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Revisiting the Marshawn Lynch trade: Deal was Super for Seattle

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Maybe Marshawn Lynch wasn't worth the trouble.

But he's obviously more valuable than what the Buffalo Bills got for him.

Lynch especially will be on our minds for the next couple weeks. The one-man stampede helped power the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl, rushing for 109 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's 23-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

The Bills drafted Lynch 12th overall in 2007, but his off-field issues and the front office's penchant for collecting halfbacks made the superstar expendable.

You'd think a savvy front office would be able to turn Lynch into  quality asset or two.

When the Bills traded him, he was only 24 years old and already had been to a Pro Bowl. In his three full seasons with Seattle, he has averaged 1,350 rushing yards, scored 40 touchdowns and been named to the Pro Bowl every time.

For those who've forgotten -- and that's understandable -- Buffalo wound up with tackle Chris Hairston and linebacker Tank Carder. That's who Buffalo drafted with the 2011 fourth-round draft pick and the 2012 fifth-round draft pick Seattle paid for Beast Mode.

Hairston started seven games in 2011 and eight games in 2012. This season, he spent training camp walking laps around the field before landing on injured reserve.

Carder didn't survive final cuts and never played a down for the Bills. He has started twice over the past two years with the Cleveland Browns.

Fox Sports insider Jay Glazer reported the New Orleans Saints were stunned at the trade. Glazer reported the Saints would have given the Bills a third-round pick, but the Bills never came to them.

Either way, Lynch pounded onward.

The Bills, of course, were in a bad spot with Lynch. Much of it was Lynch's fault, but the Bills were at least partially to blame.

Dick Jauron couldn't get Lynch to buy in completely. Not making the playoffs since 1999 can do that. The Bills also drafted C.J. Spiller in 2010, and there was no way Lynch, Spiller and Fred Jackson could've co-existed.

To this day, it can be argued the Bills haven't learned how to maximize their deep backfield. Remember, the summer the Bills owned Lynch, Jackson and Spiller they also had undrafted rookie Joique Bell, who has gone on to be a key backup for the Detroit Lions.

Lynch has caused problems off the field. In 2008, a 3:30 a.m. hit-and-run on Chippewa Street drew NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell's glare. A year later, gun charges in California got Lynch suspended.

Lynch hasn't been a choirboy with Seattle. He was arrested for suspicion of drunk driving near his hometown of Oakland in 2012, a transgression that caused me to write the Bills were winning the trade.

I whiffed then.

My mind has been changed on that forever. Even if Lynch gets suspended again, the Bills already have lost that trade. That's how little the Bills got for a juggernaut who has been critical to the NFC champions' success.

Part of my reasoning for the Bills winning the Lynch trade back then was how relieved they were to be done with him -- even for the paltry sum of a Hairston and a Carder. General Manager Buddy Nix and coach Chan Gailey had done an admirable job of clearing problem children from their roster.

Character was at a premium, and Lynch didn't fit.

But under new president Russ Brandon, new GM Doug Whaley and new coach Doug Marrone, the Bills showed they were willing to take risks on players with checkered pasts. They drafted Kiko Alonso (suspended twice at Oregon) and Duke Williams (suspended three times at Nevada).

The Lynch saga is yet another symptom of an organization that has been without a master plan, a front office making things up as it goes along.

The Bills invested a prime draft pick and millions of dollars in Lynch. They failed to motivate him and then they dumped him for tokens.

In two weeks, we might see Lynch lift the Lombardi Trophy while confetti falls at the Meadowlands.

  • Robert McAvoy

    Great players make great plays in great games. The Bills were not capable in the front office and in their coaching to take a talent like Lynch (who did have 1000 yard rushing years with the Bills and whose teammates loved him) and turn him into the solid citizen a All Pro that he is today. Seatle has one of the best teams in the league. Bills have not been in the play-offs in 14 years. Bills won't keep their talent. Good teams keep their talent. 'Nuff said.

    • Paul Bruhns

      I agree, and it's about time to start keeping our talent around and build a winner for a change instead of "perpetually rebuilding". It's gotten old.

