“We loved that. He was beloved in this locker room because of that. He would speak how he felt. If he was wrong, he would come back and apologize to the people he wronged, for the most part. You respected him for the man he was, not trying to act like something he wasn’t.”

The subject came up because, despite the fact that it is London Week for the first time in Seahawks franchise history, Lynch, now with Oakland, will be waiting for them Sunday in Wembley Stadium.

God save the queen, and the Seahawks.

The storyline of the first regular-season meeting between Lynch and the team he helped take to consecutive Super Bowls overshadows all the argle-bargle (a fine British phrase) about American football’s continued inroads upon the hegemony of futbol on The Continent. (Hint: It’s not happening.)

Lynch’s play spoke for itself — a combination of speed, power, will and intelligence that made him an unparalleled football badass. He and SS Kam Chancellor gave the Seahawks a quality of menace that made strong men pause. Much of that around the Seahawks has evaporated.

Baldwin mentioned something Tuesday about Lynch’s play that received little appreciation in his time in Seattle.

“He was a savant when it came to his position on the football field,” he said. “He could read defenses getting off the bus. It was incredible, his memory for certain plays and for certain situations.

“Now he’ll play with you (media) and act like he doesn’t know that, because he doesn’t want to talk about it. He tries to be humble in that way. But he’s a savant when it comes to that stuff.”

Lynch was also a hero to his teammates because in-house he was the anti-hero, the contrarian who challenged authority, hyperbole and conventions. Probably 90 percent of the players on any NFL roster have such tenuous holds on jobs that speaking or acting out seems like professional suicide. But the deeply secure Lynch gave so much of himself and did so well in games that he earned leverage with teammates and coaches, which only enhanced his mystique.

He was that fearless kid in school who got away with stuff because he was bright enough to see a step ahead.

As just one example, he had the stones to tell the NFL to drop dead regarding his media-interview obligations (“I’m just here so I won’t get fined”), which made him controversial, which put him on every late-night talk show and all over YouTube, where he could sell himself to a bigger audience.

He pissed off a lot of NFL and Seahawks people, but Baldwin said Lynch figured it was worth it.

“People being pissed off about you being honest with who you are . . . If you’re being real, then those people shouldn’t really matter in your life,” he said. “My philosophy in life is there are no long-term negative consequences from being honest.”

But short-term, Lynch’s methods made for tension between him and Carroll, despite the wide latitude for expression Carroll gives players. Asked Tuesday how he thought he handled Lynch, Carroll was more expansive than he’s been since Lynch’s awkward departure after 2015 and his non-retirement retirement in 2016.

“We did OK,” he said. “We had a great time together. When we brought him here (in a 2010 trade with the Bills), he wasn’t the first in line at Buffalo. Things changed, and he was available months after we started trying to get him. He was a real target for us. I bugged (general manager John Schneider) for months and months to keep making those phone calls.

“He got a fresh start. He took the opportunity and went with it . . . the guy to bring the attitude, intensity, focus and toughness.

“There’s a lot of big things that happened, in terms of championships and challenges and contracts. A lot of our guys got married and had kids  — not necessarily with Marshawn — and he grew a lot, too, with us. We went through a lot together. I have tremendous respect for that guy. It’ll be fun playing against him. I like playing against guys I like.”

He certainly didn’t like him in January 2016, when Lynch took himself out of a trip to frozen Minneapolis for a playoff game, claiming he wasn’t recovered from an injury, even though he practiced all week. What went down in that episode was never made clear, but he played only more game for the Seahawks, a playoffs-ending loss in Carolina.

That is past. Lynch again looms in the Seahawks scene. At 32, he’s the Raiders’ featured back under new coach Jon Gruden. His 77 rushes are sixth in the NFL, and his average carry of 4.3 yards a game is 22nd, eight spots behind Seahawks leader Chris Carson (4.6). He has three touchdowns and 12 pass receptions for 70 yards.

“He’s as advertised,” Gruden said on a teleconference call. “He’s one heck of a player. He’s a great teammate. I think he’s misunderstood by a lot of people. But he is a great down-to-down competitor, still as talented as any runner, I believe, as there is in the league.

“He’s become a leader.”

He has always been a leader. The Seahawks miss that dearly.

Now the 2018 Seahawks get to find out what it was like when the 2010-15 Seahawks unleashed the Beast upon the NFL.

 


YourThoughts

  • Alan Harrison

    Welcome to the first 2018 Bowl of Irrelevant Irrelevance, with all its incumbent fooferaw and hubble-bubble about this weird diminution of rugby with its excessive *ew* “protective padding” and *gasp* “helmets” usually dallied about on the west side of the pond, don’t you know. I’m glad you feel its importance as much as I do, what with little to nothing going on right now anywhere else in the expanse of world not called the NFL. These are the days where I kinda miss Marshawn Lynch. I’d love to hear what he really thinks of traveling 8600 km to play in front of an American ex-pat crowd that gives not a skosh of a skosh about the outcome, except how it plays at the betting parlours. I hope he doesn’t grant an interview with anyone but you, Art, and I mean that seriously. I think only you could ask him questions about him and his relationship to the game, not trite, predictable questions about any bad feelings about the Ospreys (the Brits, knowing that there is literally no such creature as a seahawk, will have to be brought along slowly on Seattle mascotism).

    • art thiel

      I won’t be there to ask Lynch questions he won’t answer, no matter how good.

      I’m told by reliable people that the NFL is increasingly popular England, even if there is no hope for a team of their own. The Brits love spectacle as much as we do. And they’ll be less felonious than Raiders fans.

      • coug73

        Now you have done it Art, you have thrown down the gauntlet and English hooligans will accept the challenge.

  • Matt712

    With all due respect and gratitude to Marshawn and his undisputed legacy here in Seattle, the Seahawks will not be facing quite the same Beast that was unleashed on the NFL from 2010-15. Lynch is no more immune to the ravages of time and miles the NFL relentlessly doles out, particularly to the runnnng back position, than he is to his own combination of ego and love of the game that saw him cut his cleats down off that telephone wire. But, but if he were inclined, he most certainly could borrow a line from an old Toby Keith song:
    “I ain’t as good as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.”

    • art thiel

      That lyric applies to nearly every football player over 30. Lynch’s numbers say he hasn’t fallen off much, but no stats describe what he always did best: Making a three-yard gain that would have been a two-yard loss for any other RB.

  • Effzee

    The biggest error of the Pete Carroll era: choosing Bevell over Lynch. You don’t r-u-n-n-o-f-t one of the greats like that. Bevell shouldn’t have lasted one week in that building after the play which cannot be unseen. Bevell was the reason Lynch “retired.” Bevell was the reason for sideline blowups of Sherm, Lynch, Baldwin, etc. Two entire seasons of the LOB, RW’s youth, etc., utterly wasted on faith in Bevell. Its something that, as a lifelong Seattleite and sports fan, I can never let go of. I can’t get over Barbara Hedges running off Don James, Wally Walker running off Kemp and Payton, or sticking with Bevell at the expense of everyone not named Bevell at the VMac.

    • art thiel

      I need you to find someone to blame for running off J.P. Patches, Ivar Haglund and the Dog House restaurant.

      • Effzee

        This is why we can’t have nice things. :p

      • Husky73

        …an the Aqua Follies

    • SalishSea8

      You have to remember Bevell brought that far also. Using players that other teams casted off.

      • Effzee

        Eeeeh… maaaybe. Maybe everyone just benefited from the right guy at the right time syndrome. I don’t think Bevell was drawing up most of the plays that Russ used magic to make happen. I think Bevell is just a nice guy with no killer instinct, and he got lucky having the LOB and Lynch on his side (killer instincts personified), and Young Russ to make chicken casserole out of chicken… stuff.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art!
    Beast Mode Vs Two Headed Beast Mode
    I will have no problem with watching this game. I’ve watched a bit of Raiders balll this year, and Marshawn can still carry the pile. His O-line seems to like to run like ours is showing they can do. Obviously, I want the Hawks to prevail, but a competitive game against our old buddy and hero will be fun. (I’d better get to coaching new players to watch to my daughter who is working in England and will be attending the game!)
    I think that Fluker and friends will also be wanting to make someone pay for last week.
    Hmmmm, English muffins and jam might be a good thing to go along with this and some English cider.
    Go Hawks!

