Marshawn Lynch had a successful career in Buffalo before his off-the-field issues.
Flashback to the 2007 NFL Draft. With the 12th overall selection, the Buffalo Bills chose a player that drove a medical cart around the field after a win in 2006.
His name: Marshawn Lynch. Beast Mode’s time in Orchard Park was short-lived and confusing.
Buffalo eventually traded away the former first-round selection to Seattle for a 2011 fourth-round pick and a 2012 conditional pick. Many people say that the Bills gave up on Lynch. Here is why the Buffalo Bills won the fiasco.
Hit and Run in Buffalo
Lynch had a stellar rookie season in 2007. Starting in thirteen games, Lynch recorded 1,115 yards and seven touchdowns, according to Pro Football Reference.
His rookie season was the best stat line for a Bills running back since Willis McGahee recorded 1,247 yards and five touchdowns in 2005.
But when Lynch began his sophomore season in 2008, things got off to a rocky start.
On June 1st, 2008, Lynch was investigated after a vehicle registered in his name struck and injured a female pedestrian. It was not clear at the time that Lynch was the driver, who left the scene.
One week later, Erie County DA, Eric Clark, said that they would continue with the investigation with the assumption that Lynch was the driver. Lynch finally admitted fault on June 27th and received a $100 fine and lost his license for a year. The Buffalo Police Department classified it as a bump-and-run.
The entire month of June must have been a fun time for the Buffalo Bills PR team. Even though they never released an official statement, reporters hounded their emails and phone lines.
They must have told head coach Dick Jauron that Lynch was absent because of a personal matter, not because he hit someone in his 2008 Porsche Cayenne.
But many called the matter a bump in the road for Lynch. Shaking off the incident, Lynch recorded 1,036 yards and eight touchdowns to record his first Pro Bowl appearance. But things went downhill after that.
Gun Charges Outside of Buffalo
When Buffalo drafted Lynch in 2007, his mother Delisa did not want reporters to stereotype her son.
“They see the gold teeth and the dreads, and they automatically think here comes a thug or a bad guy and … and he is really not,” she said. But that did not stop Lynch from making a fool of himself once again.
One week after playing in the Pro Bowl, Lynch faced felony charges for possession of a concealed firearm in Culver City, California.
According to Tim Graham of the Associated Press, the Culver City Police officers spotted Lynch and two other men in a 2006 Mercedes Benz. After searching the vehicle, police found a loaded firearm which belonged to Lynch.
Arrested and booked by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, Lynch was released on $35,000 bond.
At this point, it makes me wonder why Buffalo continued to deal with Lynch’s antics. Once again, he offered no comment to the media and trashed the Buffalo Bills namesake.
Lynch plead guilty to three misdemeanors, reaching a plea deal of 80 hours of community service and three years probation.
Great Marshawn, you got off scot-free from the law, but the NFL still got you.
NFL Lowers the Hammer
With the NFL having no choice, the league suspended Lynch for the first three games of the 2009 season for violating the personal conduct policy.
Lynch lost his appeal, sitting out those first three games. He apologized to the Bills organization and fans.
“I am embarrassed by my recent arrest and conviction,” Lynch said. “I deeply regret that I placed myself in this situation.”
Listen, Marshawn, I could care less about your apology. You were the face of the franchise at this point and then blew it all up in just two years. I honestly do not get where your head was at when you made these choices.
All you cared about was yourself and how you performed on the field. With the Bills going 1-2 in those three games, the team could have defeated New England on opening day (25-24 loss) if it were not for your antics off the field.
Emergence of Fred Jackson in Buffalo
With Marshawn Lynch dealing with his off-the-field issues, a new running back began to make waves for the Buffalo Bills offense.
Fred Jackson was a quiet player who did not receive any division one football offers. He was too small and slow for a running back. But the Texas native gained his chance at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Jackson lit up the stat sheet at Coe College, rushing for 2,702 yards and 29 touchdowns. He was also a four-time All-American.
Even these accolades did not impress anyone at the NFL level. Teams such as the Broncos, Bears, and Packers deemed Jackson still too small to play in the league.
After making stops in the indoor football league and NFL Europa, then General Manager Marv Levy invited Jackson to Bills training camp in 2007.
Jackson made the team and recorded 871 yards in two seasons for the Bills. Going into the 2009 season, Jackson was the second running back on the depth chart behind Lynch.
