Ray's Replies: Why didn't Reggie Bush reach his potential?

Ray's Replies: Why didn't Reggie Bush reach his potential?
February 7, 2013, 9:00 am
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Injuries played a large part in Reggie Bush never panning out to his No. 2 overall selection. (USA Today Images)

Sports Movies Night

You can join Ray Didinger of CSNPhilly.com and Glen Macnow of WIP for a
sports movies night at the Eagles Nova Care Complex on Wednesday, February
13th with the proceeds going to charity.

Didinger and Macnow will host an evening that features classic scenes from
some of the best sports movies of all-time, including Rocky, Hoosiers, The
Natural, Million Dollar Baby and others. Didinger and Macnow, who authored
"The Ultimate Book of Sports Movies" will share little-known details about
the making of these films and also answer questions from the audience.

Tickets cost $50 and each person who attends will receive a gift copy of
"The Ultimate Book of Sports Movies," a $20 value. Didinger and Macnow will
sign each book.

Doors open at 6 p.m. and the program starts at 6:30. It will be held in the
auditorium at the NovaCare Complex. Light snacks will be provided following
the program in the Eagles' cafeteria.

Money raised will benefit the Eagles Youth Partnership and City Year Greater
Philadelphia. It will help fund the Eagles Eye Mobile and Eagles Book Mobile
as well as other EYP outreach programs. The event is part of the Eagles
Radiothon, an annual event on WIP Sportsradio.

Tickets can be obtained by contacting the Eagles Youth Partnership or WIP or
going to the following link:

http://www.philadelphiaeagles.com/community/eagles-youth-partnership/fun...

Q. I’m going to call you on the carpet a little bit here so I hope you don’t mind. Before Reggie Bush was drafted, I remember hearing you on the radio touting his ability, which was quite obvious at the time. I think you used the words, “He’s a once-in-a-lifetime player” and “He’s that special.”
 
If we fast forward to now -- given the fact we all have the gift of hindsight -- he didn’t turn out to be all that special. I guess my question stems from the point of view of a talent evaluator for a pro team (which I’m not). What was it that you saw in him that made you think he would be that good and what happened to him that it didn’t work out that way?
 
This guy was as sure as the sure thing can be, but yet he’s not an every-down back and is at this point an afterthought in most people’s minds. I remember how people thought Houston was crazy for taking Mario Williams (ahead of Bush) but he has averaged about nine sacks per year even with a shortened year last year due to injury.
 
Eric T.
 
A. That’s a very good question, Eric, and timely, too, because we are now entering the pre-draft season in which every potential draft pick is scrutinized, analyzed and labeled, often incorrectly or unfairly. Certain guys will be labeled “can’t-miss” and they may be total busts. It happens every year.
 
You are right in one respect, I really did like Reggie Bush when he came out of Southern Cal in 2006. I’m not sure I ever called him a “once-in-a-lifetime” player, though. I didn’t think of him in those terms. Special? Yes, I’m sure I said that. But “once in a lifetime?” I don’t think so. But that’s beside the point.
 
You ask what I saw in him. I saw a dynamic runner with great vision and instinct, a back who combined 4.35 speed with the ability to cut on a dime and make tacklers miss. What really stood out was his pass-catching. I felt he was a better pure pass-catcher than any of the receivers in that draft. He combined soft hands with the ability to run crisp routes. He was ideally suited for the new NFL, a game of matchups, mismatches and throwing the football.
 
And, yes, I was one of those who felt Houston made a mistake when they passed on Bush and selected Mario Williams, a defensive end, with the first overall pick. I thought Texans GM Charlie Casserly made the wrong call. You got me there. Williams turned out to be a very good pick. Charlie was right and I was wrong.
 
But you ask what happened to Bush. Mostly, it was injuries. In his first five seasons, all with New Orleans, he never started more than 10 games in a season. From 2007-10, he missed 20 games with various injuries.
 
He certainly wasn’t a bust. He put up good numbers -- his 294 pass receptions led all NFL running backs in that period -- but he wasn’t the Barry Sanders-type franchise back that most people, including NFL scouts, expected him to be. He just kept getting hurt.
 
That’s what is so hard to predict. If a player has a history of injury either in high school or college, that’s one thing. It is buyer beware. If you draft him, you know what you’re getting. But Bush was not hurt at Southern Cal and he handled the ball a ton, running it, catching it and returning kicks. Durability was considered one of his many assets. That has not been the case since he came to the NFL.    
 
That’s what makes drafting players so tough. I sympathize with Howie Roseman and the other GMs in the league because so much is riding on every draft and so many things can go wrong. We all do mock drafts. We all rate players. We have our sleepers and our busts. But only the GMs have to live with those choices and ultimately answer for them. It isn’t easy.
 
If I’ve learned one thing over the years, it is there are no sure things in the draft. I’m the guy who rated Cade McNown as the best quarterback in the Class of 1999. Enough said.