On March 4th, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Seattle Seahawks re-signed free agent Marshawn Lynch to a four-year, $31 million deal, with $18 million guaranteed. Seahawk fans across the country jumped for joy, then, after the initial glow wore off, find themselves oddly uneasy.
Every Seattle Seahawk fan, whether they are casual or fanatical, is wary when a conversation comes up concerning paying big-time dollars to a running back. Even when it comes to a back that causes CenturyLink Field to register on Richter Scales throughout Seattle in a playoff upset of the defending NFL champion New Orleans Saints.
To get a full perspective on this subject you have to take in to consideration the history of professional sports in Seattle. The city has only been able to claim the title of "champion" three times in its history, and never by a team playing outside of Key Arena. The SuperSonics hoisted the NBA championship trophy in 1979, and the Storm followed suit in the WNBA twice, in 2004 and 2010.
In 2005, the Seahawks suffered a bitter loss in Super Bowl XL that still brings a bad taste to the mouths of Seahawks fans, the 12th man. The bright spot was undoubtedly Shaun Alexander. He had rushed for over 1,000 yards for his fifth straight year and broke a slew of NFL and franchise records on his way to being named the league’s Most Valuable Player.
The man was a hero in the eyes of fans desperately seeking a team that could bring Seattle sports to that premier level of recognition. To continue the tradition of domination over the NFC West that they had grown accustomed to.
The 2006 season was supposed to be the year all their dreams come true, and owner Paul Allen lifted the Lombardi Trophy. These hopes were cemented with the signing of an eight-year, $62 million deal to ensure Alexander would continue to spearhead the offense. The anticipation was so high for the 2006 season that anything less than another Super Bowl run would be considered a disappointment.
Alexander would never again rush for over 1,000 yards in a season. In fact, over the next three seasons he would only appear in 27 games and rush for a total of 1,636 yards and 11 touchdowns. Failing to top his 2005 totals of 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns.
The Seahawks slipped into mediocrity just as fast as their fallen star. The 2007 season was the last season they posted a winning record and since 2006 have been 42-54. Largely due to the fact they failed to have a rusher gain over 1,000 yards on the ground for five straight seasons.
The ride ended abruptly and left many shaking their heads wondering what went wrong.
That is until Oct. 5th, 2010 when the Seahawks traded a fourth-rounder and a conditional pick to the Buffalo Bills for Marshawn Lynch. And in the Wild Card matchup against the New Orleans Saints, “Beast Mode” showed everybody what he could do as he broke eight tackles, brutally stiff-armed Tracy Porter and bulldozed his way to a 67-yard touchdown run that, literally and metaphorically, sent shock waves through the Emerald City.
"Beast Mode" carried that tenacity over in to the 2011 season where he rushed 285 times for 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns. The 12th man found a back they could believe in again.
However, fans can’t help but wonder if a lucrative contract to stay in Seattle will take the wind out of his sails, the beast out of his mode, if you will.
Anybody that watched Alexander run the ball after he signed his deal before the 2006 season would tell you the same thing. He stopped working for the extra yards after contact, he turned soft, had no explosion when he hit the line. It was as if he wanted to make sure he was around for all eight years of that $62 million contract. He was running scared and timid.
The Seahawks cut him just two seasons later. Although, by that point, he was in the “addition by subtraction” category and his departure was not mourned.
Now Seahawks fans are asking themselves one question. Will we see a similar occurrence with Lynch? Will he loose that tenacity that gives him so many YAC yards?
Will the folks sitting in the end-zone seats have to find a new use for the 10-pound bags of Skittles they bought to shower the field with after another Lynch score? Most importantly, are they going to get their hopes up just to see them erased by another money-hungry feature running back?
For the sake of the entire 12th man, and the great city of Seattle, let’s hope not.