I’m convinced that Marshawn Lynch is irreplaceable. I know. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Running backs are a dime a dozen in the NFL. Overpaying for a ball carrier is flat-out silly. They’re like iPods, those running backs. The battery life is short, and there’s seemingly a new version out every other year. Why waste your money on an old one when a fresher, cheaper, sleeker model is ready to come off the line as we speak?
It’s foolish, really. Marshawn Lynch should be replaceable. There should be a thousand Marshawn Lynches out there. Maybe they’re still in college. Maybe they’re on some other team’s practice squad. Maybe they’re backing up a Hall of Famer somewhere. But they should be around.
Take, for instance, Lynch’s stats. In his five-year career, the former Cal Golden Bear has rushed for over one-thousand yards only twice. Those were his first two years in the league, 2007 and 2008. Since then, Lynch has amassed 2,041 yards…total…over the course of two-plus seasons. Additionally, he has never topped more than eight rushing touchdowns in a single year, and his 31 career rushing scores are only four better than Shaun Alexander’s output in 2005 alone. The numbers certainly don’t blow you away.
And then there’s the velocity. To the naked eye, Lynch doesn’t appear to be all that quick. He doesn’t have an explosive first move or breakaway foot speed. He isn’t a Barry Sanders-type, content to wait and juke and jive his way to paydirt. He isn’t Brandon Jacobs, either, though. He’s not huge, no physical behemoth, no specimen at his position. He’s just another running back. At least on the surface.
So what is it, exactly, that makes Marshawn Lynch so special?
For starters, he has his own mode. No other running back has that. And it isn’t just any old mode. It’s not fast mode or slow mode or even medium mode. It’s Beast Mode. The term itself inspires a hint of fear. Beast Mode. How do you compete with that? How do you stop a beast? These are questions we thankfully don’t have to answer.
For another, the man eats Skittles on the sidelines. Effing Skittles. Nobody has ever not liked Skittles. If he was eating an Almond Joy, or Good and Plenty, or one of those other fringe candies then we might have issues. But Skittles? Skittles are wonderful!
He’s different, of course. Not just because of the mode or the sugary snack of choice. His interviews are a thing of beauty. Sometimes he’s flamboyantly zany, going off on any and all subjects brought his way. Other times he’s quiet and reserved, uttering only a few words before politely bowing out of the spotlight. But most importantly, he is never rude. He is never offensive. He never treats his interviewers like they are beneath him. And in the realm of professional sports, that level of courtesy goes a long way in gaining the respect of those outside the locker room. For that, he is unique.
And finally, there is the simplest fact of all: no human being on the face of the earth wants to reach the end zone more than No. 24. Nobody puts forth more effort. Nobody runs harder. Nobody trucks and bulldozes and grinds and forces their way through contact to find an opening the way Lynch does. His determination fuels his teammates. It gives the fans something to cheer about. It inspires anyone who happens to watch him play. Why does he want it so bad? Why does he work so damn hard? Why won’t he slow his roll? What’s this guy’s deal, anyway?
He is the working man’s running back, a testament to the blue collar spirit. When he runs, we all run. When he breaks tackles, we all break tackles. When he scores, we all score.
And then there are the moments he awes us. The moments we cannot believe. He has bounced off the entire New Orleans Saints roster. He has dove backwards across the goal line with his manhood in hand. He has shaken Ray Lewis like a rattle. He has foiled eleven Philadelphia Eagle defenders on a single touchdown carry. He has a flair for the dramatic. That, you cannot argue.
Marshawn Lynch will be a free agent after the 2011 campaign. He is on pace for a career-best 1,242 rushing yards. He has already tied his career-high for touchdowns in a season with eight. He is 25 years old. He’ll be 26 when the 2012 season kicks off. History tells us that few tailbacks have success beyond the age of 30, which means he has four good seasons left in the tank. There will be a newer model coming out in the spring. It will be considerably younger. It might be faster. It may be sleeker, more explosive. But will it have its own mode? Probably not. Will it consume Skittles? Unlikely. Will it run as hard, bulldoze defenders, or glorify glorious moments? No, it won’t.
There will be others. There will be the good, the bad, the average, the infamous, the amazing, the disgraceful, the legendary, the dismal. They will come in all shapes and sizes. They will compete for a job, challenge for our respect, vie for our enthusiasm.
But there will only ever be one Marshawn Lynch. He has done it. In a city where we’re more content to run players out of town, he has won our hearts. By way of Oakland and Buffalo, he is Seattle’s own. He is irreplaceable. And we need to keep him in a Seahawks uniform.