This season, the NFL will be a little less colorful, and a lot less entertaining. The league’s resident beast, Marshawn Lynch, finally hung up the cleats earlier this off-season, and a great career comes to an end. Now that it’s all said and done, is one of the most beloved players in recent memory a lock for Canton, Ohio?
Is Marshawn Lynch a Hall of Famer?
There’s no denying that Marshawn Lynch left his stamp on the game of professional football. From the original Beast Quake vs. the New Orleans Saints, to Beast Quake 2.0 a few years later. The Seahawks over the early 10’s were a physical mean group, and nobody, not Kam Chancellor, not Richard Sherman, not Earl Thomas, embodied that better than the Beast.
If you don’t believe me, here are a few of my favorite moments of what could only be described as Beast Mode.
Sadly, great players slip through the cracks because they just didn’t remain relevant. They dominated on the field, but after they left football, they faded from the league’s zeitgeist. Don’t believe me? If I ask you who the best wide receiver in Houston Texans history is, you’d probably say DeAndre Hopkins, right? It would take you a second to remember the 12 years of absolute dominance the mild-mannered Andre Johnson said during the darker days of the young franchise’s history.
For Marshawn, I don’t think this will be a problem. Marshawn’s personality is almost bigger than his legacy on the field. Quotes like “I’m just here so I won’t get fined” and “I’m just bout that action, boss” are recited years after the beast from Buffalo said them, because people just love them some Marshawn.
What’s really interesting is that I don’t think a lot of people know about Marshawn’s charitable work outside of football. When he’s not sassing the media or running through a mother (trucker)’s face, he’s done an incredible amount of work for his community in Oakland. Lynch has done more for the city of Oakland than just about any other athlete, and has never sought praise for it. In fact, he only came out of retirement to play for the Raiders so he could do more for his city.
Statistics will be the biggest roadblock on Beast’s road to Canton. Because while he had a very good career, it wasn’t elite. He never led the NFL in rushing, and assuming he stays retired, he’ll finish 29th in rushing yards (10,379) behind a few other greats, like Jamal Lewis, Fred Taylor, and Eddie George, that don’t have a place in Canton.
However, he is 16th in rushing touchdowns (84), and only Priest Holmes and Adrian Peterson have more touchdowns without being inducted. There are at least as thirteen tailbacks with fewer touchdowns that have been enshrined in the Hall.
Ultimately, this is where it gets a little funny. After all, if stats are enough to keep a tailback out of Canton, then explain Gale Sayers or Terrell Davis. Impactful, incredible players, but not owners of impressive statistics. The Hall of Fame is hard to predict, but there are two backs in similar situations to Lynch.
Eddie George has very similar numbers to Lynch. George retired with 10,441 yards and 68 touchdowns, coming one yard shy of being a Super Bowl Champion (Kevin Dyson’s fault, not George’s) while Lynch retired with 10,379 yards, 84 touchdowns, and was one yard shy of being a two-time Super Bowl Champion (Darrel Bevell’s fault, not Lynch’s.)
George retired in 2004, but here in 2019, he’s not a Hall of Famer. Critics point to his low ypc (only 3.6 yards per carry), the fact that he never won a championship, and because, frankly, he was never the best tailback in football. In nine years, he never once led the NFL in rushing yards or touchdowns.
But Lynch averaged 4.3 yards per carry, led the league in touchdowns twice, and was a Super Bowl Champion. So at least on paper, Lynch seems like a more legitimate candidate for Canton than George.
Edgerrin James, most notably of the Indianapolis Colts, had a much better career than George. He rushed for 12,246 yards and 80 touchdowns on the ground, adding 3,364 yards and 11 touchdowns through the air. James led the NFL in rushing twice (1999 and 2000), and was the NFL’s leader in yards from scrimmage once (2000). He never won a championship, but he was a crucial part of several competitive teams and had the unenviable task of filling Marshall Faulk’s shoes.
Yet, three times Edgerrin James has been up for the Hall, and three times he’s had the door slammed in his face. Why is that? Well, there are a couple of reasons, neither of which are his fault. Firstly, he played with Peyton Manning. There’s a reason Roger Craig isn’t in the Hall, ya know. Secondly, just like George, he was never the best back in the league.
When he came into the league, the likes of Emmitt Smith and Marshall Faulk were still stomping around. And as they retired, he was overshadowed by the likes of Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Jamal Lewis. James will likely get in eventually, but his wait may last a few years longer still.
Bad News Beast
Sadly, Marshawn had a very similar problem to LT and George. As great as he was, as punishing as his runs were, and as much fun as he was to watch, he was never the best running back in the NFL. It could be argued he wasn’t even the best running back in his draft class, as he was taken five spots after Minnesota took Adrian Peterson out of Oklahoma.
He watched L.T.’s career fizzle out, the rise and fall of CJ2K, Chris Johnson, Faulk’s replacement in Steven Jackson, undrafted dynamo, Arian Foster, Frank Gore’s never-ending career, and the new breed of Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, and Saquon Barkley take turns in the spotlight.
Marshawn was always a fantasy football steal because he was guaranteed in the redzone, but he was never considered the best back in football. And ultimately, the Hall of Fame should be reserved for those who were the best of the best of the best.
Though he was only a Raider for a year and a half, I loved Beast’s time in Oakland. I own two Raiders jerseys, and Beast’s is the only one I bought for myself (every Raiders fan got a Darren McFadden jersey for Christmas once). I think Tom Flores should be in the Hall of Fame. I think Cliff Branch should be in the Hall of Fame. I even think Daryl Lamonica should be in the Hall of Fame.
But as much as I loved Beast, I just don’t think he’s necessarily a Hall of Famer. His numbers are good, not great, he was never the best in the league, and while he’ll be remembered fondly by fans of professional football forever, I don’t think he’ll ever find his way to Canton. I really hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.
But man, just imagine that Hall of Fame speech.