    • Jeff

      Yeah, he's a real solid citizen. That hoodie he wore to breakfast the other day was pretty classy.

  • Millhouse

    Not sure what was worse-drafting Lynch # 12 overall in '07 and giving him away a few years later, or drafting McGahee in the first round in '03, who had to sit out a year with a torn up knee and became a pedestrian back. Take your choice (not Tashard).

    • Jeremy Bentham

      McGahee, your pedestrian back, just completed his 11th season, has a career 4 yds per carry average and is sandwiched between Jim Tayor and Earnest Byner in the #37 spot on the NFL All-Time Rushing list. He is also above of Dallas great Hershel Walker on the list.

      • Millhouse

        After sitting out one year, he had only three years with the Bills, two in which he average 3.8 YPC. He was not a difference maker or a high character guy and a waste of a first round pick. The fact that he is 37th on the all time rushing list didn't help the Bills at all.

        • Jeremy Bentham

          Didn't help the Bills because brain dead fans, management and you wanted both McGahee and Lynch out of town ASAP. The problem is too many locals like you wouldn't know talent if it sat on you face.

          • Millhouse

            You are making statements that you have no basis for, which is the ultimate indicator of ignorance. 1) I didn't say that I wanted McGahee and Lynch out of town ASAP-I said that giving Lynch away after picking him 12th in '07 and drafting McGahee in the first round were mistakes, and I bet that most football experts would agree with my opinion. By the way, the next player drafted after McGahee was Dallas Clark by Indy. 2) I am not a local.

  • PaulR

    Lynch in Seattle also has the great benefit of having a creative coach and a young, mobile QB who has already shown he is a top QB in the league. Players rise to their potential when they are put in positions to win.

  • SmackingMonkeys

    Don't want him, don't need him. Like the guys we have now much better---plus they are actually decent citizens that don't break the law every 5 minutes.

    • Nick

      You're just mad, spiller and jackson are nowhere near lynch

      • Lou Bordonaro

        You basically made the same argument in every single response and uttered "bums" a number of times greater than it would seem you have brain cells.

        Fantastic work, Nick!

        • Nick

          Aww another bills fan that can't handle the truth. 14 years no playoffs

      • Paul Bruhns

        Together, Spiller and Jackson (without a running QB like Seattle) had the 2nd best running game in the league this past season. Lynch and the Seahawks were 4th. Spiller and Jackson combined for 1,893 rushing yards, Lynch had 1,257. The 2nd best rusher on the Seahawks was the QB Wilson who had 539 yds. They combined to have 27 LESS yards than Spiller and Jackson.

        So, Nick... by your own dopeyass definition, Lynch and Wilson are the real bums.

    • Nick

      Keep saying that and then wonder why Spiller and Jackson are bums like the rest of your team

  • Max Hammer

    Valid points, Tim, but Lynch is still a criminal who will one day end up in prison where he belongs. All the Super Bowls in the world won't change that fact and I don't miss that lowlife in the least.

    • Nick

      That lowlife is better than your bums spiller and jackson. I think you're just mad he's gotten past all that. The Buffalo Bums and their fans are far from classy anyway.

      • Max Hammer

        Not even deserving of a response. The "Buffalo Bums"? You must be 12.

        • Nick

          You mad? lol keep crying

          • Max Hammer

            Crying? You're subhuman. Die. Soon.

      • Mike79

        Id take Fred Jackson over Lynch anyday of the week.

        • Nick

          Yeah a guy that's always getting injured over one who's making waves lol

    • Steve

      Who cares if he's been in trouble with the law? It's about the game, not his criminal record. I'm tired of everyone trying to turn sports into a haven for heroes, humanitarians and role models. I'm a Bills fans and that trade has always been awful.

      • Max Hammer

        Are you even listening to yourself? Look, you may be comfortable cheering for criminal thugs but I'm not. A person's character matters. Lynch has none. I'm glad he's gone.

        • Steve

          I don't cheer for any of those self absorbed ego maniacs. I just want to see some entertaining football. If I wanted to watch something inspiring or learn a life lesson, I'd watch a documentary on Gandhi or Mandela. Bills made a mistake trading one of the league's top backs.

    • Steve

      Who cares if he's been in trouble with the law? It's about the game, not his criminal record. I'm tired of everyone trying to turn sports into a haven for heroes, humanitarians and role models. I'm a Bills fans and that trade has always been awful.

  • BillyJack

    Without Marshawn, the collective safety of pedestrians on the Chip strip just increased.

    • Gerald Frys

      Ya, they said that about Cornelius Bennett also.

    • Gerald Frys

      Ya, they said that about Cornelius Bennett also.

  • Nick

    Lynch is much better than Spiller and Jackson. Anyone saying otherwise is in denial. Buffalo Bums

  • Gerald Frys

    The Bills could have kept him and would not have had a need for Spiller. As for his off-the-field problems, that's what fines and suspensions most likely would fix. He would have settled down. He has in Seattle, and in 2 weeks, he play in his first Super Bowl. The Bills lost a valuable asset. By the way, Dante Witner is doing well in SF.

    • jwdundee

      Donte Witner was asking for a premium to be paid for his mediocre play here. That's the problem with the Bills. The team itself is so bad, average players have to be paid above average money to get them to stay here. They either overpay to keep people or they hit the pavement and find greener pastures elsewhere.

      • Gerald Frys

        All that I know is that during Marv Levy's Super Bowl years, the Bills were not losing 1st round draft picks left and right to free agency. Levy and Bill Polian put together a winning team, and kept them together, during their successful seasons. Those were the days of a very talented Buffalo Bills team. Several of those players are now Hall of Famers.

        • jwdundee

          That's because free agency as we know it today didn't begin in the NFL until 1993. That, along with the salary cap basically ensures that small market teams where nobody wants to go stay on the bottom. Think about it. You're a top prospect in the NFL, does Buffalo make your short list of places you'd wanna play? Not with the current culture of losing and claiming progress in a 6-10 season.

          • Gerald Frys

            The Bills have to learn the system, and beat it. Get the league to change the rules. Ralph Wilson, in the past, always was working with the league in his teams own best interest. Due to his advanced age, he can't do it any more. The small market teams should work together to get free agency fixed. It would help league parity. Without parity, the league will decline. Who wants to see NE,NY,Denver and IND. in championships every year. Time will tell.

        • Steve

          Two words: free agency. Marv escaped it for the most part. It changed the game for the little guys.

  • Steve

    Whether or not you personally like Lynch, it doesn't make it any less of a mistake. Football is about the player's ability on the field, not his demeanor off the field. The way the Bills continuously squandered talent and made mistakes the past 15 years speaks volumes of the overall ineptness of the organization as a whole. This trade was always terrible and it keeps getting worse for the Bills.

  • Steve

    Whether or not you personally like Lynch, it doesn't make it any less of a mistake. Football is about the player's ability on the field, not his demeanor off the field. The way the Bills continuously squandered talent and made mistakes the past 15 years speaks volumes of the overall ineptness of the organization as a whole. This trade was always terrible and it keeps getting worse for the Bills.

  • AJ

    Seattle is in the Super Bowl because of their defense. Lynch, Wilson, and the offense are good but the Seahawks would have lost to the Saints if not for the defense. Lynch is playing as well as he did in Buffalo, but letʻs not pretend he is the reason Seattle is where they are. That defense has been excellent all year.

  • WHAT?

    Interesting that Graham wrote at the time that it was good riddance, now gets to second guess himself. That's OK, but the Bills' front office should have known better. What kind of standard is he holding himself to? Or the Bills' front office? Hmm, well, I guess it is monday morning....

  • WHAT?

    Interesting that Graham wrote at the time that it was good riddance, now gets to second guess himself. That's OK, but the Bills' front office should have known better. What kind of standard is he holding himself to? Or the Bills' front office? Hmm, well, I guess it is monday morning....

  • Jimbuffalo

    The first sentence sums it up.

  • Jimbuffalo

    The first sentence sums it up.

  • Hal Jam

    The Lynch trade is what happens when personnel directors read the Buffalo News. On the other hand, OJ had a "Beast Mode" too and look how that turned out.

