Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch Further Enhances Hall of Fame Candidacy
Remaining unsigned and having sat out the entire 2019 NFL season heading into December, Marshawn Lynch seemed content with finally settling into the post-football phase of his life.
Though he never filed retirement papers, "Beast Mode" had been running his clothing apparel line, serving drinks as a celebrity bartender, and various other things to fill his time. But there was still an itch to suit up again that needed to be scratched.
As Seahawks general manager John Schneider indicated at the NFL combine in February, Lynch had expressed interest in returning earlier in the season. But the stars would need to align a certain way for such an unexpected reunion to happen.
Due to an unfortunate series of events happening in quick order, that's exactly what happened, setting the stage for Lynch to return to the field.
After Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise exited Seattle's Week 16 loss to Arizona with season-ending injuries, the team was left with only rookie Travis Homer healthy on the depth chart. Rashaad Penny had already been lost for the season two weeks earlier with a torn ACL, leaving the backfield depleted.
"I wouldn't have ever thought I was going to be playing with Marshawn," Homer said. "When he got in the locker room, he immediately just brought energy to the team and it really helped."
With just one game left to play and the Seahawks still in the driver's seat to win an NFC West title, Lynch climbed off the couch and gave the team an emotional lift. Though Seattle came up short in a 26-21 defeat to San Francisco in the finale, he scored his first touchdown at CenturyLink Field since 2015.
In the playoffs, though running room in front of him was scarce and the Seahawks banged up offensive line struggled to create holes, Lynch further enhanced his status as a franchise legend by scoring three touchdowns in two games.
By returning from retirement for a second time, Lynch once again reset his clock for Hall of Fame eligibility. But even if he only produced 67 rushing yards in three games in his second stint with Seattle, his odds of making it into Canton when he calls it quits for real have improved substantially.
On Monday, Lynch was selected to the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team, joining Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, and Frank Gore in a star-studded backfield. It's just the latest addition to a resume that increasingly looks more and more Hall of Fame worthy.
When Lynch initially retired after the 2015 season, he had rushed for 9,110 yards and 74 touchdowns in nine seasons. While there are several exceptions to the rule, the majority of backs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame eclipsed 10,000 career rushing yards.
Even with two All-Pro selections, four Pro Bowls and arguably the greatest run in NFL history to his name, at the time, Lynch looked like a long shot to receive a gold jacket someday.
But after a year hiatus, Lynch coaxed a trade out of Seattle to play for Oakland, intending to play for his hometown team before relocating to Las Vegas. He spent two seasons with the organization, pushing his career yardage total to 10,379 and increasing his combined touchdown total to 93.
By surpassing the 10,000-yard mark, Lynch has moved into 29th all-time on the NFL's career rushing list. 16 of the players in front of him already have been elected to the Hall of Fame, while Peterson and Gore will get in someday.
While players like Jamal Lewis and Tiki Barber prove career rushing yardage totals don't guarantee a place in Canton, Lynch's playoff success gives him far more viability as a candidate in comparison.
With 13 playoff games under his belt, Lynch currently ranks eighth all-time in rushing yardage (970) and fourth in rushing touchdowns (12). All seven players ahead of him in the rushing yardage department are already in the Hall of Fame, while every other player with nine or more touchdown runs has been enshrined with LaGarrette Blount as the only exception.
Coupling his improving career numbers with his impressive playoff production, awards, and iconic status, Lynch suddenly has built a very compelling case for his eventual induction into football immortality.
Now, we just have to wait for Lynch to take his own advice, hang up his cleats for good, and protect his chicken. With that said, if we learned anything from last December, or three years ago for that matter, nobody should be surprised if this debate gets pushed back another year with him taking the field in 2020.