NFL Spring Cleaning: ‘Shawn Lynch, Dean Blandino, and Moderately Infuriating Things
At the end of last week, NFL Network reported that Marshawn Lynch was officially coming out of retirement to sign with the Oakland Raiders. This was unexpected by NFL fans, especially due to Lynch’s repeated sentiment since retirement that he doesn’t miss football. Conversely, the former Pro-Bowl tailback ‘Beast Mode’ has been an active positive force in his hometown community located in Oakland. Marshawn’s desire to play again may stem from the Raiders’ impending move to Las Vegas. He’s known to be exceptionally benevolent, especially towards Bay Area inner-city neighborhoods. Perhaps as a final testament to his love for his city of origin, he’s suiting up one last time to give the people of Oakland a lasting memory of him as both a football player and hometown hero.
Personally, I think it’s nearly impossible to dissect the reasoning behind some of Lynch’s actions and statements. He’s an immensely interesting human being, but his unorthodox and erratic behavior only solidifies that any kind of serious attempt to understand his underlying motives is futile. This is not a bad thing, rest assured. Lynch is one of the most fantastic figures in NFL history. It’s a sound argument to say that anyone who’s familiarized themselves with Marshawn Lynch is completely enamored with his persona. From his infamous interactions with the media, to his coined image and brand “Beast Mode,” to his random appearances in television shows, it’s difficult to determine whether I liked him more as a player or as a person. Nevermind his statistics or his notoriously punishing running style, Marshawn the person has provided us with a degree of entertainment so unusual for an NFL running back, it’s left an indelible mark on the souls of football’s global consumers. There’s something about him that’s so intriguing. On Sundays, you could tune into a Seahawks’ game to see Marshawn mercilessly abuse defenders with ankle-breaking agility and spine-crushing physicality. The following day, you’d see a bit on ESPN revealing something outrageous he said or did in a postgame interview. I have an internal conflict regarding the prospect of personally meeting Marshawn. Half of me wants to approach him and give him a hug because of how awesome he is, while the other half of me is worried my spindly 155-pound frame would crumble into dust particles if I were to get within 10-feet of him. The combination of his bruising rushing attack and his public display of absurdity is what makes Marshawn such a refreshing presence in the sports celebrity landscape. He doesn’t let preconceived notions of the status quo interfere with his desire to be himself. It’s a terrifically admirable trait for a famous athlete to follow this template of selflessness and hilarity.
In the days since NFL Network’s initial report of Lynch’s agreement with the Raiders, it’s since been found that no formal contract has actually been signed. Marshawn sent out a tweet reaffirming this point. However, its likely that the Raiders are holding off on signing the retired running back until they find agreeable trade terms with the Seattle Seahawks. Lynch is technically still on contract with the Seahawks, meaning that Oakland will have to compensate Seattle if Marshawn indeed decides to come out of retirement. This is merely a logistical front office issue, which likely won’t take long to settle. Look forward to seeing the 30-year old Lynch in black and silver next season before the Raiders pack up for Vegas. Here’s a video of Marshawn telling the entire 2010 Saints’ defense that he is their biological father, and that they are nothing more than paltry children.
On Friday, Dean Blandino, the NFL’s Vice President of Officiating, decided to resign from the title he’s held since 2013. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Blandino is leaving his current line of duty in May to pursue a broadcasting opportunity. Blandino is 45 years old, and is likely moving on from his current position due to both family reasons and stress-related factors. The VP of Officiating is one of the most public platforms in the NFL. Blandino was tasked with the pleasantry of convincing coaches, owners, and fans that the games are indeed officiated from a fair and objective standpoint. The best way I can explain Blandino’s job is that he’s the little league coach who has to deal with angry parents about their sons not getting enough playing time, except instead of five or six angry parents, it’s millions of outraged and often misinformed football fans condemning the perceived wretchedness of NFL officials when their team loses on Sunday. Blandino sometimes had so many complaints about a particular game or call that he had to speak to a television audience on Monday mornings, reassuring everyone that the same things he said the week prior still hold true. If that sounds like fun to you, I heard there’s a recently opened position.
Blandino’s resignation is curious because of the various rule changes approved during the annual league owners’ meeting in March, many of them as a result of Blandino’s personal efforts. It was decided this offseason that plays under review would be analyzed by referees via a tablet, rather than under the industrial-sized box hood formerly used. Sidenote: why the hell did that exist all the way up until now? Which company produced those things? Did they sell other products? Or did they specialize solely in making obnoxiously large replay booths? Was there a man in the booth who just stood there idly, patiently awaiting the possibility that the official would come in to have a conversation with him at some point during the game? They should have been out of business by 1994. Anyway, another facet of the rule change included the agreement that all plays under review would ultimately be decided by the officiating command center in New York. Up until now, it was at the discretion of the head official on the field to make the call. With this centralized replay officiating system, controversy over particular calls will theoretically become less prevalent. Blandino has spent several years trying to implement a more universal system of replay review, so it’s a bit odd that he decided to jump ship after he finally achieved this goal. The officiating department is always going through progressive changes to make the game more fluid and palatable for viewers. There will be a tremendous effort to pick up the pieces that Blandino has laid down the last few years, especially considering that much of the current policies are oriented towards Blandino’s preferences. It will be critical to find a new leader who has both on-field experience and the administrative abilities to handle a profession as publicly accosted as the VP of NFL Officiating.
Other offseason news:
-Dan Rooney, the longtime owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, died at age 84. Rooney was a significant figure in both the NFL and in Pittsburgh. It’s a sad loss for the Steelers’ and NFL community.
-St. Louis has decided to file a lawsuit against the NFL for moving the Rams to Los Angeles. All 32 NFL teams are defendants in the case. It’s nice to see these previously-extorted cities stand up for themselves, at the very least.
-There are theories that the Celeveland Browns have been bad for so long that their fan base is significantly deteriorating. The Browns have two first round daft picks this year, but is that going to make much of a difference for the 2017 campaign? Almost certainly not. It’s critical, however, that they don’t make the same mistakes they’ve committed in the past when drafting twice in the first round.
That’s all for this week. Tune in every Monday for NFL Spring Cleaning. There’s going to be a lot to discuss with the upcoming draft! Follow me on twitter, @andysweeps.