Marshawn Lynch's Role in Seattle Offense Must Be Reduced in Favor of Longevity

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2014

Jan 26, 2014; Newark, NJ, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch arrives at Newark Liberty International Airport to face the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

It's time the Seattle Seahawks got with the times in regards to Marshawn Lynch and the running back position. 

Yes, the Seahawks are Super Bowl champs. While one of the rare recent teams to center an offense around a star running back and reel in a Lombardi Trophy, Seattle is an outlier, not the norm.

This is about longevity and a chance at further rings.

Lynch is 28 years old. While the rest of the NFL has moved to a committee approach, Seattle is the odd kid on the block that refuses to change. Including the postseason, Lynch has carried the ball 1,002 times in the past three seasons alone.

Marshawn Lynch Last 3 Seasons
Year (Games)CarriesYardsAverageTouchdowns
2011 (15)28512044.212
2012 (16)31515905.011
2013 (16)30112574.212

Despite the fast-approaching cliff that is Lynch's health and productivity, running backs coach Sherman Smith has his reasons for sticking with the one-back approach, per Clare Farnsworth of the Seahawks' official website:

You have to use the running-back-by-committee if you don't have a special guy, and we have a special guy. We could be running-back-by-committee. But who does it hurt? It hurts us because we're watering down Marshawn's reps so we can get other backs in there.

There is no denying Lynch is special, but one would think the coaching staff would want to utilize his skills for more than a few additional seasons. As a statistical study by ESPN's Kevin Seifert shows, Lynch's production is set to take a nose dive:

It shows, in pretty stark terms, how running back production drops off after the age of 27. The red line represents all running backs who have played at least four NFL seasons since 2001, with a minimum average of 75 carries per season.  Overall, we see their careers peak at age 27. Afterward, their rushing totals drop by 15 percent in one year, 25 percent in two and almost 40 by the time they are 30.

Rather than rush Lynch off the cliff, why not pair him with promising younger backs who may turn out to be just as talented in the Seattle offense and certainly need the reps before assuming the role?

Robert Turbin is a bruiser who simply reeks potential, while Christine Michael was the No. 62 overall pick in the 2013 draft and is pegged as the franchise back of the future, as Justin Rogers of MLive Media Group illustrates:

One concern with Michael has been injury issues, as explained by NFL Network's Albert Breer last August:

If that's the case, why not throw him in a rotation with Lynch and keep them both fresh? Michael hypothetically avoids injury while Lynch keeps his legs churning all game while defenses wind down.

Of course, all of this is null and void if the Seahawks' plan is to ride Lynch for one more year and then cut him in favor of Turbin and Michael. ESPN's John Clayton certainly suggests Lynch may be cut if he "experiences a decline" next year (he represents a $9 million cap hit in 2015, per Spotrac).

Perhaps it's just wishful thinking that yet another franchise won't grind another star back to a pulp before throwing him to the wayside when a conventional committee approach with capable rotational pieces is a great possibility.

Christine Michael
Christine MichaelUSA TODAY Sports

Maybe it's just a warring thought on how to approach the position. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? But one has to wonder if Lynch's career in Seattle can be extended through use of the talented players behind him on the depth chart. 

Lynch is undoubtedly one of the league's best, and the thought of him seeing less carries will surely not be a popular one. However, the Seattle front office has built a championship roster through a long-term lens few franchises can match.

Keeping Lynch healthy and productive beyond his current contract would certainly be something that falls into that category.


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