Back when Reggie Bush was a USC freshman, I remember watching the Rose Bowl and thinking to myself, immediately, “Marshall Faulk”. Two national titles and a Heisman later, my feeling on that was cemented.
But now it’s changed. When I first saw the comments Bill Belichick made on Tuesday, it made it seem like he was flat-out saying Bush was Faulk 2.0. Then, I read closer.
“Look, they are two players that are playing in two completely different systems, so you’re not comparing apples to apples,” the coach said. “They are both great players and they both add an element to their teams that’s very productive, very unique and it’s hard to defend.”
Here’s what I got from it: Because Bush catches the ball like a receiver, the Saints are able to move him all over the formation, and get the matchups they want with linebackers and safeties. That’s what the Rams used to do with Faulk.
But let’s not go overboard here. The fact that the Saints have two players (Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell) who have more than 500 yards rushing that wear numbers other than “25” should tell you something. When Sean Payton went to revitalize the running game in the offseason (mission accomplished — It now ranks fifth, where it was 28th last year), part of it was conceding that Bush was never going to Walter Payton. So they upped Thomas workload, got Bell out of mothballs and freed Bush to do what he does best — which is a little bit of everything.
Was Faulk like that? Yeah, he was. But he was also an underrated inside runner who posted four consecutive seasons of 1,300 yards rushing in the heart of his career, averaging more than 15 carries per game in each of those years, more than 5.3 yards per carry in three of them. Bush is averaging 5.5 carries per game, and has 50 fewer carries than Thomas and 73 fewer than Bell through 10 games.
Bottom line: Let’s tap the breaks on that comparison. Hey, I’d love to have been right on drawing that one from years ago. Fact is, at least as it stands now, I really wasn’t.