Sometime during the next few months, the Seahawks are going to part ways with Marshawn Lynch. Economics related to the team’s salary cap make his departure inevitable, but as is always the case with Lynch, there will be more to the story.
It’s obvious that on those rare occasions he and Pete Carroll are in the same building, they are not on the same page. When a player’s agent insists his client suffered a post-surgical setback last Friday, and the player’s coach says no such thing occurred last Friday, it pretty much defines the term “failure to communicate.”
Before deciding he wasn’t good to go for the wild card game, Lynch had what appeared to be the unwavering support of his teammates. But after they fought through a scrum that was less a football game than a three-hour episode of “Survivor” — a scrum he presumably watched 2,000 miles away, at room temperature — it would be naive to assume Lynch remains a unanimously respected presence in the locker room.
So now what?
A case can be made for cutting ties with Lynch like, oh, 20 minutes from now. He’s got no long-range future in Seattle, and the uncertainty of his immediate future complicates Carroll’s practice-week regimen. If Christine Michael is going to start Sunday at Carolina, he requires repetitions with the starting offense — repetitions the running back didn’t get last week.
Showing Lynch the door would represent a statement by Carroll: No player, regardless of his accomplishments, merits honored-guest status at the team hotel.
Such a statement would be bold and strong. It also would be laughably hypocritical, because when Lynch is in the picture — and when is he not? — Carroll bends over backwards with the flexibility of a 20-year old acrobat performing for the New Shanghai Circus.
During his healing from sports hernia surgery, Lynch was given the freedom to train where he wanted, when he wanted and how he wanted. Allowing him to relocate to the Bay Area for the duration of his recovery was steeped in some common sense: He knows his body better than anybody around here does.
That Lynch put more trust in his personal Bay Area trainers than in his team trainers, setting a potentially troublesome precedent? Whatever. Carroll would deal with tomorrow when tomorrow gets here. All that mattered was Lynch approximating maybe 80 percent of Beast Mode upon his return.
Enigmatic superstars call for pragmatic coaches to dwell on a way to maximize the athlete’s talent while tuning out the noise. Carroll has done that with Lynch, whose ability to bounce off linebackers has helped produce consecutive NFC championships for the Seahawks.
I am reminded of the many headaches Manny Ramirez caused the Boston Red Sox. Beast Mode is nothing if not quirky, but compared to his retired (sort of, maybe, I think) baseball counterpart, Lynch is a poised diplomat qualified to serve as Secretary of State.
Ramirez once spiked a teammate’s drink with Viagra. During a pitching change at Fenway Park, he disappeared from left field to spend some quiet time inside the Green Monster. Angered that the team’s 64-year traveling secretary hadn’t been able to set him up with 16 field-level tickets for a game in Houston, he put the guy down with a shove.
The incidents were explained as “Manny being Manny,” which meant: “We’ve got an all-time great hitter on our team, and we’ll endure his obnoxious eccentricities as long as he helps us win.”
Ramirez helped the Red Sox win the 2004 World Series (he was named Series MVP) and another championship in 2007. But midway through 2008, Boston’s front office had become so tired of his distracting antics — the dugout fights, the indifferent jogs to first base on infield grounders, calling in sick while he was healthy enough to occupy a bar stool — the Red Sox traded him to the Dodgers.
Boston’s management tolerated Ramirez until it determined his production wasn’t worth the hassle. But because of the toleration, the Red Sox won two World Series’ in four years, after going 86 years without winning one.
Lynch may or may not have something left in his tank. And though the saga related to his abdominal injury and unconventional recovery is frustrating, there’s a chance he can break a tackle for a key first down against the Panthers.
There’s a chance, too, he can score a touchdown on a day points will be precious.
Best way for Carroll to deal with Beast Mode? Tolerate him. He could play a key role in the Seahawks’ returning to the White House for a celebration Lynch will make it his mission to miss because, hey, it’s all about Marshawn, boss.
Eight of 32 NFL teams still are in the hunt for Super Bowl 50, and the Hawks are among the eight. If Lynch regains his appetite for contact, he should be fed the ball.
Survive and advance is the theme, right? The debate of whether or not Lynch let his team down by begging off the Minnesota trip can be saved for a rainy day after the playoffs.
There will be one or two of them, I suspect.
John McGrath: firstname.lastname@example.org