Monday, January 18, 2010

The Bush Administration

Back in late November, when the good men over at Ed The Sports Fan invited me to partake in the first ever college football fantasy draft, I took Reggie Bush with the first overall pick.

My reasoning was simple: Not only was Reggie Bush an insanely talented, ridiculously awesome player during his time at USC, but he was also, hands down, the single greatest college football player I had ever witnessed in person in my life. In the infamous win at Notre Dame in 2005, I was there to see the Irish almost pull off the unfathomable upset that wasn't to be. But in the end, the Irish never really had a chance because No. 5 was looming on the other sideline. In that game, Reggie Bush put forth the single most dominating performance I've ever seen any athlete display live in my life. He wasn't just the best player on that field — a field filled with future NFLers on both sides (Brady Quinn, Maurice Stovall, Anthony Fasano, Victor Abiamiri, Chinedum Ndukwe, Tom Zbikowski Matt Leinart, LenDale White, Dwayne Jarrett, Winston Justice, Keith Rivers, Steve Smith, just to name some) — he was miles ahead of everyone else. That game, Reggie Bush was a men amongst boys. No one could stop him. No one could catch him. No one could compete with him. He was that damn impressive.

He won the Heisman Trophy. He ran roughshod through the NCAA. There wasn't a team or player alive that could contain him. Reggie Bush was destined to be the next great running back in the NFL. There was no doubt about it.

In his rookie season, he showed plenty of promise and lots of explosiveness. He rushed for 565 yards on 155 carries with six TDs, but he really showed his value with 88 receptions for 742 yards and 2 TDs. Sure, 565 yards rushing isn't anything special, but 1,307 combined yards on offense and 8 TDs is pretty impressive, especially on an offense that spread the ball around. Add in his punt return for a touchdown and you could see why the Saints took him so high.

But then things started to slow down for Bush. He followed up his rookie season with a fairly similar sophomore campaign: 581 yards rushing, 4 TDs, 73 catches for 417 yards, and 2 TDs. But he also missed four games due to injury. Then last season, he saw his carries and his receptions drop again, this time missing 6 games to injury, and questions really started to arise about Bush. So much so that after Pierre Thomas did a very nice job in Bush's absence and this season rolled around, the man formerly considered the franchise savior along with Drew Brees and a superman on the field saw his role really diminish. This year, he carried the ball just 70 times for 390 yards and caught just 47 passes for 335 yards. Yes, he did score 8 combined touchdowns on offense, five rushing and three receiving, but he certainly wasn't close to the focal point many expected him to be. He became labeled a situational back. A fragile player. Not the same guy from USC. Hell, some even labeled him a bust.

Then Saturday happened.

All Reggie did then is remind everyone exactly why he was taken so high, why so many people thought it was a mistake for Houston to pass him up, why he won the Heisman, why he made every football fan hold their breath every time he touched the ball. Reggie Bush had the biggest impact on that game on Saturday. He was the biggest reason the Saints were able to trounce the Cardinals 45-14 and advance to the NFC Championship. Bigger than Brees. Bigger than Colston. Hell, even bigger than that defensive line that rendered Kurt Warner virtually useless. Reggie Bush was a different player than we've seen before in the NFL. Yet he was the same Reggie Bush as always, if that makes any sense at all. He was electrifying. Yet he was terrifying as well, lowering his shoulder into defenders, inviting contact, taking it head on and punishing tacklers and would-be tacklers. It was a different side to Reggie. No longer was he shying away from these bigger, faster defenders. No, he was treating them the same way he treated the Notre Dame defenders that day in South Bend, the same way he treated every defender that dared to try to contain him at USC.

His 46-yard touchdown run, which looked like it was straight out of his college highlight reel, was the final nail in Arizona's coffin, and his 83-yard punt return that he took to the house thanks to an ungodly cut that left the Arizona long snapper praying for his equilibrium to return completely buried the Cardinals. In all, Reggie Bush touched the ball 12 times — not exactly a lot of chances to make a profound statement on a game. Yet when it was all said and done, he finished with 217 yards on those 12 touches, taking it to the house twice and crushing any hopes the Cardinals may have had at getting back to the Super Bowl. And at the same time, he very loudly, very boldly declared to the world that Reggie Bush hasn't gone anywhere.

The Saints may be Drew Brees' team, but as Saturday showed, it's not wise to give up on what Reggie Bush can still be just yet.

BallHype: hype it up!

No comments:

Post a Comment