The unwritten NFL rules say to give a player four or five years before viewing him as a success or a failure. When you are the second pick in the draft, a Heisman Trophy winner, and the person tabbed to keep football in New Orleans, then, well you might have a little bit less time and a lot more pressure. While Bush was an amazing college football player, and I have been saying since he was still at USC, that the NFL could very easily swallow Bush whole. I don’t buy into his hype machine, especially since he has only played half of a season in the NFL. Bush has had one highlight reel play, a 70+ yard punt return touchdown. He is averaging 2.5 yards a carry with no touchdowns, and less than seven yards a reception, also with no touchdowns. Not exactly a great way to start a career, but Bush has helped the Saints in ways that don’t show up in box scores.
Reggie Bush has the potential to be the kind of player that changes the way NFL teams view offensive formations and the way players are used. You can’t call Reggie Bush a running back, at least not in the traditional sense. Bush is never going to be a guy to throw a team on his back and carry the ball twenty-five times a game, grinding out tough yards and wearing down defenses. Not all running backs have this ground and pound skill; many smaller and quicker running backs end up as third down backs. Bush is too dangerous to just use once a series. Reggie Bush is the dawning of a new era in football. He is a change of pace 10-15 carry a game running back that is a home run threat on every play. He is a wide receiver both in the slot and out of the backfield. He is a dangerous kick returner. Bush is a hybrid (I hate the term scatback) that disrupts a defense whether he has the ball or not. Bush’s value to the Saints isn’t as a running back; it is as an all-purpose weapon of defensive destruction.
I am not a fan of Reggie Bush, I think he is over-hyped, but I can recognize a revolution when I see it. All you have to do is look at the way defenses try to cloak Bush, leaving the Saints open to exploit blown coverages and defensive mismatches. Having Bush on the field gives Joe Horn and Marques Colston more freedom to roam, Deuce McAllister more running room, and Drew Brees more options to exploit a defense. Bush could just line up and not move and he would still be the biggest threat on the field. Bush will never be able to be the next Barry Sanders, Gayle Sayers, or Jerry Rice. He is a unique breed of player, at least for now. If Bush is able to take this role and be a success, than other teams may begin looking for similar types of players to fill that role on their team. Good college running backs that lack ideal NFL size could soon find themselves in demand, not trying to battle just to make a practice squad.
When people look back at the 2006 season a decade from now they may point to this being the year that the hybrid back started. All ideas have to start somewhere. The West Coast offense didn’t just jump into almost every team’s playbook, one man had to think it up. Could Bush fuel a new style of offense? Teams are using a fullback less and less, the three wide receiver or two tight end sets have become more common. Why not put in a hybrid home run threat to help counteract the increasing speed of defensive players? When Randall Cunningham was at the top of his game some teams tried to move to mobile quarterbacks that could be a threat with their legs and their arm. For people like Andre Ware and Michael Bishop this idea failed. Steve Young and Michael Vick have been rather successful with this approach. There may be no right or wrong answer about a hybrid back. Some teams could have a great system but poor personnel. Some teams could waste a talented hybrid by failing to utilize his skills. Odds are that some team will get the right player in the right offense, and be successful. So is Reggie Bush the next Michael Vick or Andre Ware? Ask me in 2016, but my guess is that Bush won’t be getting fitted for a mustard colored jacket or posing for a bust to go in Canton.