The venerable Mike Florio of The Sporting News yesterday suggested that the New Orleans Saints should cut Reggie Bush. It is, he believes, "a move that simply needs to be made," but one that won't because "NFL teams typically hate to admit a mistake."
Florio brings out the ire of a lot of us here at CSC, and around SB Nation, for his provocative opinions. It's gotten to the point where we want to ignore him, but he so inspires hatred that we can't help but be drawn to each fanshot that bears his name, even to suggest that nobody click the evil links within. I don't really care, though. I don't want to ignore him, I just want to prove him wrong. It's the offseason and we need something to talk about at CSC.
So let's start with his first statement on Reggie:
Bush is only a bit player in the offense.
There is no one focus to our offense. There's no "Manning to Harrison" or "Young to Rice" that everyone expects. In 2009, no receiver caught more than 20% of Brees' completions. No running back had more than 35% of the total carries. The key to the offensive success which has seen us top the NFL scoring for two successive seasons is the array of options open to the playcaller. To suggest that Bush "is only a bit player in the offense" is to suggest the same of everyone other than Drew Brees. Can we do without all those other bit players? Would you feel fine without one of, say, Pierre Thomas or Marques Colston come September?
(Pre-reply: But Bush's salary isn't the same as the rest of the offense. I know that. So what?)
Next, Florio labels Reggie a 'role player,' which I'm sure is supposed to be another insult. It shouldn't be taken as such. To further my point about our offense: role players are what we need to win games. This team acts more as a collective than any other in the NFL right now. Sean Payton isn't standing on the sidelines every Sunday thinking about how to get the ball to the one receiver he can rely on. He's chillin' with some Vicodin and wondering where his Juicy Fruit is, because the offense is so damn good that he has nothing to worry about. Why not call another end-around?
Let's look at how Reggie did last year as a role player in our 3-man Running Back by Committee (Herein referred to as RBBC).
RBBC TOTAL: 450 attempts for 2112 yards, 4.69 ypc and 18 TDs.
Reggie: 87 attempts for 507 yards, 5.83 ypc and 6 TDs.
Reggie only took 19% of the RBBC carries, so he's certainly no Mike Bell. But he had the highest yards per carry average of any Saint and managed to gain almost a quarter of RBBC rushing yardage for the season, with 33% of RBBC rushing touchdowns. I realize I'm glossing over his output somewhat, but remember the collective nature of both the RBBC and our offense as a whole.
RBBC TOTAL: 112 catches for 855 yards, 7.63ypc and 8 TDs.
Reggie: 57 catches for 430 yards, 7.54 ypc and 4 TDs.
Passes to the RBBC made up over 25% of Drew's completions last season, enough to make them collectively the biggest targeted receiver on the whole offense (Colston caught the most passes, with 19%).Therefore they cannot be ignored in evaluating the RBBC.
Reggie has pretty much 50% of the RBBC output here, proving his value as a pass catcher from the backfield. He also caught more passes in the season (plus postseason) than Robert Meachem or Jeremy Shockey. Bit players, I scoff at thee.
(Pre-reply: Isn't making the RBBC a singular receiving entity unfair when both Reggie and Pierre could have been lined up for many plays? Well, Florio obviously thinks the Reggie-as-decoy thing is nonsense, otherwise he wouldn't be a bit player. What defense is going to bother covering overpaid overhyped bit players who should be cut? Surely he never made a difference to anything.)
In addition to this, Reggie returned 32 of a season total 38 punts for 243 of a team total 265 yards and scored the sole Saints punt return touchdown of the season.
So what does that make Bush? Bit player or role player? If you're still not convinced of his worth, here's one last stat: in 2009, Reggie scored 11 of 85 team touchdowns. