In a season filled with struggles and plenty of disappointment, Marshawn Lynch was one of the bright spots for the Oakland Raiders in 2017.
The Oakland Raiders 2017 season was largely a disaster, stumbling to a 6-10 record after breaking out for 12 wins and their first playoff appearance since 2001 in the year prior.
It seemed like anything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Under first-time offensive coordinator Todd Downing, Oakland’s dynamic offense fell from 6th in total yards in 2016 to 17th in 2017. The offense also dropped from averaging 26.0 points per game to 18.8.
Derek Carr suffered three transverse back fractures, the production of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree tanked, all of the wide receivers dropped too many passes, and the offensive line wasn’t as strong as they were in the previous year.
The defense only showed signs of competence for a short time under John Pagano. Outside of that, they set an NFL record for the longest interception drought in league history, injuries ravaged the secondary and the draft class as a whole, and 99% of the coaching staff was fired as a result of all of the team’s problems.
Simply put, there were very few bright spots for the Silver and Black in 2017. But one of those bright spots was Marshawn Lynch.
After convincing Marshawn to come out of retirement to play for his hometown team, Reggie McKenzie inked the 31-year old back to a two-year, $9 million dollar deal.
Lynch looked fresh in his regular season debut with the Raiders, posting 76 yards on 18 carries against the Titans — good for an average of 4.2 yards per carry. His most impressive run of the game came late in the fourth quarter, when he used the Madden “truck stick” to run over all-pro defensive tackle Jurrell Casey.
— Vincent Carlos 🦍🏦 (@vincentcarlos32) February 9, 2018
Marshawn’s workload dwindled for four or so weeks, especially in the second half of games, which seemed to be the plan to keep him fresh for the duration of the season. But things would pick up for the former all-pro.
From about Week 6 and onward, Marshawn was quite impressive. He was making players miss in the open field, he was picking up tough yards after contact, and all in all, he looked like a running back with plenty left in the tank.
— Fantasy Gridiron (@F_GRIDIRON1) November 6, 2017
Lynch finished with a 4.0 yards per carry average or better 8 times in the final 10 games of the year. So as the season went on, Marshawn seemed like he was still getting better.
Against the Giants in Week 13, he carried the ball 17 times for 101 yards (5.9 YPC) and a touchdown. In the next game against the Chiefs, he had 7 carries for 61 yards and a touchdown (8.7 YPC) prior to his ejection. And he ended the season with yardage totals of 95 and 101, with other quality games in between.
Retweeted Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman):
— James Penney (@Globalnewscom1) December 3, 2017
And remember, the run blocking wasn’t great for much of the season, and the air attack never got going. For this reason, Marshawn faced more eight-man fronts than any other running back in the NFL.
Obviously defenses noticed a trend when Marshawn Lynch was in the game… https://t.co/6bHENcsLr7
— Raiders Beat (@RaidersBeat) February 1, 2018
For the season, Marshawn had 207 carries, 891 yards (4.3 YPC) and 7 TDs. He caught the ball 20 times for 151 yards. And most importantly, he only had 1 lost fumble all season — Week 16 against the Eagles.
With Jon Gruden now at the helm, there are questions about Marshawn’s future in Oakland. His 2018 cap hit will be $5,953,125, with $0 dead money if released. He’ll be 32 years old in April, and that’s a decent chunk of change he is on the books for.
Plus, Gruden has typically preferred his feature backs to be able to catch the ball effectively out of the backfield – which is not a strong suit for Marshawn.
There is also some concern, mostly from a certain corner of Raider Nation, that his attitude might negatively affect the team. But by all credible accounts, Lynch is loved by his teammates. And even after times Lynch’s name came up in the media, such as after his protest during the National Anthem or about his role in the scuffle during the Chiefs game, his teammates voiced their support of him.
There has also been word that Lynch blew off a meeting with Gruden and that he could not be reached by his teammates or coaching staff. But Michael Gehlken and Vic Tafur as well as Marshawn’s agent have refuted these reports. Gehlken even took things one step further, stating that Lynch and Gruden have already met multiple times this offseason.
Marshawn Lynch, Jon Gruden have met at Raiders headquarters on multiple occasions since latter’s hiring, per source familiar with situation. Been reported Lynch has blown off Gruden. Lynch’s agent Doug Hendrickson refuted notion Thursday on Twitter.
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) February 9, 2018
Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders have already cut ties with David Amerson, and if the team has met with Lynch multiple times already, they surely have had opportunities to sever ties with him by now. That doesn’t mean Lynch is out of the woods, but it sure does feel like it helps his chances of sticking around.
Also, neither Jalen Richard nor DeAndre Washington seem poised to take on a larger role. And furthermore, bringing Marshawn back would not rule out the team investing further into the position. McKenzie could still add a running back — even early in the draft or via free agency – and solidify the position while simultaneously adding a long-term solution. And the team can still keep Lynch around in a part-time, goal-line heavy role.
So in a season that was filled with poor performances across the board, and with a roster in which plenty of positions need to be overhauled, why make a change at a spot that had one of the few bright spots? The Raiders need to make changes, but getting rid of Marshawn isn’t one of them.