KANSAS CITY, Mo. — You get one ride to roll with. Do you rock the 10,000-pound monster truck or the Porsche?
The Sherman Tank or the V-1 guided missile? Death by a thousand nails or one quick stake through the heart?
Beast Mode or the Flash?
Marshawn Lynch or Jamaal Charles?
"When we’re talking skill level, everything being equal, I think I’d take Lynch," Jessie Tuggle, the ex-NFL linebacking great, told FOXSportsKansasCity.com. "The only reason I’d take him, I think, is his size and power and his awareness. Charles is that 1-2 home-run hitting guy — he’s quick and he’s fast, but I think I would want more size, more durability.
"But that’s not like I’m down on Charles: He’s one of the top backs in the league, there’s no doubt about it. He’s a playmaker. For his size and his quickness, he’s hard to bring down. I’m not going to belittle his skill level — he’s got all those skills. But in this day and age, you like the big backs who are powerful and (physical). There isn’t anybody tackling anybody in the NFL. When the running backs get their shoulders square, they go downhill."
The Kansas City Chiefs host the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at a chilly Arrowhead Stadium, where the forecast is frozen tundra weather, perfect for an old-school tailback showdown. And this one promises long looks at two of the best going: Lynch, 28, has been selected for four Pro Bowls since 2008 with Buffalo and the Seahawks; Charles, 27, has gone to three with the Chiefs. Beast Mode has scored 38 touchdowns, rushing or receiving, over the last three seasons, racking up 3,536 rushing yards along the way; No. 25 has notched 33 scores and 3,329 on the ground.
Both can put an offense on their respective backs; both can catch the rock; both can block. It’s the finishing where their styles differ: The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Charles leaves defenders in the dust with a burst and a vapor trail; the 5-11, 215-pound Lynch bowls over the opposition like so many pins.
But say you could have one, and only one, to build your franchise around?
Tailback icon Barry Sanders was posed that question by Yahoo! Sports last week, and he proffered Lynch. So we decided to press the debate further, asking a longtime scout, a longtime coach and a longtime player which one of the two they’d prefer in their corner.
Bad news, Chiefs faithful: All three — Ourlads.com’s Dan Shonka, former Dallas Cowboys coach Barry Switzer and Tuggle — went with Beast Mode, too.
"You’ve got somebody who’s big and powerful and strong and can force the ball down somebody’s throat, I think Marshawn brings that to the table, he’s the complete back," Tuggle said. "He’s got power to run over linebackers. He’s a good athlete for his size. He’s a man-child."
"I like physical backs, slashers, the tough inside runners that can (also run over) people," Switzer noted. "Marshawn is kind of that back. It’s two good ones, though. You’re splitting hairs."
"Lynch is more durable, he’s a hammer," offered Shonka. "Of course, Charles, he’s an explosive back, but he might get hurt the next tackle."
You can’t help the club from the tub, and since 2011, the Chiefs’ tailback has missed 15 regular-season contests. Lynch, over that same stretch, has been out for one — Oct. 23, 2011, when a lower-back injury during pregame warm-ups got him scratched at Cleveland.
"The best ability is availability, you know what I mean?" Shonka chuckled.
"If you’re not available, if you’re on the damn bench, what good are you to your team? You could be the best back in the world, if you’re not playing, you’re not helping your team. We’re paying you for sitting on the bench and not producing on the field. That’s why Lynch would have it over him."
But not by much.
"You know, Jamaal can do so many things," said Chiefs safety Kurt Coleman, who’s had to try to take down both backs at over the years.
"I’ve played against Jamaal, and actually now that I’ve been on the (same) team, I’m really impressed at how well he runs between the tackles. And that’s something that I didn’t really think he was great at (before). But watching him from my own sideline, he’s really impressed me.
"With the West Coast system, I think Charles fits this perfectly, what he’s able to do coming out of the backfield, receiving. But at the same time, Seattle uses Lynch (in the passing game) and I think he has 23 receptions this year. But it’s just a different style. I’m not saying one is better than the other, but I’m glad two-five is on our side."
As well he should, although some of the new-school types tend to fall Lynch’s way, too. ProFootballFocus.com grades Charles at plus-29.6, cumulatively since 2012; PFF gave Lynch a plus-48 over that same span.
But before we hand the trophy over to No. 24, there’s a caveat, one both Coleman and Tuggle sang in unison: Both running styles work, but if you’re a defender, you’d much rather see a tank in the open field than try to chase down a missile.
"Jamaal Charles is probably the closest in the NFL (now) to Barry Sanders," Tuggle continued. "He’s quick and he’s fast and he’s like Barry was, an every-down back, just like Charles. Those guys can go on first-and-10 and third-and-11, you can see them all the time.
"This is the honest-to-God truth: I would rather tackle guys like The Bus, big heavy guys — I didn’t care how big they were. Christian Okoye, he was so powerful and strong. I would rather go after those guys than go after a Barry Sanders or a Jamaal Charles. All those kind of guys, they’re hard to hit in the open field. You get a hefty back, a big back, you know what you’re going to get — you’ve got to bring your lunch pail to work."
Come Sunday, it wouldn’t hurt to have a hard hat handy, either.