    • art thiel

      I think everyone should enjoy the novelty of a game in London. Lynch will be jacked.

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    It should be interesting to see Lynch vs. Wagner in this one . Practiced against each other for years .

    I’m not a fan of the London games ; they’re ridiculous frankly and as has been mentioned , I doubt the British give a rip about American football . I’m just glad that – this time anyway – it’s not us Seahawk season ticket holders that lose a home game . Although I’m sure our turn at that will come if they keep this crap up .

    • art thiel

      The Seahawks will never give up a home game, which is why it’s taken so long for them to make an appearance. The Raiders are on their last legs in OAK.

  • tor5

    Nice report, Art. He certainly was/is a great one. I’ll always respected his reaction to “the play” which, as I recall, was little more than “it’s a team game.” I’m not aware of him ever making a scene about it, when he was fairly entitled to. That says a lot right there. And Baldwin’s recollection that Lynch would apologize when appropriate is a revelation. That’s what strong men do. (Yo, Earl, what’s up?)

    • art thiel

      Lynch kept quiet because he knew if he complained, the hurt would be worse for many, some of whom were his friends.

  • 3 Lions

    They don’t make ’em like that anymore.
    #Swag

  • woofer

    Lynch was the first one to intuit that the party in Seattle was over and it was time to head for the door.

    • art thiel

      I don’t believe Lynch ever played for teams. He played for himself and teammates. He had no faith in any coach or the NFL. Classic rebel.

  • Husky73

    One more Lynch carry would have changed the world. There would not have been the Patriot dynasty. There would not have been practice call-outs, sideline tantrums and locker room eruptions– as explained by an increasingly vague PC. A 53 man squad would not have split over Wilson-yea and Wilson-nay. There would not have been hanging shoes, ping pong in Oakland, the orange traffic cone, the Lincoln assassination, the Great Depression, the Palins, the melting creamsicle of covfefe, and the ill fated garden party of Dwight Schrute. Lynch had hundreds of carries. He was one one small step short for mankind.

    • jafabian

      There already was a Patriots dynasty before Super Bowl XLIX.

    • art thiel

      Wow. Helluva string of conspiracies, pal. You left out Amelia Earhart, the Illuminati and the Pyramids.

  • jafabian

    Even though most of the Super Bowl team has moved on the Beastmode legacy remains. Personally I go back and forth on Marshawn’s value because as much as his impact was on the field off the field it could be questionable. It’s been reported about his mistrust of Russell Wilson and at least discussing it with teammates and that’s been reported even before the Sports Ilustrated article. His immediate conspiracy theory regarding the failed third and goal in Super Bowl XLIX put the dismantling of the Schneider-Carroll Seahawks on cruise control. And his “retirement” and subsequent return to a former longtime rival is dubious at best. IMO it puts his Ring Of Honor status on the fence. Love what he did for the organization and I miss seeing Skittles being thrown at him in Century Link when he scored but it wasn’t all roses with him.

    BTW, I laughed at the grief Derek Carr recently received for throwing on a similar goal line stand and getting intercepted instead of handing the ball to Marshawn. Something he said he’d never do as a dig to the Seahawks when the Raiders acquired Beastmode. Marshawn was….upset.

    • art thiel

      It’s true that Lynch did and said things that undercut Carroll, and by extension the team. That’s part of why Carroll felt he had to go. Baldwin and others speak passionately about what a friend he was, but that doesn’t make him a friend of all Seahawks and certainly not of management, which is also part of the team. Such is often the case with powerful personalities. They cut several ways.