Marshawn Lynch Leaves Lasting Legacy of Iconic Runs, Eccentricity and Greatness

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystFebruary 8, 2016

Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) carries the ball during the first half of NFL Super Bowl XLIX football game against the New England Patriots on Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Seattle Seahawks fans will never forget the day running back Marshawn Lynch made the earth move. It will stand as the preeminent play in a Hall of Fame-worthy career. 

On a Saturday afternoon five years ago in Seattle, Lynch took a handoff from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and ran 17 Power. 

"With Power, you're running straight downhill," Lynch said on ESPN. "You know where we comin', and we know where y'all gonna be lined up at. Now, you just gotta stop it. 

"I'm saying I'm better than you."

After taking the ball, Lynch encountered not one but two New Orleans Saints defenders in the hole. He kept his legs churning like pistons and bounced away. 

He then slipped through two tacklers as each failed to make a play. 

Jabari Greer was the next helpless defender who tried to tackle the rampaging bull. The defensive back simply slid down Lynch's body and fell hopelessly to the ground. 

The run reached the iconic level when Lynch threw cornerback Tracy Porter to the ground with one of the nastiest stiff arms ever witnessed on a professional football field. 

Lynch's quest to score a touchdown was complete when he evaded two more defenders and plunged into the end zone after the 67-yard romp. 

As Lynch ran over, through and past Saints defenders, the fans' jubilation at Qwest Field grew with each yard gained. It reached a point where the stadium began to rumble and seismic activity registered in the area. 

And the Beast Quake was born. 

Rarely can a player's career be summed up in a singular play, but this is true of Lynch. 

Five years ago in the NFC Wild Card Round, Lynch became more than an elite running back. He morphed into Beast Mode, and his impact on the Seahawks franchise was measured by the Richter scale. 

But his time in the game now appears to be finished. 

Lynch did it his way and retired without a single spoken word. Apparently, he's on social media to announce he's hanging up his cleats: 

None of us should be surprised about Lynch's decision to publicly announceor in this case, vaguely allude to—his retirement. He did so during Super Bowl 50, when he couldn't be placed in the limelight. Throughout his career, the Oakland, California, native avoided being the focal point unless he was on the field serving as his team's workhorse back. 

As arguably the league's most ferocious runner over his nine-year career, Lynch earned the right to call it quits on his terms. 

The Beast Quake perfectly encapsulates his time on the field, but the running back's dominance extended beyond that one memorable run. 

During a four-year run that stretched from 2011 to 2014, Lynch's 5,357 rushing yards led the NFL. In that period, the Cal product elevated his game and pushed Seattle to unforeseen and previously unattainable heights. 

In each of those seasons, Lynch made the Pro Bowl and served as the focal point of an offense that reached two straight Super Bowls, including a victory in Super Bowl XLVIII.

He was as good as anyone in the game, but Lynch's idiosyncrasies—a preternatural love for Skittles, penchant for wearing a high-elevation training mask during pregame warm-ups and monosyllabic or repetitive press conferences—didn't always make him the league's most approachable superstar. 

Instead, he was viewed as odd or standoffish during a time when he could have been a face of the NFL. 

The only respect Lynch needed, however, came from those in his locker room, and there was an outpouring of support from quarterback Russell Wilson and All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman after the running back's supposed retirement announcement: 

Over the course of his career, Lynch accumulated 9,112 rushing yards, and he ranks 36th all time.

Many tend to forget Lynch ran for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons with the Buffalo Bills after the organization made him a first-round pick and before it traded him to the Seahawks. 

Longevity isn't a prerequisite for NFL greatness, though.

Two Hall of Fame backs put together careers similar to Lynch's. One was the Houston Oilers' Earl Campbell. Lynch's style of play and production are eerily similar to Campbell's, as the Seattle Times noted (via ESPN's Adam Schefter):

In a different era—one more attuned to running the ball with bruising fullbacks who finished in a cloud of dust—the Green Bay Packers' Jim Taylor was Beast Mode before Beast Mode

Taylor retired in 1967 after 10 seasons with 1,941 rushing attempts for 8,597 yards and 83 touchdowns. Like Lynch, Taylor made the Pro Bowl five times and was a first-team All-Pro once. 

Campbell and Taylor stand above others who finished their careers with similar regular-season rushing totals—like Shaun Alexander, Ahman Green, Terry Allen, Willis McGahee and Earnest Bynerbecause of their style of play, sheer physical dominance and overall success leading their teams. 

NFL Postseason Rushing Leaders
1.Emmitt SmithCowboys1,586
2.Franco HarrisSteelers1,556
3.Thurman ThomasBills1,442
4.Tony DorsettCowboys1,383
5.Marcus AllenRaiders/Chiefs1,347
6.Terrell DavisBroncos1,140
7.John RigginsRedskins996
8.Marshawn LynchSeahawks937
9.Larry CsonkaDolphins891
10.Chuck ForemanVikings860

More importantly, Lynch performed at his best on the biggest stage. He accumulated 937 postseason rushing yards, which is the eighth-highest total in NFL history. The only running back to run for more yards during the playoffs who isn't in the Hall of Fame is Terrell Davis—and he could find his way to Canton, Ohio, in the near future. 

Aging running backs don't fare well once they reach a certain point. Lynch will turn 30 on April 22, and he's coming off a campaign in which he dealt with multiple injuries. He needed sports hernia surgery and missed eight contests before returning for the divisional round of the playoffs. 

Could Lynch try to hang on for a few more seasons to pad his stats and squeeze a few more dollars out of some team? Sure. 

But he doesn't need to do so. He already proved he was elite for an extended period of time and challenged Adrian Peterson for the title of best running back of this generation. 

He doesn't need the money, either, since he saved all of his contractual earnings, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport (via the Ian and Puck Show on 950 AM KJR in Seattle]. 

Why wait until his body breaks down? It's unnecessary, and it would be completely out of character for Lynch to do anything by conventional means. 

Instead, the 12th pick in the 2007 NFL draft decided to step away when it would draw the least amount of attention—and after he had helped changed the culture in the Seahawks organization. 

For a running back who parted opposing defenses with the force of an earthquake, Lynch went about his business quietly. He stood apart from his contemporaries, and the NFL—particularly the league's fans in the Great Northwest—will never be the same. 

Lynch may be ready for retirement, but the legend of Beast Mode will live on any time a running back turns into a snarling animal incapable of being tackled by defenders. 


Brent Sobleski covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @brentsobleski.


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