  • Mike79

    Lynch is a clown and Im glad hes gone. He doesn't represent the area and fans here at all. He would never had gotten us to a super bowl anyway.

  • suspectblackmale

    The NFL has turned into a perverse amalgam of MTV Cribs meets Gangland, with players flashing gang signs and bling like its a rap awards show. Honor and sportsmanship hasn't existed in the NFL for many years. It's unwatchable.

  • BullGuy

    So there are 3 RBs on your roster and they are all pretty good athletes who can run the ball....2 of them are stand-up, mature guys and the 3rd is an immature Mama's boy. Who would you trade? Sending Lynch to the West Coast was the right move at the time.

    • ptato22

      It's not the trade that necessarily sucked, but the paltry amount received for him. The Bills front office has been notorious for being poor businessmen since Polian left. For the organization to succeed, the entire team, definitely including the GM, needs to be smart about all football operations.

  • eastamherstbias

    It was a good trade. The public was on the Bills side on this one. Any one who complains about being here and then brings his own liquor into bars should be shipped out.

  • Robert McAvoy

    If Lynch trade was the only good-to-great player the Bills let go in the last 10 years, then I would have no complaints. The problem is every year the Bills let go of 1 or 2 good players, instead of keeping a few of them. And the Bills "fans" applaud those moves as "fiscal responsibility" or "wasn't worth the price", instead of admitting it is just jealousy over the salaries that the players receive (from those "crazy" teams that made the play-offs....San Fran, Seattle, Phila, New Orleans, and in the past, Washington last year and 2007 and Minnesota in 2008 and 2009...all who had signed or traded for Buffalo players...and those players made the Pro Bowl as well with those teams ).

    • Paul Kawalerski

      Good point, but it seems the Bills are starting to turn things around. Lawson and Hughes turned out to be great pickups for the Bills this year and hopefully we can see further success this year in the off-season. Keeping Byrd here would be another step in the right direction. Getting rid of the ridiculous Toronto reg-season game would be another. And getting Hughes tied up with an extension would be even another. Let's see what happens.

      • Robert McAvoy

        Paul, you are a very sane and knowledgeable fan. Excellent points on Lawson, Hughes, Byrd, and Toronto.

        • SteveK

          I agree as well Robert. IMO the Bills top priority is to get Byrd signed. Once he got on the field he showed his value and I do feel the core is here to have a good team if they just plug a couple of holes. Getting the OL in sync would help. I realy feel this team is a playoff team next season. Oh and by the way, I don't have a problem with Lewis being the back-up QB. I know there are a lot of people that disagree but I haven't seen him do anything wrong that should prevent him from at least competing for the job. If the Bills can do something to up grade that position fine but it should not be a high priority. I would take Mack in a heartbeat if he is still on the board come draft day, he's going to be an impact player.

          • Paul Kawalerski

            SteveK - I would also agree with Lewis being the backup. He's played well enough not to lose games. And considering the lack of pre-time he's had, that's pretty good. But, I still would like to see a veteran QB here to mentor EJ. Maybe the QB coach could fill that role.

  • Nick

    Look at all the angry Bills fans. Hate the guy all you want, he's on a winning team now not like the bills losing every year.

  • B662

    Trades are made in the moment based on the player or need. It also shows how 'fit' is an important part of the players success. That is based on system and team identity. The Bills have not had an identity until this year. You would need a crystal ball to say that Lynch woulda, shoulda, coulda. Stop these irrelevant articles. I am sure you will be writing the Bills draft busts in a couple of months, nothing new for The News.

  • ptato22

    I've only seen Seattle a few times this year, but I dear say Wilson doesn't seem much different than EJ. He's mobile and doesn't throw pics, but he isn't terribly accurate and throws many simple passes. They just have a better defense. Seattle beat SF because the offense had a simple game plan, Wilson didn't lose the game and their defense is awesome.

    • Nick

      Lol EJ is nowhere near Russell

      • ptato22

        Yeah, he sure hasn't done anything to suggest he'll be as good. What I meant I guess is that Seattle is winning without a star drop back QB with lots of experience. EJ seems like he'd be able to produce the same type of games as the ones I saw from Wilson. Having said that, the proof is the pudding so...

