On the day the world got a new pope, the Lions got a new running back.
Both were blessed events.
What Pope Francis will be asked to do for the world’s Catholics might be more demanding than what Reggie Bush will be asked to do for the Detroit offense. On the other hand, the Lions could use some divine help. Which, around here, means establishing a rushing attack that, despite new faces year after year, hasn’t really had a pulse since Barry Sanders was taking the ball.
“It’s a running back’s dream,” Bush, 28, told the media Wednesday, after signing a four-year free-agent deal to be the latest cog in the Lions’ yardage machine. “It’s the first thing we talked about when we watched the film and saw those safeties deep and those safeties rolling over, double-covering Calvin Johnson. It’s a running back’s dream.”
Of course, the Lions have had that offense for several years now, and they’ve been awful on the ground. I guess we’ll find out whether it was who was running the ball, or who was running the offense.
His value beyond numbers
Personally, I think this is a terrific pickup for the Lions, a guy who can do a lot of things, has a winning pedigree and is ready to put aside statistical goals for winning. At least that’s what he said in his news conference Wednesday: “I think I’m at the point in my career now where winning is the most important thing to me.”
That’s good. Because this needs to be said about Reggie Bush. His name is sometimes bigger than his game. That’s less a knock on him than a nod to how famous he has been, coming out of USC with a Heisman Trophy, going No.2 in the draft, cavorting around with Kim Kardashian and winning a Super Bowl during the 2009 season with the Saints.
You could think, sometimes, that Bush is an NFL superstar. The numbers don’t say that. Since entering the league in 2006, he has never been in the top 10 in rushing yards. He has cracked it once in punt return yardage (2008).
He is, at his best, a multipurpose player, who can catch, take a handoff, catch a punt – and make people miss on all three. The reason he is valuable for the Lions is because they don’t need him to invent the offense, just be part of its increasingly complex options.
“Just speaking with Coach (Jim) Schwartz and Coach (Scott) Linehan, the language was the same, the way we talked about football and the things that we wanted to see out of this thing was the same.
“They didn’t really have to sell me too much on it. They could have pulled up one clip and I was already sold.”
Wow. When’s the last time someone said that about a Lions highlight?
His team of choice
Bush is coming off his most productive two years at running back, both in Miami. The word is that once he became a more regular back – and once he got more serious about team versus individual – his numbers improved. With Detroit, he becomes a great option for Matthew Stafford when Johnson or Nate Burleson is covered. There are only so many defensive players. They can’t be everywhere. A dump-off pass to Bush in the flat – with maybe one defender to beat – makes you salivate.
“It feels like I got drafted all over again,” Bush said.
And in some ways he did. Only this time, he was in control. As a free agent, he could have gone other places. The fact that he chose Detroit – which is decidedly non-glamourous compared with southern California or South Beach – says that on-the-field is a bigger priority than off-the-field.
And that’s positive news. Bush could be as good for the Lions as they could be for him. He certainly just made life easier for Johnson and Stafford – not to mention Schwartz and Linehan.
Mark your calendar. This was a big day for new faces. I don’t want to equate choosing a pope with signing a football player. But both moves left followers thanking the Lord.
Contact Mitch Albom: 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org.