(This is completely separate from the idea that the Seahawks would have won Super Bowl XLIX if they had run Lynch one last time.)
The Hawks have been partly guilty themselves of spreading the nasty rumor, with Pete Carroll and John Schneider talking him up as a core player. They consider him such a key piece that they have offered the soon-to-be 29-year-old a pay raise and extension.
There is nothing wrong with that — they can fit it under the cap nicely and not lose much even if he does walk away after 2015 — but the fact is the Hawks don’t really need Lynch.
Carroll and Schneider really wanted Lynch in 2010. They finally got him, and he did so many good things (from the Beast Quake to Super Bowl XLIX) that fans fell in love with him and cannot imagine these Seahawks without him. But there’s no necessity there. Just desire.
He has put up good numbers for Seattle over the past four seasons — 5,357 rushing yards and 56 total touchdowns — but his value really has been less about his stats than about his mystique.
Teammates, coaches, fans and even opponents respect Beast Mode — the violent way he runs the ball, the relentless way he plays the game. The Hawks call him the heartbeat of the team.
Basically, everyone hearts Lynch.
That all makes for a great love story, but Valentine’s Day is over, and this is football. Anyone who thinks the Hawks couldn’t win a Super Bowl without Lynch is just a hopeless romantic.
Consider this: Lynch has been with the team since 2010, but Seattle did not make the Super Bowl until Russell Wilson came along and led them there — with the help of the league’s best defense and, of course, Lynch — in 2013.
Consider also: Lynch ran for 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2011, and the Hawks went 7-9. He ran for 1,257 yards and 12 scores in 2013, and the Hawks went 13-3 and won the Super Bowl.
Lynch’s stats were nearly identical, so what was the difference? A defense that climbed from No. 9 overall/No. 7 in scoring in 2011 to No. 1 in both in 2013.
Oh, and a quarterback.
The Hawks could not have reached the Super Bowl in consecutive years without Wilson (or a QB of his caliber). If not for the defense’s meltdown in Atlanta to end the 2012 playoffs, Wilson probably would now be the only quarterback to lead his team to the Super Bowl in each of his first three years.
So, anyone saying the Hawks MUST HAVE LYNCH is simply a sentimentalist.
The argument is being made by some that Lynch is more important to the team than the team is to him, that the Seahawks need to give him whatever he wants to come back and play another year or two. Basically, people think the franchise needs to submit to his whim.
That is the kind of thinking that kills football teams. In basketball, one guy can make all the difference — because it’s an individual game played in a team environment. So is baseball. But football is the quintessential team sport; one player does not constitute a team.
Of course, it’s easy to see why so many people think Lynch is the key to this team, considering the way the Super Bowl ended. But it’s a false perception.
The Seahawks would run the ball well no matter who was carrying it because they have Wilson and Tom “MacGyver” Cable, who has jury-rigged top-10 running attacks in seven of his nine NFL seasons with three teams.
One thing that is true, though: Whether Lynch stays or goes, the offense must improve around Wilson.
Just imagine how much better the unit would be if the Hawks put together a reliable offensive line and added a talented starter who took the pressure off role players Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse. These are things they need to do anyway for the future health of the franchise.
A lot of people think the Hawks need to know Lynch’s decision ASAP so they can finalize with their offseason plans — do they need a running back or not? Sure, it would be nice to know what Lynch is thinking, but odds are he will either show up or not in July and that’s how the Seahawks will know what he is doing.
The Hawks can’t wait for him. And they don’t need to. (Sure, it would be nice to know whether they will have his $7 million to spend elsewhere, but if he retires they can use it on extensions for 2016 free agents and/or roll it over into 2016.)
Whether they hear from Lynch or not before April 30, they need to draft a running back. Even if Lynch returns on an extension, he probably would not play more than two more seasons. Backup Robert Turbin is a free agent after next season, and Christine Michael has been buried on the depth chart behind Lynch and Turbin, so no one knows what he really can do.
Georgia’s Todd Gurley has been compared to Lynch and would be a great successor once his ACL heals. The Seahawks surely will be going over his medical records closely this week at the Combine.
If not Gurley, the Hawks should find a back somewhere in this draft, which is very deep at the position.
Some have suggested DeMarco Murray could be a replacement for Lynch, but why would the Seahawks want a back who had never stayed healthy until his fourth season in the league — and will never duplicate what he did in 2014? With such a good draft class and solid backups in Turbin and Michael, why would the Seahawks add any back in free agency?
Just draft a guy. And if Lynch shows up for training camp, the Hawks will have to decide whether to keep four or try to trade Turbin or Michael — a good problem to have.
Even if he doesn’t show up, the Hawks will be a Super Bowl contender. This year, next year and the year after — if not longer.
They will simply replace Lynch. You should know the motto by now: Next man up.
If/when Lynch is gone, many fans will miss his Skittles, his silent war with the NFL and the media, and his other occasionally oddball and ballsy behavior. Everyone — fans, coaches, teammates — will miss his heart and unparalleled effort.
But every franchise moves on from players at some point, and — contrary to the bleeding hearts who don’t understand football — the Seahawks will remain a Super Bowl contender even when Lynch is gone.