Is New Orleans Starting to Fall Out of Love With Reggie Bush?
Yet with Deuce McAllister's knees becoming more unreliable with each tear, the spotlight has fallen on Reggie Bush. And he's dropped the ball, literally and figuratively. And now the Saints have to worry about acquiring another running back this year.
There have been excuses made for Bush at every turn (including, admittedly, from myself) because of his big-play ability and immediate altruism upon arriving in New Orleans. But, as he approaches the end of his second year (sans any big plays this year, or medium plays for that matter), it's time to acknowledge the fact that Bush has been at best an incredible disappointment, at worst a flat-out bad player who's threatening locker room morale.
And I'm not even talking about his running prowess, although that leaves a little to be desired. Though he still hasn't quite understood the concept of "running forward," there are many other reasons the Saints can't run the ball, and not all of them are Bush's fault.
Let's backtrack for a second. As the Saints began the 2006 offseason, a lot of help was needed. This started at the top, where Jim Haslett and Aaron Brooks were both shown the door. Before Drew Brees' shoulder was maimed, laying the groundwork for his move to the Saints, fans thought the team's new quarterback was going to come from the draft. And there was one guy I knew for sure I did not want – Matt Leinart. I like my players like I like my women – low-maintenance and without the diva complex – and Leinart failed in both categories. Though it didn't seem relevant at the time, because Houston was "guaranteed" to take Bush, I didn't think of him the same as Leinart. As is almost always the case, I was wrong.
It started this past offseason, when there were much muted rumblings that some Saints veterans didn't appreciate Bush missing workout time to film some of his umpteenth commercials in California. And it's bled into this season, one in which Bush has regressed noticeably.
Again, forget the box scores. Instead, pay attention to the myriad of dropped passes, most of which are screens or short dump-offs that anyone with his athletic ability (or mine, for that matter) should be able to catch. Or how about the fumbles – eight this year. Or how about the punt that bounced right off his face against Jacksonville, which the Saints were lucky enough to recover at a crucial point. Or what about the handful of times Bush has just slipped and fallen or, worse yet, purposely hit the ground early to avoid contact.
These are the signs not of a player who isn't good enough, but a player who doesn't care to be good enough. And it's doing damage to the chemistry that carried the Saints so far last year. In the last couple of weeks, the frustration with Bush from his teammates has been on display. Perhaps none have hassled Bush more lately than Brees, who has been caught on camera screaming angrily at Bush after unnecessary drops and demonstrating with his hands in a condescending fashion how to catch a football.
Then there's last week's loss to the Bucs, where cameras caught Bush sitting desolately by himself with teammates bunched and communicating far away. With 14 seconds left in that game and the Saints in possession with a (very remote) chance of victory, Bush was already halfway to the locker room; Sean Payton had to furiously chase after him to pull him back to the sideline.
The media isn't pleased either, and they've made it known increasingly lately – when he gets pissy, Bush refuses to answer questions post-game, especially if the questions are about something he did to cost the team the game. This lack of accountability when other Saints are acting like professionals is maddening to everyone – the media, his teammates, and the fans (who are split on the matter, though the anti-Bush sentiment is growing).
The problem, as it so often is, is that Bush didn't have to earn anything to become a star in the NFL, and he doesn't look like he cares. His roster spot is in no danger for at least two years, and I have faith that one day he'll be a superstar. I just hope that day isn't after he's burned his bridges with the Saints.
Update: Reggie Bush Speaks ... and So Do Some of His Teammates