Recently Jon Gruden popped over to the famous Ricky’s Sports Bar in San Leandro to get a bite, accompanied by a writer from Sports Illustrated. One particular exchange was very interesting. The subject matter was that of running back Marshawn Lynch, who is entering the second year of a two-year deal to play for his hometown Raiders.
Though setting up meetings with players is not allowed per the CBA, players can stop by the facility and simply meet their new head coach if they like. Such was the case for Marshawn. Here the writer recounts the exchange Gruden had with a fan at the bar.
But now I look over, and Gruden is telling superfan Ahmed, in an open bar, “I met Marshawn today at the facility. He and Josh Johnson [a Texans backup and Lynch’s cousin] came in.” And when Ahmed asks Gruden the question of the moment—What’s your impression?—Gruden says, “I like him.”
Ahmed, to his eternal credit, isn’t having it.
“I like him, too,” he presses, “but what do you think?”
“We’ve got to get him in, ah, better and stronger, through the season. . . .”
“He didn’t get in shape until Week 10,” Ahmed says of last year.
“We’re not going to have that,” Gruden says. “No. I said to him: ‘I need Marshawn Lynch. I don’t need this part-time Lynch. I need full-time Lynch.”
“Man, you’re motivating me right now, baby! If he ain’t getting motivated, something’s wrong.”
“We need the real deal,” Gruden says. “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.”
The idea of a ‘part time’ Marshawn is two-fold. Returning to football after a year and a half off, his carries early in the season were limited to an average of under 11 per game in the first half while averaging 3.7 yards per carry.
Over the final 8 games, however, Lynch’s carries went up to nearly 17 per game and his yards per carry jumped to 4.63. Gruden wants the second half of the season Marshawn. Not the first half Marshawn. Second half Marshawn averaged out to 1250 yards and 10 TD’s over a full season. That’s not just feature back, that’s Pro Bowl territory.
This is all interesting because the question looms of whether Marshawn is in Gruden’s plans or not. For the most part it sounds like Gruden would like him to be, but he’s never really landed on a definitive decision. With Offensive Line Coach Tom Cable — who worked with Lynch in Seattle -- now in Oakland, it seems like some they do some good things if everyone is onboard.