NFL Free Agency Signings: The Star-Crossed Paths of Reggie Bush & Ricky Williams

Michael Dunbar@dunbarnationContributor IIIAugust 4, 2011

On July 28th, 2011, the New Orleans Saints traded running back Reggie Bush to the Miami Dolphins for safety Jonathan Amaya and an undisclosed draft pick.

Ironically, 10 years ago, on March 8th, 2002, the Saints traded Ricky Williams to the Dolphins for four draft picks, including two first round picks.

Besides the fact that they both were traded from the New Orleans Saints to the Miami Dolphins, there are more similarities between these two running backs.

1. Both of them were born in San Diego, California.

According to, the San Diego area is also known for producing All-Pro running backs such as Marcus Allen, Marshall Faulk and Terrell Davis. 

2. Both of them had a prolific college career.

Ricky Williams became the NCAA Division 1-A all time leader in rushing yards during his senior season and won the Doak Campbell Award and Jim Brown Award in back-to-back years (1997,1998). He won numerous other awards including 1998 AP College Player of the Year as well as becoming the 1998 Heisman Trophy Winner. 

Despite playing only three full seasons and splitting time as a starter with LenDale White, Reggie Bush finished in the NCAA all time top ten rankings for all purpose yards, received the Doak Campbell Award and Walter Camp Award.

Furthermore, he received the infamous 2005 Heisman Trophy in addition to the 2005 AP Player of the Year award. In fact, many NFL analysts compared his playing style to the Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers because of his ability to rush, pass, receive and return kicks.

3. Both of them were heavily hyped in the NFL Draft.

In the 2006 NFL Draft Reggie Bush went No. 2 to the New Orleans Saints and the media vilified the Houston Texans for selecting Mario "Super Mario" Williams with the No. 1 pick. In fact, many people assumed that it was easily one of the worst NFL Draft mistakes in history. 

Similarly, many NFL analysts expected Ricky Williams to be the first running back taken in the 1999 NFL Draft. However, the Indianapolis Colts decided to trade Marshall Faulk to the St. Louis Rams and then selected Edgerrin James No. 1 overall.

Eagles fans booed the Philadelphia Eagles for selecting Donovan McNabb No. 2 instead of Ricky Williams and until Donovan took Philadelphia to the Super Bowl during the 2004 NFL season they continued to chastise the organization for the decision. 

4. Both of them had sub-par careers in New Orleans.

Ricky Williams had a decent three year career in New Orleans, accumulating 3,129 rushing yards, 1,092 receiving yards and 18 total TDs. However, Ricky was well-known for being fumble prone during his tenure in New Orleans and during his final season in the "Big Easy" in 2001 was tied for the most fumbles at eight. He also averaged a disappointing 3.84 yards per carry. 

Reggie Bush had a sub-par five year career in New Orleans, accumulating 2,090 rushing yards on a 4.0 yards per carry, 2,142 receiving yards and 33 total TDs. He has also been viewed as fumble prone with 19 fumbles during his tenure in New Orleans, although Ricky did accumulate 21 fumbles during his brief three years in New Orleans and 14 more during his first two years in Miami. 

5. Both of them were pushed out by other running backs on the roster. 

Bush really only had an opportunity to start in 2007 and 2008 but failed to see the opportunity due mostly to injuries. Other than that, he was a backup to Deuce McAlister in 2006 and shared rushing duties with Mike Bell and Pierre Thomas in 2009. 

Williams was the main back during his first two seasons, but his production was not sufficient enough to the organization. Thus, they drafted Deuce McAllister in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft. Although Deuce played sparingly in the 2001 NFL season, his presence played a huge part in the departure of Williams. 

6. Both of them were known more for their off-the-field action than how they produced on the field.

Williams was considered a perplexing individual in New Orleans where he was placed on the cover of Sports Illustrated in the now infamous "Tuxedo and Wedding Dress" issue with Mike Ditka and subsequently with the "Season from Hell" column following that season. In fact, in the latter issue, he trashed his teammates and the city of New Orleans.

Bush has gotten injured in off-the-field events such as the celebrity game during the 2007 NBA All-Star. In addition, he is well-known for being the boyfriend of Kim Kardashian (or may I say Mrs. Kris Humphries).

7. Both of them joined the Miami Dolphins after the team's running game was deplorable the year before.

I know this is a no brainer since you want to sign/trade for a player at a position of need but both situations were equally devastating.

In 2001, the Dolphins went 11-5 and made the playoffs. However, despite having a decent passing game, the running game was terrible to watch and it showed on the stat sheet. Despite being in the top ten in rushing attempts, the Miami Dolphins were 8th fewest in rushing yards and were the third worst team in rushing yards per carry at a paltry 3.5.

Contrast to popular belief, Miami's two-headed attack was not that good last season. I respect the contributions of Ronnie Brown and Williams throughout the years, but 2010 was a year to forget. The rushing offense was ranked 21st in the NFL, the rushing yards per carry were tied for second worst in the NFL at 3.7 and they were tied for third worst in rushing touchdowns with eight.

8. Both of them had a fantastic first season with the Dolphins? 

There is no question that Ricky had a stellar first season with the Dolphins. He lost weight, got into the best shape of his career since his days at Texas and led the NFL with 1853 rushing yards. He produced 16 rushing TDs on the season—more than he totaled in his three previous seasons as a Saint.

Until he started to get into trouble with drug tests, he was finally living up to his expectations and proving that he could be a top five running back in the NFL.

Bush has not played a single down with the Dolphins and many speculate that he can not be a featured back in the NFL due to his size, injury woes and the addition of the second-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Daniel Thomas.

I do agree with those assertions. However, when Chris Johnson was drafted in the 2008 NFL Draft, NFL analysts viewed him only as a change of pace back and a potential special teams producer. Three seasons later, although he is 5'11" and weighs 195 lbs., there is no longer a question that he is among the elite backs in the NFL.

Other running backs with body frames similar to Bush were also able to produce last season:

Ahmad Bradshaw

Felix Jones

BenJarvus Green-Ellis

Jamaal Charles  

Critics say that Bush has been around for five seasons and has yet to produce in the NFL. They believe that his chance as a featured back has already passed and he is more of a role player now than anything else.

10 years ago, the Arizona Cardinals drafted RB Thomas Jones with the 7th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft. With Jake Plummer as the starting QB, he was supposed to provide the running game to help vault the Cardinals into sustainability in the playoffs.

Unfortunately, his three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals was marred by both injuries and an overall lack of productivity. Jones went to Tampa Bay for his 4th season where he still didn't get the opportunity to become a full time starter on the team and, likewise, didn't produce. In fact, Jones never had more than 150 carries in any of his first four seasons. 

Finally, the Bears picked him up as a free agent before the 2005 NFL season to complement the Bears running game along with the incumbent starter as Anthony Thomas, the Bears second round pick from the 2001 NFL Draft.

Thomas had produced two 1,000 yard seasons in the previous three seasons, but Jones would beat out Thomas for the starting job and hold on to it for the next three seasons despite having the Bears No. 4 pick from the 2005 NFL Draft Cedric Benson as the backup for two of those seasons. 

Now the big question is will Reggie Bush fulfill the role of Ricky Williams 2.0 and produce a fantastic season? Or will he continue to be an over hyped player better known for his relationship status than what he does on the field? 

Bush says he wants to be the feature back. Well, hopefully that renewed confidence will show on the field.


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