Is Michael Bush on His Way Out of Oakland?
I remember watching Michael Bush play at Louisville and thinking to myself that he was going to be a beast in the NFL.
After an unfortunate broken leg ended his college career early in 2006, Bush went from a potential Top-10 pick to a speculative and risky selection for teams since his leg wasn't completely healed entering the 2007 draft.
When the Raiders selected Bush with the first pick of the fourth round of the 2007 NFL draft, I was convinced that Al Davis was a drafting genius. Davis understood his potential and got him on the cheap—the old wizard had struck again!
As 2007 started to unfold, Bush never made into the lineup. Coach Lane Kiffin was excited about having Bush and was hoping he would be fully healed during the first part of the season. Somehow Kiffin never got to play Bush, as he mysteriously stayed inactive for the entire season, even though reports were that Bush had healed.
So we went into 2008 with excitement to finally see a fully healthy Michael Bush. But then came the 2008 NFL draft "curveball," where the Raiders selected Darren McFadden with the fourth overall pick.
A few rumors came out that the Raiders had even been trying to trade Bush during the draft but were unable to get a high enough draft pick for him. That rumor seemed erroneous to me at the time, partly because it just didn't seem plausible. No way Davis would sell his diamond in the rough without seeing him play. Right?
As the 2008 season unfolded, instead of giving Bush a fair shot at being the leading running back, he was listed as the Raiders' third-string running back. Bush only saw limited carries in 2008. These seemed to only come in part because of injuries to McFadden and Justin Fargas. He also filled in as a blocking fullback.
The high point for Bush came in a Week 17 game against the Buccaneers, when Bush rushed for 177 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns to help Oakland deny Tampa Bay a spot in the playoffs. This display proved to everyone that Michael Bush was the real deal and that he would become a 1,000-plus rusher in one of the NFL's most dangerous backfields alongside McFadden.
But lo and behold, the 2009 season came and went without a breakout year for any Raiders running back. Once again Bush was underutilized in an inefficient offense that continued to go three-and-out with unprecedented regularity.
During this offseason, the veteran running back Fargas was released. This move has now solidified the public perception that Bush and McFadden are set to dominate in 2010.
Well, not so fast. On Feb. 28, 2010, Michael Lombardi reported the Raiders were shopping every player on the team except tight end Zach Miller and anyone who would be impossible to trade because of their contracts. This quote from Lombardi is what made the hair on the back of my neck stand up: "Running back Michael Bush is the name I hear generating interest."
This news was not only disturbing but really prompted me to consider the obvious—which I had not looked for previously: What if Michael Bush was never Al Davis' guy? What if Davis didn't find a diamond in the rough, but instead Coach Kiffin or someone else lobbied for his services so hard that Davis finally gave in?
Maybe Davis somehow has associated Bush with Kiffin as "Kiffin's Guy" and never really warmed up to the idea of having him on the roster. Could that be why Bush never came off IR in 2007? Is that why Bush has never been given a true chance? Does Michael Bush remind Al Davis of Lane Kiffin, and so he wants him gone as badly as he wanted Kiffin gone?
If this is the case—or close to the case—it may be possible that Al Davis is going to try to move Michael Bush during this year's draft. I guess the telling sign will be if the Raiders select C.J. Spiller with the No. 8 pick or if they pick up a free agent like Brian Westbrook. Either way, it will spell the end of Bush as an Oakland Raider.
The one thing I know with certainty is that Bush has quietly become my favorite Raider, and I will be heartbroken if they trade him. One thing I'm still sure of is that Bush has tremendous potential and will be a dominant force with or without the Raiders.
What do you think, Raider Nation? Will Michael Bush get traded, or will he finally be given the chance to shine in 2010?
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