The last great accomplishment Marshawn Lynch gave the Seahawks wasn’t his 2015 season, the first injury-filled year of his career. And it certainly wasn’t his 20 yards on six carries last month when he returned to play after two months out injured -- only to become a bystander as Seattle fell behind 31-0 in the first half of the playoff loss at Carolina.
No, the final, best thing Lynch did for the Seahawks was retiring when he did.
The pretty epic way how he retired is getting all the attention right now: Without words. Of course. He tweeted during Sunday night’s Super Bowl a picture of his neon-green football cleats hanging on a wire and an illustration of a hand in the shape of a peace sign.
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That was quintessential Lynch: the 29-year-old star running back going out his way, with no elaboration.
Lynch’s agent Doug Hendrickson, based in the running back’s native Bay Area, confirmed to The Associated Press on Monday what The News Tribune learned from league sources the Seahawks understood late Sunday, that Lynch indeed intends to retire. Hendrickson also tweeted his congratulations/goodbye Monday afternoon:
But letting the Seahawks know his intentions now, two weeks before the league’s annual scouting combine begins and a month before free agency and the league’s fiscal year starts on March 9, is the best parting gift Lynch could have given his now-former team. For the first time in three offseasons, after previous springs and summers of him contemplating retirement and seeking more money up front, the Seahawks know Lynch’s status with them.
Team owner Paul Allen jumped on the opportunity to thank Lynch last night, leaving no ambiguity on the Seahawks’ intent to now proceed without him:
The team’s digital-communications staff showed its appreciation online and on Twitter for the second time in 12 hours on Monday morning, using the tag “ThankYouBeastMode”:
This is the best-case scenario for Seahawks general manager John Schneider, coach Pete Carroll plus their scouting and player-personnel staffs. They had hoped Lynch would let them know of his plans before the combine, so the team knew prior to the league’s shopping market opening for this offseason how urgent its need was to add a running back behind heir Thomas Rawls for the 2016 season and beyond.
Now they know. The Seahawks also know they will be saving $6.5 million against their salary cap for 2016 with Lynch retiring. They can now budget ways to use that money a whole lot sooner than they thought they’d be able to.
The Seahawks are almost sure to let Fred Jackson go away; Lynch’s buddy from Buffalo and veteran running back turns 35 this month and becomes a free agent next month. Carroll said on Jan. 18 the team would like to bring back Christine Michael, their former second-round draft choice. Michael is a restricted free agent and impressed late this past season in his second go-round with Seattle.
But now that they know Lynch won’t be back the Seahawks can aggressively pursue veteran and prospect tailbacks to compete with or become a better option than Michael as Rawls’ backup. This past season, when Lynch played in just seven regular-season games to suddenly and precipitously fall off the NFL’s elite shelf, was a reminder of how important having two backs capable of leading Carroll’s running game is.
So ends Lynch’s nine-year career and brilliant, 5 1/2-year romp like none other for Seattle. He gained 6,347 on his 9,112 yards rushing and 7,656 of his 11,091 career yards from scrimmage with the Seahawks, who acquired him in a trade with Buffalo early in the 2010 season, Carroll’s and Schneider’s first running the franchise. He scored 65 of his 83 career touchdowns for Seattle. He made four of his five Pro Bowls and became an All-Pro in 2012 with the Seahawks.
He is fourth in franchise history in yards rushing and attempts (1,457), behind Shaun Alexander, Curt Warner and Chris Warren in each category. Alexander played eight seasons, Warner seven, injury-marred ones and Warren eight with the Seahawks. Lynch played the equivalent of five full seasons with them.
Lynch ranks second in team history in rushing touchdowns (57), third in total TDs (65) and seventh in points scored (392). But because he did what Alexander, Warner, Warren and everyone else did not -- lead the Seahawks to a Super Bowl title and to within 1-yard and one more handoff to him from another one the following season -- Lynch’s legacy already is as the franchise’s best back ever.
Beyond all the numbers was the way he accumulated them. The bulldozing plows through defenders who often fell off him like they’d just run face-first into a light pole, such as his “Get off me!” run through the Saints on his “Beast Quake” run in the Jan. 2011 playoff win over New Orleans.
The similar run over the Cardinals in 2014. The crotch-grab and backwards, Nestea plunges across the goal line to punctuate those and other scores. The lack of need for the media or comments to it after or between games. His returning from abdominal surgery and practicing as the lead back all week early last month, then telling the Seahawks minutes before they got on their plane he wasn’t fit to play in the wild-card game at frigid Minnesota -- and deciding that wouldn’t be making the trip, either. The commercials -- “Quit freakin’, call Beacon” and “Bruh, I’ve been here the whole time” among the most memorable.
All that and more combined to create a persona -- and a career -- the Seahawks won’t be seeing again anytime soon.
Neither will the sport.