I won't belabor this. Marshawn Lynch carried a bit early and then not a lot more as the game progressed. I will talk about Lynch's remaining carries in a separate post, but let's first explore the trade in its entirety.
Seattle traded a fourth round pick in 2011 and a conditional pick in 2012, which is either a sixth or a fifth, and which Seattle hopes is a fifth. Better to pay for production than pay a little less for a bust. Ignoring NFL general managers time honored practice of undervaluing future picks, but don't attempt this argument with Tim Ruskell, Seattle traded the equivalent of an early second to mid-third round pick for Lynch. That might not sound like the total bargain some assumed this trade to be, but it's accurate. In the mid to late rounds, the value of picks tends to level off and so trading two picks separated by a round about doubles the cost.
Plainly written, a fourth round pick from 2010, pick 99 to 130, is worth 15 to 12 "points."
A fifth round pick from 2010, pick 132 to 163, is worth 12 to 9 points.
If Lynch sucks and Seattle trades a sixth, a lose-lose, with more loss assigned Seattle, the resulting pick, 170 to 201, doesn't drop in value that sharply. It's worth 9 to 6 points.
The maximum return for Buffalo is 27 points, equal to the 38-40th pick in the draft, the early second round, and the minimum return is 18 points, the 78-83rd pick in the draft, the middle of the third. Two small picks add up.
The next matter to consider is exactly what Seattle traded for. Lynch is signed through 2011. According to Lynch's original contract, a sixth year would only be added if Lynch missed the majority of his first two seasons and he didn't. So Seattle has Lynch for this season and next and then must compete for him on the open market or franchise him. This is a rent to own trade.
Does Seattle want to own Lynch?
That's an interesting question. Lynch looks like a quality rusher, a slasher with power that can take over games against weaker run defenses, and pound the rock 30+ times if absolutely necessary. At the same time, Lynch doesn't look like one of the handful of backs that populate the league at any given time that are true franchise running backs. He isn't overly fast or explosive. He's a powerful rusher, but not someone like a young Marion Barber or Brandon Jacobs that maximizes success by running over defenders. Lynch is more of a generalist. Someone you'd like to add to an already talented offense to complete the run game, but not someone that dramatically improves the offense by himself. Not a Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson.
Which is pretty obvious watching the Bills. In Lynch's three seasons in Buffalo, the Bills have never fielded anything resembling a quality offense, peaking at 22nd ranked in DVOA in 2007. It's easy enough to rag on the Bills, it's been a long few years in Canada for the storied franchise, but one persistent thought dissuaded me from relying on that hackneyed argument.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is probably a better quarterback than Matt Hasselbeck.
He is more athletic, has a stronger arm, the accuracy is comparable, though Hasselbeck flashes a little something special every so often, so does Fitz, and Fitzpatrick is seemingly improving while Hasselbeck is clearly declining. Maybe you're rolling your eyes, and for sake of argument, I'll respect that. So, for the sake of argument, I will float that if Fitzpatrick is not better than Hasselbeck, it's at least debatable.
If it is debatable, and it is, then Marshawn Lynch is not likely to do much more good for Seattle than he did for Buffalo. And if it is debatable, and it is, Lynch is not likely to do much more good for Seattle than he did for Buffalo until Seattle does start a quarterback that is significantly better than Fitzpatrick. If it's not Hasselbeck, and I've given up on that but you're welcome to keep that candle burning, then that quarterback either must be Charlie Whitehurst or somehow miraculously arrive this off-season. We wouldn't expect a rookie to outperform Hasselbeck, not that I would say it's impossible, and franchise quarterbacks are not at hand for any team to sign and start.
So, before I finish up talking about Lynch the player, it's important we square Lynch the trade and Lynch the asset.
Seattle hopes to back into the playoffs by winning the NFC West, and that's entirely possible this season. The West is weak, the Seahawks have possibly the easiest schedule of remaining games, and only the Rams are serious contenders for the crown. Once in the playoffs, anything might be possible, but humiliating blowout defeat is probable. Lynch improves Seattle's chances in this oh so noble endeavor.
Seattle will be partially starting over in 2011, hopefully with a new quarterback, presumably with a younger quarterback that's going to take his licks, and assuming the West isn't ruinously bad again, and that's a fair assumption, Seattle will not likely be a playoff contender. Lynch will not make a meaningful impact on that endeavor.
Then, lest Seattle sign him, he's gone. Which, when you consider the Lynch trade, it's relatively high cost, and Lynch the asset, a good, workhorse style back without much chance of becoming a superstar, doesn't seem like a ton of return on investment. I, like a lot of people, saw the preliminary details of the trade, the talent in return -- especially the periphery elements of that talent, like his draft position, age, forty time, reputation, infamy and fame -- and reflexively thought, hey, nice job and welcome Beast Mode. Under further scrutiny, this trade seems alarmingly "win now" and maybe even more frighteningly, this trade seems to indicate that Carroll and Schneider do not recognize what it will actually take to win.
As a final note, and hopefully this takes some of the piss out of that too dramatic conclusion, at what point does Pete Carroll and Jeremy Bates look at the talent they have assembled on offense and decide Justin Forsett was supposed to be the answer because Julius Jones sucks, Mike Williams was supposed to be the answer because Hasselbeck likes big receivers, John Carlson was supposed to be a weapon, but as many looks at as many positions as they have given him, he hasn't produced; that the line wasn't big enough and then it was huge, and it wasn't giving Hasselbeck time, but then it did, and that condition after condition has been met, and little to nothing has changed about the Seahawks offense?
Just a thought, because if you're anything like me, your excitement for Lynch lasted only as long as you could forget what offense he was joining.