For the second time in three years, the Detroit Lions have added a multidimensional running back to help aid both the run and the pass game. While much will be said both positively and negatively about the deal, this much is certain: Matthew Stafford has run out of excuses.
According to multiple reports (including the team's own website), Reggie Bush has signed a four-year deal to bring his talents from South Beach to Motown. The Lions even scheduled a press conference around the event and picked Bush up from the airport in a limo. It's a full-court press both before and after the fact, meaning that the Lions view this as an important move for the direction of the franchise.
It certainly is.
The team was just as excited—perhaps even more so—a few years ago when it traded up to select Jahvid Best 30th overall in the 2010 NFL draft. Head coach Jim Schwartz was certainly excited, even going so far as to compare Best's YouTube highlights to watching "adult videos."
So far, I have been unable to confirm if any such adult analogies can be used for Bush highlights.
The common wisdom thought is that Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson can only carry the team so far. (Note: It carried Detroit to the playoffs in 2011, but right back to the cellar in 2012.) The team has searched high and low for complementary pieces, but injuries to Nate Burleson, Ryan Broyles, Jahvid Best and others thinned out the offensive herd. Titus Young didn't help matters any when he quickly wore out his welcome before the Lions sent him packing.
So, enter Bush, who is one part Best (minus the elite track speed, but still very fast) and also a better rusher than Mikel LeShoure. Make no mistake about it, however, Bush isn't going to tote the rock like he did in Miami. Oh no. He's penciled in for the same role Best had and the same role Bush excelled in while he was with the New Orleans Saints:
Reggie Bush just told me that being able to be used in this offense the way the Saints used him was a big factor in his decision.— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) March 13, 2013
This isn't just a new weapon for Stafford. It's the state-of-the-art, shiny new piece of destruction that he's always wanted.
It's also his latest in the list of many chances Stafford has had to make good on his first overall selection in the 2009 draft.
Stafford is only 25. That makes him one of the youngest quarterbacks in the league. Yet, he clearly regressed between 2011 and 2012 and did so while his top receiver (Johnson) was having a career year. While Stafford has a penchant for late-game heroics, he also has a nasty habit of throwing side-armed or off of his back foot rather than relying on all of the mechanics he knows but rarely showcases.
Then again, Stafford sees nothing wrong with his mechanics, so that might be a lost cause.
So, Bush is now Stafford's latest security blanket. He also has Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler and Joique Bell (who, surprisingly, was one of the best receiving backs in the game in 2012). This gives Stafford more options under duress than simply slinging the ball to Megatron—although that tactic has certainly worked at times in the past.
Moreover, this addition gives the Lions a dynamic they have lacked in every single game Best has missed. The ability to push the defense vertically (and even push the safeties over to shadow Johnson) while having the option of getting the ball to Bush in the open field puts incredible pressure on defenses as they try to match up with the Lions. The fact that Bush is so dangerous with the ball in said open field is all the more important.
Remember the old maxim attributed to Bill Parcells: If you want to do the cooking, you need to buy the groceries. Stafford has everything on his shopping list. If he's still making the football equivalent of high-school-cafeteria food, he'll make it clear the problem is the chef, not the ingredients.
Or, to put it another way—Stafford has all the tools. Can he be a craftsman?
By extension, this is a big signing and a potential make-or-break deal for Jim Schwartz and Martin Mayhew as well. They've had four years to help turn the ship around from the Matt Millen era. Their systems are in place. They have the coaches and personnel they want. If it's another season under .500, their vision will be suspect.
This isn't meant to throw cold water on this deal at all. It's an exciting move for the Detroit Lions and it should be an exciting move for their fans (maybe not Jim Schwartz-excited, but to each his own). Yet, the more weapons acquired for Stafford, the more pressure placed on him to succeed.
If Reggie Bush is truly the final piece of the offensive puzzle as the Lions seem to think he is, that means zero excuses for Stafford this season.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.
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