Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch has a case for the hall of fame, but he’s far from a lock

Feb 9, 2016, 3:49 PM
Marshawn Lynch's career is comparable to that of hall-of-famer Earl Campbell, but other running backs like Shaun Alexander and Corey Dillon have not been elected despite similar if not better statistics. (AP)

Marshawn Lynch’s career is comparable to that of hall-of-famer Earl Campbell, but other running backs like Shaun Alexander and Corey Dillon have not been elected despite similar if not better statistics. (AP)

From a numbers standpoint, Marshawn Lynch is a fringe hall-of-fame candidate. But when it comes to his legacy and how he impacted the game, his case becomes stronger.

That’s why 710 ESPN Seattle’s Mike Salk thinks the Seahawks’ dramatic loss in Super Bowl XLIX might actually work to Lynch’s advantage with voters.

“Talk about his legacy and how important he is, people all over the country, whether it’s true or not, are going to always remember, ‘Well, if Marshawn would have gotten one more carry, they’re a second Super Bowl away,” Salk said. “And so I think that actually ends up lending credibility. He is so good and so important to his team that when they didn’t give him the ball, they believe the team lost because of it. That’s crazy.”

Lynch, 29, played nine seasons in the NFL, including the last five-plus with the Seahawks. He earned five Pro Bowl nominations, was a first-team All-Pro in 2012 and helped the Seahawks win Super Bowl XLVIII. His 9,112 yards are 36th on the NFL’s all-time rushing list. He twice led the league in rushing touchdowns, finishing with 74 total and 83 scores overall.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Lynch is eighth in NFL history with 937 rushing yards in the postseason. He topped 100 yards rushing in six (of his 11) playoff games, second-most in league history.

Related: Seahawks thank Marshawn Lynch with video tribute

There are 30 running backs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame from the modern era of football.

Brock Huard noted that although his numbers resemble those of hall-of-fame running back Earl Campbell, Lynch’s bid will need to be based on more than just stats. That’s because of running backs like former Seahawk Shaun Alexander – who tops Lynch in rushing yards (9,453) and rushing touchdowns (100) and has an MVP award over his nine seasons – that aren’t even sniffing the Canton cut.

“There is no quantifiable number game in the hall of fame,” Huard said. “You can look at past guys that get in there and you can look at Corey Dillon and Shaun Alexander that are still sitting outside of that with massively better numbers.”

“My gut, my head, my eyes say no,” Huard added. “There was not enough sustained success over the long term. There were four really dominant years, but I think in this day and age, with how competitive this (hall-of-fame) voting is, the number of guys who are still outside of it that put together year after year after year after year of Pro Bowl and All-Pro and amazing numbers who are sitting on the outside looking in, I don’t know how he bypasses those guys in line.”

Salk said his hall-of-fame criteria includes whether or not a player was dominant during his era, which he believes Lynch was. Then there is the personality element and how the player impacted the league.

“Every year when they ask these kids, ‘Who do you want to play running back like?’ ‘Marshawn. Beast Mode. I want to run everybody over like Marshawn did,'” Salk said. “What are we seeing coming out of school right now? More and more big dudes who are physical and nasty and trying to run people over and aren’t just little Chris Johnson-types trying to sneak around the end. You’re seeing completely different styles because of who they are trying to emulate.”

“He was fascinating,” Salk added. “He captured the imagination of the football watching public. People who hate the Seahawks love Marshawn Lynch. There is something to be said for that.”

Players are eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame five years after last playing. Huard said the degree to which the Seahawks succeed without Lynch during that waiting period will also be considered. Maybe Thomas Rawls will make people forget about Lynch’s greatness.

Salk believes Lynch’s highlight reel will help.

“When you start seeing his runs and remember the power that he ran with, you’re just like, ‘Yeah, that guy is freaking awesome,'” he said. “He is as fun to watch as anybody you’ve ever seen, as physically dominant at that position as anybody since Earl Campbell. He is a physical marvel at what he does out there and so fun to watch. So I think watching the tape will help him because I think even if Thomas Rawls is great, he’s not going to look like that. Nobody is. Marshawn is sort of in a league by himself in that regard.”

ESPN’s John Clayton believes Lynch has borderline hall-of-fame credentials and that his place in history will likely be sorted out in the next year or two, but that his legacy as a game changer will work to his advantage. Clayton noted that, much like how running back Terrell Davis and quarterback Kurt Warner might sneak in despite truncated stretches of greatness, Lynch has a chance.

“I would think Marshawn has done a better shot than (Alexander),” Clayton said. “You can’t make it the Hall of Running Backs, you have to make it the Hall of Fame, so you have to be very selective.”

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Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch has a case for the hall of fame, but he’s far from a lock