He was praised by experts while coming out of college as the next Gale Sayers. He was ultimately going to become the most explosive back to play in the NFL so far. He was so praised that experts spent hours, days, and weeks comparing game film of how Bush and Sayers have similar talents, like switching speed on a beat's notice, their great speed, and their overall running ability.
Now, he has been declared a bust by most of the league. He's injured, weak, overrated, and quickly losing his niche in the league. For the most part, his stats fit this story, because he has really been a lackluster running back for his career so far.
Is he a bust though?
Bush is a very complicated football player to dissect. So let us dissect what type of player Bush is first. Bush has a couple different positions in him. He's a change-of-pace running back, a kick and punt returner, and a possession receiver.
First, he is a change-of-pace back in a two-running back system. We saw that his greatest success was when Deuce McAllister was the starting back for New Orleans in Bush's rookie year. This coming season, he is going to be running behind Pierre Thomas, a back who has showed some backbone in the power running game in New Orleans.
The key to Bush's success as a change-of-pace back is to have a good, consistent running game in front of him. Obviously, then the change of pace comes into play, and he can be successful. But so far, even when has had a good game in front of him, he has failed to make an impact.
Second, Bush is a kick and punt returner. Personally, I think this is where he excels the most. He has plenty of room to run, which allows him to use a lot his talents because when he has space, he is very dangerous. One of the things that makes him a bad running back is that he cannot run well in small spaces.
But I think most people can agree here that Bush has been a success as a return man. He has made teams fear him and has succeeded when teams had challenged him. This was all when he was on and off injuries, but when he is a 100 percent healthy, make sure you look out for him to make an impact. He's probably better than Devin Hester just because he has a lot better moves than Hester and can move just as fast.
Third, he is a possession receiver. This is another area where Bush has actually has had moderate success. Now I think we all know by now that the Saints are a pass-first team, and because of that, Bush is a great utility for them in this role.
He can catch balls out of the backfield consistently, stay a constant breakout threat, and also consistently get some yardage. He is one of the guys who knows how to get something out of nothing. Once again, in the flat when you catch a ball you have room to run, so you can make moves and use that great speed he has. When Drew Brees can't find someone down the field, he has Bush, who is effective when injured, and even more so when healthy.
So part one of my conclusion is that Bush has been a fantastic utility man for a team like the Saints. On other teams, I don't think he would be as valued as he is right now on the Saints. Only teams that have a good, consistent runner but no explosiveness and pass enough in the flat would make good use of Bush.
Now is he the best at what he does? Yes and no. There is really no guy that has quite his arsenal of weapons. But there are a couple guys that can compare to him, but the closest comparison is Leon Washington.
Washington is the guy I would bring up as being comparable to Bush. Arguably right now, with less experience, Washington is a better player then Bush and is more cost effective. He definitely runs the ball better, is more consistent while returning and is also a breakaway threat. He can become a short-yardage back. Lastly, Washington catches the ball just as well as Bush, and not only can he breakaway, but he can also power through tackles. Overall, I think Washington is better than Bush.
In conclusion, I think Reggie Bush is a very good utility player. That being said, I do not think he was worth the No. 2 pick, but he certainly wasn't a complete bust or a waste. Nor does Bush deserve most of the money he is making, compared to Washington, he doesn't even have his stamina. Bush has been overrated by everyone from the beginning, which is why he is a "bust."