God love Marshawn Lynch, for all he is, and all he isn’t.
All he is, is an Oakland icon. Not a Raider icon, or a Cal icon, or a Seahawks icon. An Oakland icon, because he did the most Oaklandish things Thursday night, and became a national debate point on Friday – while seemingly giving nary a toss about either.
He ran onto the field from the sideline to intervene in a potential fight in the Chiefs-Raiders piefight at the Coliseum. He grabbed an official and got ejected. He left the locker room, presumably to go home while the game was still going on, only to turn up in the stands to watch the end, go back to the locker room to celebrate with his teammates, and then BART home with Kansas City’s Marcus Peters, one of Lynch’s truest homies, who instigated the near to-do by hitting Oakland quarterback Derek Carr late.
Any of these things would have made Football America turn purple. All of them became a period piece, and the next debating bone upon which Football America will chew.
Namely, whether Lynch is a problem for the team that sought him out. They look to Jack Del Rio to teach the man some decorum esprit de corps, or fly in the face of owner Mark Davis and show him the door.
Likely, neither will happen. Del Rio may grind his teeth about Lynch, and he occasionally does, but there is no evidence other than the bleating of the drool-based punditocracy, that Lynch impedes progress. He has been singled out as a reason the Raider offense hasn’t functioned very well this year, and their late burst Thursday night will fuel that correlation-causation fire.
But the offense has sputtered on its own, and in varied ways. It has been conservative, predictable and even timid, and that is not Lynch’s doing. Playmaker (or playbreaker) Amari Cooper was targeted 18 times in the first two games, 21 times in weeks 3 through 6, and 19 times Thursday night, as the Raiders tried to decide whether he was sufficiently trustworthy.
Frankly, the oh-the-hell-with-it ethos that made them such a tough out last year had disappeared, and that isn’t a Lynch construct either.
But Thursday night, they reverted to their 2016 ways. Del Rio, Carr and offensive coordinator Todd Downing decided they had no choice but to take Cooper as he is, and made him the focus in 25 percent of their plays and more than a third of their passes.
But that’s the football stuff. The debate turns are going to be about Lynch, and whether he is bad for the proper working order of the Raiders. The evidence suggests that he isn’t, and that he isn’t really what will define this team anyway.
What will define it, it seems increasingly clear, is how willing it is to do what feels good rather than what is metrically approved. The Raiders cast themselves last year as a 53-man attitude, and showed Thursday night that the attitude plan still works, hand in glove with precision and work habits and all the other ethics that induce people to play a madman’s game.
How much you choose to credit (or blame) Marshawn Lynch for that attitude is up to you. But if it helps, he won’t be listening. Unless maybe you bump into him on BART.