Seahawks' MVP? All the footprints lead to Marshawn Lynch

There were so many valuable players in the Seahawks’ run to the Super Bowl in the just-completed 2014 season. But no one was more valuable than Marshawn Lynch, because of what he provided and how he provided it.

On a team that went so far – and came so close – because of the contributions of so many, it should have been one of those next-to-impossible situations when it came to selecting the Seahawks' MVP for the 2014 season.

Should have been, but wasn't. Because no matter how many ways you come at this, the destination always is the same: Marshawn Lynch.

Just look at what Lynch was able to accomplish in his fourth full season with the team that acquired him in a 2010 trade with the Buffalo Bills to supply exactly what he has done:

He led the NFL in touchdowns with 17, including career-highs in rushing (13) and receiving (four) TDs.

He ran for 1,306 yards, the second-highest total of his nine-season NFL career that began in 2007 after being the 12th pick overall in the NFL Draft by the Bills.

He averaged 4.7 yards, also the second-highest of his career to the 5.0-yard average he had in 2012 on a career-high 1,590 yards.

He had the longest run of his career, in the next-to-last game of the regular season – a 79-yarder for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals.

He caught 37 passes, again the second-highest total of his career to the 47 receptions he had in 2008.

He surpassed 100 rushing yards in the first game of the season (110 against the Green Bay Packers) and the last game of the season (102 in Super Bowl XLIX), and also did five times in between.

And because this season stretched just about as far as the postseason could take the Seahawks – a yard shy of winning the Super Bowl – you have to also take into account Lynch's two rushing touchdowns and NFL-leading 318 rushing yards in the playoffs, including 157 in the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers and 102 in the loss to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

With Lynch, it's never just that he does all of this, it's how he does it – with a style that cannot be matched. And it's the physicality that Lynch brings which really set him apart, and sets the Seahawks' offense in motion.

"There's no question that Marshawn is – I guess you use the expression – the heartbeat of our team," said Sherman Smith, the Seahawks' original running back who just finished his fifth season of coaching the position on Pete Carroll's staff.

"And he is. To me, he's our most valuable player, because I don't think we get back to the Super Bowl without him. Our opponents know it, and we're not foolish enough not to know it, too, what Marshawn means to our offense."

And that point, once again, was driven home on an almost weekly basis as opposing coaches and players formed a season-long chorus of praise for just what – and how much – Lynch provides the Seahawks in his own unique way.

"They're a tough running game to defend," said San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, and that was before Lynch ran for 104 yards against the 49ers on Thanksgiving night. "They've got Marshawn Lynch, who we all know if he's not the best back in the league he's second to somebody. I wouldn't know who that would be."

Another week it was Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden: "Marshawn runs angry and he looks to punish people. I think he may look more into running into people more so than to find holes. He just likes contact. You can tell."

And another week it was Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett: "He's been a great football player since Minute One in this league and plays the right way. He's big, strong, physical, athletic; great feet, great balance; body control. He's a big part of that football team as physical as he runs."

And then there was this from Kevin Vickerson, who was with the Seahawks in training camp in 2010 and now plays defensive end for the Kansas City Chiefs: "He's more of an Earl Campbell of the modern day. He's a beast. He lives up to the name."

Smith knows, because he has played the position and coached some of the best to play the position – Eddie George while with the Tennessee Titans and Clinton Portis while with the Washington Redskins.

But Smith also knows that Lynch is special, because of what he brings and the way he brings it.

"Marshawn is a very special, special, special – did I say special? – special running back. He really is," Smith said. "He's one of the best who ever played for what he does. And we shouldn't take that granted. He's a very unique guy. And he means the world to our team."

Marshawn Lynch teamed up with New Era to make some exclusive hats. Photos of the launch event.

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