It was early in the season and the Raiders were prepping for a road trip with bags strewn about, and Lynch had the deeply religious Derek Carr’s ear as he dropped F-bombs and a series of other expletives. The Raiders' franchise quarterback, like a dutiful student, nodded to Beast Mode’s rhythmic cadence and took it in.
All while wearing a T-shirt that read “JESUS LOVES.”
The lessons imparted continued later in the season, with Lynch offering Carr and his five-year, $125 million contract some 401(k) advice.
Contribute the max!
And you think Lynch destroyed the chemistry of a Raiders locker room that tumbled from a 12-4 record and a playoff appearance in 2016 to a 6-10 campaign that essentially cost head coach Jack Del Rio his job?
Two things to consider:
1. If you believe in such things as locker room chemistry in the NFL, “destroyed” might be too harsh a descriptor. It's more likely that Lynch “altered” its chemistry by his mere outsize personality, as the Raiders’ young locker room perhaps was not ready to handle Beast Mode and all that it entails.
2. Del Rio, even with a four-year contract extension, was going to be on the hot seat so long as Jon Gruden whispered sweet nothings in the ears of Raiders owner Mark Davis, who had been chasing Gruden since his father, Al Davis, died in 2011.
As such, Beast Mode is now Chucky’s blessing and curse, depending upon how you look at it.
And with the notion swirling that Oakland could move on from Lynch and save more than $5.95 million against the salary cap by cutting him, Gruden sees things differently.
The way Gruden sees it, he needs a more focused Lynch rather than the guy who, a year after sitting out a season in retirement, predictably and understandably did not get into football shape until after the halfway mark last season.
“I said to him: ‘I need Marshawn Lynch. I don’t need this part-time Lynch. I need full-time Lynch,” Gruden said, according to Sports Illustrated.
Which means the sideshows and side hustles, such as his online reality series, need to be kaput or curtailed during the season.
“We need the real deal,” Gruden continued to tell Lynch, per Sports Illustrated. “If you’re going to put those letters on the back of your jersey, man, you’ve got to back it up, Marshawn -- right? We don’t need another back, we need a feature back.”
For all of his distractions last season, Lynch was a constant and generally positive presence at the Raiders' headquarters.
And we’re not talking about his community work as one of Oakland’s favorite sons.
Sure, Lynch running onto the field to protect an opponent in Marcus Peters rubbed many Raiders the wrong way. And who else could get as much mileage out of a random drug test by saying he had to put his “ding-ding sauce” out for the collector? Or flout California Interscholastic Federation rules and irk the Raiders' staff by practicing with the Oakland Tech high school team at his alma mater during a one-game suspension for making contact with an official during the Peters incident?
But Lynch was at every minicamp, OTA and training camp practice, and he did not miss a regular-season practice until late in the season, when Del Rio started resting his veterans on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
And he was the Raiders' best offensive player during the second half of the season, rushing for 625 yards on 135 attempts (4.6 yards per carry) with five touchdowns in eight games. All this after he averaged a mere 3.7 yards in rushing for 266 yards on 72 carries with two scores before his suspension.
Lynch's 50 missed tackles forced on the season were the sixth most of any running back in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
Lynch, who turns 32 in April, has a $1 million roster bonus due on the fifth day of the league year (March 18), so it would make sense that if Oakland were to make a move on him, this would be a target date.
Besides, neither Washington nor Richard are big enough or durable enough to be a feature back, and while Gruden loves to use his fullback as a matchup nightmare -- is that Marcel Reece I hear working out? -- Jamize Olawale also has shown durability issues over the past two seasons.
So if it’s not Lynch, where do the Raiders turn?
Penn State star running back Saquon Barkley does not figure to still be on the NFL draft board by the time the Raiders pick at No. 9 or No. 10.
Maybe the Raiders will look 30-some miles down Interstate 880 at pending San Francisco 49ers free agent Carlos Hyde, who will turn 28 in September and has proved he can be a bell-cow back. He is coming off a career-low 3.9 yards per carry average after averaging a career-best 4.6 yards in 2016, though he did have eight rushing TDs in 2017. Running in a power scheme behind Oakland’s line, which is best suited to run power, would make a lot of sense in utilizing Hyde too.
Bell had an NFL-high 321 carries last season and rushed for 1,291 yards with nine TDs, and he also caught 85 passes for 655 yards and two scores.
“Le’Veon Bell, he’ll ring your bell,” Gruden said to future Raiders backup quarterback Connor Cook during his QB Camp in 2016. “He’s the best back in the league.”
Lynch, it should be noted, was retired at the time.