Jackson Officially Takes Over Backfield
With Lynch suspended for the first three games of the season, Jackson took the opportunity and ran. In the three games, Jackson recorded 425 yards of total offense. One hundred sixty-three of those yards were on the ground against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week two.
Once Lynch came back from his suspension, the backfield still warranted a heavy dose of Jackson. Throughout the season, Lynch started only six games compared to eight for Jackson.
Jackson had 1,062 yards on the ground compared to 450 yards for Lynch, according to Pro Football Reference.
Lynch should have seen the writing on the wall: Buffalo has given up on him. Fans shifted from cheering for Lynch to cheering on the underdog in Fred Jackson.
Also, Fred Jackson became an adopted member of the Buffalo community. He still lives in the Buffalo area and hosts youth football camps each year. And he always comes to a couple of Bills games each year as a fan.
Talking with ESPN in 2015, Marshawn gave up on the Bills. “It just wasn’t working out. And then with not playing and getting carries, I mean it probably was just time for a new scene.”
Marshawn, if you care, a division III running back took your carries, you should have jumped right into the fold and fought back. And you said the Bills gave up on you? Give me a break.
The running back position is one of the most replaceable roles in the NFL. Do the names Doug Martin and Alfred Morris ring a bell? They had a strong start to their career before flaming out.
Media Antics Were Not in Buffalo
In Buffalo, Marshawn Lynch was relatively open with the media.
For example, Lynch was open in what was talked about in the meeting, including expecting a suspension.
“I will find out about that in 10 days, but from the situations that have happened with me before, I honestly see a suspension, but that comes with the consequences.”
Lynch’s tone sounds like he is taking responsibility for his mistakes.
But Bruce Hall, one of Lynch’s former teammates believed the media did him wrong. Hall’s comments were published in an article written by Matthew Fairburn of the Athletic.
“But here they are painting this picture of he is a troublemaker, but do not understand or only have snippets of stories and do not have the full picture.”
I get that Hall is sticking up for his former teammate. But Lynch’s crimes are 100 percent on him. The media is just reporting what happened.
Fresh Start for Buffalo, Lynch, and Seattle
Once it was inevitable that Lynch was being traded, the transaction was a fresh start for both sides.
Once Chan Gailey took the reins of a Bills offense in 2010, a culture shift happened. Gailey wanted players who were responsible for their off-the-field actions, something that Lynch struggled to grasp under former head coach Dick Jauron.
For the Seahawks, they were in a shift as Pete Carroll took over a Seattle team that was 5-11 in 2009.
Carroll knew that Lynch could fix the Seahawks 26th-ranked rushing attack from 2009 because of his college coaching experience.
Carroll was the head coach at USC when Lynch attended Cal. Noticing his bulldozing rushing ability was something many NFL teams struggled to stop, Lynch was on his way to Seattle to play for Carroll.
A lot of people remember Lynch’s bruising run in the 2010 NFC Wild Card game. When I saw it live, I screamed at the top of my lungs because Lynch could have done that in Orchard Park if the Bills kept him around.
But Lynch still had his share of issues once he hit the west coast.
Lynch was fined $100,000 for not talking to the media in two separate incidents in 2014. Also, his “I am here so I won’t get fined” mantra during Super Bowl XLIX media day warranted a $75,000 fine.
But it was not just his interactions with the media that worsened in Seattle. Lynch was arrested for DUI in 2012 after blowing a .08 and weaving in and out of lanes on Interstate 880 in Oakland. Once again, Lynch only had to pay a $1,033 fine and attend six driver’s safety classes.
These disasters just continued to pile up for Lynch. One thing is for sure, I am glad he made those mistakes in Seattle instead of Buffalo.
Congratulations are in Order
You cannot forget the amount of highlights that Marshawn Lynch had in three years for the Bills. Personally, I was happy to see him win a Super Bowl with the Seahawks.
Based off his rushing ability alone, he should be a candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But with players such as Bo Jackson and Ottis Anderson not getting the call, it may be tough for him to get in.
Plus Marshawn Lynch should get a lifetime contract with Skittles, no question.
Do you believe that Marshawn Lynch would have excelled if the Bills kept him around? Let me know in the comments or Twitter, @BenBlakely18.