How Reggie Bush Would Help Get the Detroit Lions Back to the Playoffs

Dean HoldenAnalyst IMarch 9, 2013

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 23: Reggie Bush #22 of the Miami Dolphins runs with the ball against the Buffalo Bills on December 23, 2012 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Dolphins defeated the Bills 24-10. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

In 2011, the Detroit Lions won their first five games, including two comeback victories from 20 or more points down.

In Week 6, Jahvid Best suffered a concussion against the San Francisco 49ers and the Lions were handed their first loss.

Since that game, Best hasn't played a snap of football and the Lions have gone 9-19. Is Best the only reason for their lack of success? Of course, he isn't. The Lions have had problems on offense, defense and special teams, as well as with intangibles.

But the concerns about the Lions being a one-dimensional offensive team were a lot quieter when Best was with the team. For a year and a half, the Lions have been missing his big-play ability, employing backs worth about four yards per carry (on a good day) who have a difficult time breaking long runs.

So, is there a running back available under the age of 30 who has explosive speed and the ability to produce big running plays in a pass-happy offense?

Oh. Right.

It's hard to say how close Reggie Bush is to a true replacement for Best, who by all accounts (including Nate Burleson's) is or should be done with his football days. But the things that defined Best are the same things that defined Bush in his early years in New Orleans: raw speed, pass-catching ability and a notable lack of ability to run between the tackles.

Bush, who is 28, has even worked to rectify his perceived lack of prowess as a classic running back by rushing for 1,086 yards in 2011 and 986 yards in 2012 (without much work as a pass-catcher) in Miami.

So why does Miami not seem to want Bush back? Reportedly, the Dolphins were dissatisfied with Bush's indecisive running style and plan to use Lamar Miller next season.

It's true that Bush has always been a little more "shake" than "bake." That's part of the reason he never turned out to be the dominant rusher everyone expected out of a former No. 2 overall draft pick.

But Bush was drafted second overall at the tail-end of an era when running backs were taken high in the draft. He was expected to be a feature back at a time when the feature back was beginning to become extinct. The reality is, Bush was far more productive as a pseudo feature back in Miami, but he wasn't especially efficient (4.3 yards per carry in 2012).

The Dolphins barely used Bush in the passing gamel, which is criminal since his greatest asset is clearly his ability to make plays in space.

In this highlight reel, look at how many of Bush's best plays happen when he has space to move laterally. For that matter, look at how many of his highlights are a result of his catching a pass.

Bush caught only 35 passes in 2012, but enough of them were big gains that they fill up about a third of a season highlight reel.

Imagine if he found a team whose entire purpose for signing him would be to get him the ball in space.

The results could be monstrously successful.

But is the interest there? It is from the Lions' management, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

It is from Nate Burleson, too.

The only component left is Bush himself. He obviously wants to cash in, since at age 28, he may be signing his last major contract. So where he's interested in going seems mostly predicated on who has the most cash to throw at him.

However, though Bush has had his most statistically impressive seasons in Miami in the last two years, the general consensus is that he will struggle to earn a deal on par with what Miami gave him. If that's true, it means that he is available, affordable and a good fit for the Lions' offense.

If the Lions want to sweeten the deal without getting crushed under their 2013 salary cap, they might consider extending Bush's deal an extra year or two past age 30. Few teams are likely to extend him that security, and the Lions' role for Bush should help keep him effective for longer.

Moreover, Bush has to see a situation in Detroit that is tailor-made for him. The Lions, statistically, faced the the least run-focused defenses in the league in 2012. Nobody stacked the box, nobody played close to the line, nobody cared if the Lions ran the ball. They were all too busy tracking Megatron.

With Bush on the team in 2013, opposing defenses will...well, they'll still devote most of their attention to Calvin Johnson, meaning they won't be be able to sell out to stop the run. That means a field day for anyone willing and able to take advantage, including Bush (and Johnson). Getting Bush on the team is as much about what opposing defenses can't as it is what Bush can do.

He'd join Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell as the final piece of a three-pronged rushing attack, and he'd provide the speed that has been missing  attack since October of 2011.

That speed helped the Lions' offense to the playoffs in 2011, and it could do the same in 2013.