Wednesday, October 8, 2008


For a couple of electric moments Monday night, Reggie Bush fooled everyone into believing that he had turned the corner quicker than he used to against the Washington States and Arizonas and Fresno States of the world.

Bush briefly reminded folks of the rep he built over three years at USC, where his speed was superior and his flashy running style created a legend that earned him a Heisman and the No. 2 spot in the NFL draft.

And it was a great game. But, as Mike Florio reminds us:

It's still only one game. Less than four years ago, Eddie Drummond returned two punts for touchdowns on the same day and is now out of the league. Jermaine Lewis did it for the Ravens not once but twice, and he won't ever get into Canton without paying admission.
Look, you all have no way of knowing this - and I have no proof at this moment to back it up - but I was a lone voice in a chorus of endless praise two and a half years ago. Bush was a wondrous college back but looked nothing like a franchise NFL runner or, especially, the No. 2 pick in the draft, to me.

I spent a lot of energy and time arguing with friends and colleagues about the merits of drafting Mario Williams over Bush. Not because I particularly cared about the future of the Texans but because I was surprised everyone had so easily fallen in love with a guy with obvious limitations.

His speed was a nice perk but would almost completely be negated at the next level - you're simply not going to beat guys like Brian Urlacher to the corner very often. His otherworldly cutting ability would be a drawback unless he was willing to do the hard work of disciplining himself to following his blockers.

Could Bush gain the tough yards that LenDale White handled ably enough for the Trojans? I didn't think so. Bush reminded me an awful lot of Eric Metcalf, not Marshall Faulk - a glorified third-down back. And thus far, I've been right.

(I'm not good at math, can't swim or golf, have horrible study habits, was a middling football player myself and, for all I know, might be a very average writer and terrible boyfriend. But I have this gift - I have a good sense for what makes a good, average and bad running back.)

Bush has averaged a mediocre 3.6, 3.7 and 3.3 yards per carry in his three seasons in the league. He ran the ball 12 times for 29 yards Monday against Minnesota. Those kinds of numbers mean the Saints have had to turn to plodders like Aaron Stecker and Pierre Thomas - when Deuce McAllister was out with knee injuries - to do the job they thought Bush would be able to do coming out of school. His best move since leaving USC was making a play for Kim Kardashian.

More from Florio:

But running backs and punt returners aren't like quarterbacks, receivers and players at other positions who flourish after getting accustomed to the speed and flow of the NFL game. Running backs and punt returners play with instinct and raw skill. The light doesn't come on in Year 3; it's on from the moment the player joins the league. Or it isn't, and never will be.

Bush is not a bad player. Quite the contrary: he's a solid piece for any team lucky enough to afford the luxury. He can catch a few balls, return punts and take some handoffs when the workhorse has been ground down. Every now and again, he's capable of putting his imprint on a game as he did Monday night in the Saints' loss.

But that's not the stuff of a No. 2 pick. And certainly not of a guy everyone thought was the clear-cut No. 1 and future star. Back in the spring of 2006, former Texans' GM Charley Casserly hardly ever lived down passing on Bush. Fans howled and his subsequent exit out of Houston was roundly cheered.

So, what happened? Williams has become a star and Bush has become a complementary piece.

I think Houston owes Charley an apology. And, after all this time, my boys owe me some props.

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