The rumors began last month, and the reality remains hazy.
Marshawn Lynch is talking to the Raiders. Marshawn Lynch has signed with the Raiders. Marshawn Lynch has not signed with the Raiders. Will Marshawn Lynch sign with the Raiders?
There is no other manner in which this saga could unfold. Keeping people guessing is the Beast Modus Operandi.
And though I can’t offer specifics as to how this will all turn out, I can give a prediction.
Not well. For anybody.
The NBA fan in me can’t help but think back to the 1998-99 season, when the Lakers signed a five-time champion destined for the Hall of Fame. In fact, he was just a few months removed from his third straight title when Los Angeles picked him up.
His name was Dennis Rodman, an enigmatic celebrity with a red-carpet resume. The Lakers released him after 23 games.
In L.A., a past-his-prime Rodman joined a burgeoning team when his star power was near its peak. And with no Michael Jordan to keep him in line, he could brush off authority and point to his rings as justification for doing so.
So would Lynch in silver and black be like The Worm in purple and gold? Not necessarily. But not not necessarily, either.
Here are three things we know about Marshawn, who turns 31 next Saturday.
1) He hasn’t been dominant since February of 2015.
Yes, the last time Beast Mode looked truly Beast Modeish was in Seattle’s Super Bowl loss to the Patriots. Some might point to the 122 yards he gained on 27 carries vs. San Francisco in 2015, but let’s be real — every running back carves the 49ers up, including Christine Michael, who tallied 106 yards and two touchdowns against them last year.
The truth is, Lynch’s final, albeit injury-riddled season with the Seahawks lacked any real “wow” moment. Is it realistic to think he’ll recover his prowess at his age after a year off?
2) He is just not that into authority.
Lynch probably didn’t care what the Seahawks’ front office thought when he left the team to rehab in Oakland after surgery in 2015. The notion of irking Pete Carroll probably wasn’t high on his list of concerns when he mocked the team’s Super Bowl play calling on an episode of “The League,” or opted out of the playoff game vs. Minnesota at the very last minute.
Perhaps the only thing harder than bringing Lynch down during his prime was telling him what to do. That works when you’re one of the best running backs in football, but it doesn’t when you’re just another guy.
If Lynch’s indifference to structure persists with the Raiders, it could be more problematic than it ever was with the Seahawks. Not just because of a diminished skill set, either, but because. …
3) He has had zilch to do with the Raiders’ success.
Let’s make one thing clear: Lynch’s teammates loved him in Seattle. As my co-worker Jayson Jenks revealed in a must-read-if-you-haven’t-yet feature, myriad Seahawks see Marshawn as one of the most compassionate, inspirational and downright coolest people they know.
But Lynch was also the most important player in transforming the Seahawks into the regular title contenders they’ve come to be. That gave him locker-room clout that might not await him in Oakland.
The Raiders very well could have made the Big Game last season had quarterback Derek Carr not gone down before the postseason. And Las Vegas considers them one of the top 10 teams in the NFL heading into next season.
But would they jell with a potentially unproductive running back if he acted like he owned the place? And if not, would the music-blaring, mountain-of-a-presence that is Lynch be willing to just blend in?
Despite the generally-held perception to the contrary, Marshawn seems to enjoy attention. He does television spots galore, stars in videos from Scotland, and occasionally puts velvet rope around his Lamborghini.
Is it great entertainment for us? Of course. Might it be distracting in a new environment? That’s a yes, too.
Trust me, I would love to be wrong about all of this. A dominant Lynch would be good for football, good for Oakland, and great for fans lamenting their team’s imminent move to Vegas. And he is joining a franchise that desperately needs a running back.
Besides, wasn’t it Jordan who, at 32, returned after a season off and won three straight Finals MVPs with the Bulls? I’m just saying — you never know.
But you also don’t know how prepared Lynch is for the grind that might await him. Shooting fadeaway jumpers is far less taxing than absorbing hits from 290-pound nose tackles. I imagine it’s a bit like a runner who hasn’t trained for a year. A marathon might sound enticing while sitting on the couch, but by mile 14, he is ready to keel over.
Lynch doesn’t have the perfect legacy, but he has a great one. He didn’t go out on top, but he is generally revered.
The photo of hanging cleats he tweeted is one of the most iconic retirement announcements for an athlete to date. Probably best to keep those cleats hanging.