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

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

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.

Are we there yet? Philly Sports Talk examines the state of the Flyers

Are we there yet? Philly Sports Talk examines the state of the Flyers

All week on Philly Sports Talk on CSN, we examine how our teams got to this point and where they are in the rebuilding process. 
 
Today, we finish up by taking a look at the Flyers.

 
How did we get here?
The Flyers' rebuild had begun when Ron Hextall returned to his old stomping grounds in the summer of 2013 as the team's new assistant general manager.
 
He took over GM duties after one season and the philosophical change was in place. Paul Holmgren was made president and Hextall's imprint, which had already started, was ready to become bigger.
 
What Hextall inherited was a cap-stricken team fresh off a first-round playoff loss, an organization that had tried to spend its way to immediate results instead of putting greater focus on the long game.
 
Some of the past decisions are well-documented: signing enigmatic goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million deal in 2011 after trading for him. With a buyout, the Flyers are still paying Bryzgalov through 2027. Signing veteran center Vinny Lecavalier to a five-year, $22.5 million contract in 2013. And signing imposing defenseman Chris Pronger to a seven-year, $34.55 million extension — nobody could foresee the unfortunate concussion issues that suddenly derailed Pronger's career, but it was nonetheless a hurdle for the Flyers moving forward.
 
Hextall has adeptly maneuvered through much of those rocky waters.
 
Now, the Flyers are a more cost-efficient (partly because they have to be in this salary cap world), draft-oriented organization planning for the future while not ignoring the present. This rebuild hasn't been a total demolition, but more of a retooling — a smart but tricky process, especially down the line.
 
Are the Flyers on the right path back to prosperity?
The youth is coming.
 
Hextall, oftentimes close to the vest, made that abundantly clear at his end-of-the-season press conference.
 
"Our young players, they've done enough," Hextall said in early April. "Our young players are going to get a long look. We don't plan on going out and signing veterans on the back end. Our kids, it's time to give them a shot, and we're going to do that."
 
But the really hard part is just beginning — results. Can the prospects catch up and meet the current core? The pressure for it to start has never been higher.
 
Help does appear to be on the way, though, for a team that regressed this season and missed the playoffs for the third time in the past five years.
 
Anthony Stolarz, Alex Lyon, Felix Sandstrom and Carter Hart give the Flyers future options in net.
 
Two promising prospects are expected to join Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere and company on the blue line.
 
Oskar Lindblom, a dynamic 20-year-old winger, could crack the Flyers' group of forwards, which should have Jordan Weal and Valtteri Filppula for a full season.
 
Also, don't forget forward Mike Vecchione, a Hobey Baker finalist who signed with the Flyers out of Union College in late March.
 
Oh, and the No. 2 pick of the draft — likely a talented center — is in the Flyers' grasp.
 
The 2017-18 season will be a telling time for the Flyers. Patience has been required, but when will it be rewarded?
 
The clock is ticking.

The Game of Zones-Joel Embiid mashup you didn't know you needed

The Game of Zones-Joel Embiid mashup you didn't know you needed

There are times in all of our Internet lives when we come across a piece of content that we don't quite understand, that we didn't really know we needed, yet fills our black Philadelphia sports fan hearts with joy anyway.

Today is one of those days.

And that piece of content is this Game of Zones x Embiid mashup.

If you're unfamiliar, this is the latest in Bleacher Report's fun take on a Game of Thrones / NBA mashup.

There's the mountain of a man that is Joel Embiid laid up with a presumably bum knee. There's the Temple of Shirley potion to give him life. There's the maester Sam Hinkie shouting off his analytics spells. There's Hinkie talking about growing the seeds and reaping the harvest. There's a terrifying looking Dario. There is a raising of the cat. 

Perhaps the best part is Jahlil Okafor attempting to hold the door.

What does it all mean? I don't know. But I trust it.