BY MICHAEL KREFTING
Thank you, Marshawn Lynch.
Without your skills, effort and determination the Seahawks would not have reached the Super Bowl. Conversely, it’s the ultimate team game and you are lucky to be a part of such a great squad and organization. Without them you’d be Ringless in Buffalo.
So now what? You are a multi-millionaire, have rushed for a touchdown in the Super Bowl and own a ring to prove it. It’s hard work being The Beast, and as training camp begins you have a big decision to make as you decide whether to end your hold-out for more money. Before you decide, I ask you to look beyond the dollars and the bottom line and look at the bigger picture.
As an old-timer who was at the Kingdome for the first Seahawk game, let me offer some multi-generational perspective.
From the time I broke my collar bone playing football in the early 1950s there have been millions of kids running the ball on playgrounds. Hundreds of thousands have carried the football on varsities in high school and tens of thousands in college. Of the thousands who have rushed in the NFL, those who have done so in the Super Bowl drops to the hundreds. The number of backs who have run for a TD in the big game is an even smaller number. Since 1950 only 51 NFL players have rushed for more than your 7,389 yards from scrimmage. In this time, 29 running backs have been enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I’ve watched all but three of them play.
While you already have more rushing yards than a dozen on that list, if your career ended today you would most certainly fall short of enshrinement. However, your career is still a work in progress, and the sky remains the limit. Right now you could probably care less about the ultimate NFL honor, but someday you will. It is possible. So I ask you to consider: What would it take to stand beside NFL’s greatest of all time?
The game changed at the dawn of the Lombardi era, and comparisons to the 20 enshrined since is most relevant. The inductees have contributed to their teams in different ways. More games and fewer backs (the 49ers had three Hall of Famers in their backfield at the same time) have inflated the yardage and touchdowns.
Unlike other sports, the numbers only tell part of the selection story, but they are a good place to start. You already have more rushing yards, total yards from scrimmage and TDs than Hall of Famers Gale Sayers, Floyd Little and Paul Hornung. However, Sayers and Little also returned kicks, and Hornung was a kicker. Likewise you have more rushing yards than Leroy Kelly, but his stats are buoyed with kick returns. You have more total yards from scrimmage than Larry Csonka, but he was instrumental on back-to-back championships and the only undefeated season in the Super Bowl era.
To clear this hurdle it appears that you would need to reach 10,000 rushing yards and 12,000 total yards from scrimmage. At your historical rate, this would occur in two seasons. With a healthy Percy Harvin and more touches by your backups, your carries should be down. However, with more offensive diversity and a healthier line, your average could go up. Many say that at this career point the average back sees a decline in productivity, but you are not average.
The contribution of a running back to his team in winning championships is important. For your three full seasons with the Seahawks, you have been asked to batter, bloody and bully defenses like no other NFL back. One short-sighted detractor said that while you were the key to the Seahawks’ playoff run, you didn’t do much in the Super Bowl.
What he failed to consider was that in the previous playoff games you rushed for 140 and 109 yards and scored against the Saints and 49ers. With two weeks to prepare, as the defense lined up, you could almost hear the Broncos chant in unison, “Stop da Beast, stop da Beast! We will win de game if we stop da Beast.” So Russell Wilson fakes to you, Percy streaks around the end and I swear I hear in unison, “What the hell was that?”
Another detractor said that Adrian Peterson is the greatest runner off all-time and you pale by comparison. My take is that Peterson had a couple of monster years and someday will be in the HOF. However, your styles and roles are different, and the Hall has room for both. By comparison, in your three full Seahawk years you have 4,775 yards from scrimmage to Peterson’s 4,860, and 39 touchdowns to his 37. More important, the Hawks playoff record is 4-1 compared to 0-1 for the Vikings.
One obstacle is your refusal to play the public-relations game. Since sportswriters make the Hall of Fame decisions (and other awards), some surely resent your lack of sound bites. On the other hand some of us are tired of phony interviews where the only point seems intended to promote a player’s “Brand”.
Considering your punishing style, you would expect ball security to be an issue. In fact, only Hall of Famers Curtis Martin and Larry Csonka lost the ball less often than you. Tony Dorsett, Franco Harris, Gale Sayers and O.J. Simpson all fumbled more than twice as often as you.
Another thing you have in your favor is your iconic play. The Beast Quake is one of the few plays so dramatic as to have its own name. “The Catch” from Joe Montana to Dwight Clark was memorable mainly as a dramatic game winner. The “Immaculate Reception” was a lucky bounce and the “Fail Mary” was immortalized due to football politics. Your signature play defined Beast Mode and had an entire resume of your skills featuring the power of a charging bull, the agility of a cat, great vision, instincts and unmatched determination. From start to finish has there ever been a more dramatic run?
Besides two more productive years there are other future accomplishments that would help your case. Five of seven running backs on back-to-back championship teams have been enshrined. Better yet would be to go where no other back has gone. That undefeated season certainly helped Larry Csonka’s case. A 19 win season or back to back-to-back Super Bowl wins would help punch your ticket.
But you and the Seahawks won’t be able to accomplish any of your goals without you. That’s why I’m urging you to take a step back, remove the emotion that goes along with your decision to hold out for more money, and consider the bigger picture.
Good luck to you and the Seahawks in the upcoming seasons. You and your team have come a long way and accomplished a great feat. But none of the players appears satisfied. You more than most are closer to greater things than you might have ever imagined. If you can stay on the path you started three years ago just a little longer, someday I could see you in Canton.
Michael Krefting, 68, is retired and living in Las Vegas. He graduated from Wilson High School in Tacoma and Central Washington University and goes back with Seattle sports He went to the 1960 Rose Bowl with the Huskies, was there when the Fat Lady sang in 1978 and was a season-ticket holder when the 1979 Sonics won the NBA Finals.
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