  • Paul Piluso

    The real problem with the trade in hindsight (which is always 20-20) is what the Bills got for Lynch. If Tank Carter turned out be Kiko Alonso and Collin Hairston turned out be Andy Levitre then no one could really complain about the outcome. The NFL Draft is a crap shoot, no matter how much analysis anyone does, no one really knows how a draftee will turn out. If a players character is a big issue for a team, (as it should be) then the team needs to do as much character analysis as possible on a potential draft pick, especially 1st, 2nd and 3rd round picks. Even so, that's a very difficult thing to ascertain, much easier to analyze the physical attributes and skill sets a player brings to the table.

    • Shadowtoad

      Bills should have kept Carder. Bad move releasing him.

      • Paul Piluso

        Perhaps you might be right, time will tell. I was happy with the pick, when they drafted him.

      • Paul Piluso

        Perhaps you might be right, time will tell. I was happy with the pick, when they drafted him.

    • ptato22

      Excellent point. I said earlier, the Bills have had sorry GMs for a long time. They need a guy working with the coach who can keep the best guys and develop a real plan on which type of players to bring in. Letting Byrd go (unless he insists) is a really bad decision. They have too many needs to create another hole in the defense. The Bills have the potential for a first class defense (definitely needed with a young QB - just rewind the NFC championship game for proof) so let's see if the management is serious about winning. Who really cares if he ends up being slightly overpaid? Are you going to tell me Mario is worth $100 million? I don't think so, but he's what the Bills need and sometimes you have to pay. After all, you're asking players to come to a team that hasn't gone to the playoffs in 14 years! Give them $$$ and make a good team and then you'll have more players wanting to come here.

      • Paul Piluso

        Thank you Plato, I have said in several comments in the past with regards to Byrd's situation, that if the Bills are able to negotiate a long term contract with him it will go a long way to improving both player morale and fan morale as well. Young players need to know that if they perform at a high level like Byrd, that they will be rewarded by management for their hard word and dedication. Pro Bowl/All Pro players are not a dime a dozen. They have earned the right to a long term contract and the one team that should be willing to pay the most for their services should be the team for whom they have been playing. The fans also deserve that as well. Why should fans go out and spend good money for a player's Jersey, only to see that player in another teams colors the next season. Which is one reason why I have not bought a Bills jersey since Steve Tasker. If they sign Byrd, I will buy his Jersey.

      • Paul Piluso

        Thank you Plato, I have said in several comments in the past with regards to Byrd's situation, that if the Bills are able to negotiate a long term contract with him it will go a long way to improving both player morale and fan morale as well. Young players need to know that if they perform at a high level like Byrd, that they will be rewarded by management for their hard word and dedication. Pro Bowl/All Pro players are not a dime a dozen. They have earned the right to a long term contract and the one team that should be willing to pay the most for their services should be the team for whom they have been playing. The fans also deserve that as well. Why should fans go out and spend good money for a player's Jersey, only to see that player in another teams colors the next season. Which is one reason why I have not bought a Bills jersey since Steve Tasker. If they sign Byrd, I will buy his Jersey.

  • Paul Kawalerski

    The Bills did the right thing. Lynch was nothing but trouble when he was here. And from what I can tell, he's had his share of problems there also. If Fred Jackson would be in Seattle we would all be talking about what a great back he is. Good backs become great backs in a good offense with a superior QB. Only time will tell if we have that recipe.

  • Tom

    Bills did the right thing, the DUDE TRIED TO WALK OUT OF THE BUFFALO ZOO WITH A BIRD!! They've done many wrong things, but proud of an organization that would move on from a guy who did odd stuff

  • Shadowtoad

    Member when he was called Marshawn "Inch"? He did it to himself in Buffalo and I think he wanted out. But, darn it, isn't it something to see him run!!!!!! Unbelievable. Don't do the same thing with Spiller. We love Jackson, but we can't lose Spiller. Hackett better find out how to use him because he couild be a game breaker. If Hackett can't figure it out, get rid of Hackett!

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About the reporters

Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining NFL.com as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.