Sure seems like a distant memory today. Marshawn Lynch was the happy, go-lucky rookie two years ago. Stuffing his Bills draft cap with nothing but dreadlocks and a smile, Lynch was anointed as the new face of the franchise. After all, he was the anti-thesis of those before him. Happy to be in Buffalo, unlike Willis McGahee. And clean off the field, unlike Travis Henry.
And all it took was two offseasons for Lynch to stain his reputation.Last season, he hit a person with his SUV on Chippewa Street and sped away – not admitting to the crime until one month after the collision. This year, he was arrested for illegally possessing a firearm. In-between is a gray area of mystery that occasionally gets caught, like Lynch getting tossed out of bars twice for smuggling in liquor.
This isn't Amsterdam. There are rules here. Breaking them shapes your character. Breaking them repeatedly demands intervention. No, I'm not talking about the Culver City District Attorney or Roger Goodell – both of whom should hammer the gavel hard on Lynch. The Bills themselves need to make a statement. Last season, the team hit the snooze button on Lynch's hit-and-run. By the time Buffalo's brass woke up, they pretended the alarm never went off. Everybody moved on. Everybody forgot the wreckage behind.
Such liberalness is unacceptable this time around. Russ Brandon and co. must flex their muscles and punish Lynch themselves.
Marshawn Lynch could face a serious suspension.
The popular suspension speculation sweeping the airwaves right now is four games. Rather than cross their fingers, bite their lip and hope the league is soft on Lynch, the Bills should be swift and authoritative. While this may be difficult without a true general manager writing the checks, when the charges are officially levied by the end of next week Bills administrators should punish the running back immediately. A definitive, buck-stops-here suspension that goes beyond four games is essential.
While his intent may not have been malicious, Lynch put himself above the team. And now, Fred Jackson deserves to be the unquestioned No. 1 back.
Lynch is a cancer off the field and only above-average on it. Eliminate three games from his '08 season and Lynch averaged a measly 43 yards per game. That's treading Jonathan Linton territory. Yes, Mr. (self-proclaimed) Beast Mode is tough at the point of contact. He chops his legs like propellers in piles. But he's not fluid. He doesn't meander into open field naturally. Every movement is a challenge.
Rather than slip into a Cincinnati Bengals culture, the Bills can rectify an awful situation with renewed accountability. Rewarding the (better) back that's been nipping at Lynch's heels for two years spins the situation in a positive direction. It signals re-direction from Lynch's hooliganism. Buffalo needs to do something drastic after finishing 25th on offense last year. The offense has been in playmaker depression since Kevin Gilbride's video-game season in 2002. Coordinators and quarterbacks come and go like window shoppers here. Last year, the offense scored three points or less in three of its last five games – a loud cry for help.
Fred Jackson deserves to be re-signed and promoted in light of Lynch's arrest.
In all likelihood, free agency won't answer this cry. The big guns at receiver, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Antonio Bryant, are long shots at best. Bet on the Bills mulling over Bryant Johnson yet again. One remedy? Promote from within. The front office can re-invigorate the offense by granting Jackson a long-term contract extension. The restricted free agent Jackson has expressed his desire to stay in Buffalo after his arduous journey to the NFL. Grossly underused last year, Jackson rushed for 571 yards on 130 attempts (4.4 avg.) and proved his mettle as a starter at Denver and against New England. A contract in the four-year, $20 million range would be sufficient.
Lynch and Jackson contrast sharply in substance in style. One makes a big play as often as David Paterson cuts taxes. Lynch totaled only six 20+ yard plays on 297 touches last season. Jackson had the same amount on only 167 touches of non-rhythmic stretches. One shows up late to community service events, the other is an avid participant.
Lynch's benefit-of-the-doubt card has been used and abused. It wasn't as much the fact that he struck a woman on a bar strip with his SUV as much as the way Lynch carried himself after the incident. He refused to talk to the media. When he finally did speak – and was asked a question about the hit-and-run – Lynch stopped taking questions.
Forget football for a second. The man hit another person with his car… and showed absolutely no outward remorse. He acted as if he simply speed-bumped a squirrel on the way to work. Remember his emotionless dribble in reading a statement in court? Unreal. At that point, we all wondered if Lynch truly understood how lucky he was. Now we know he had no idea.
The Bills have a mess to deal with. The first step in cleaning it all up is promoting and featuring Fred Jackson. Because Marshawn Lynch needs to earn his way back into the Buffalo Bills' lineup.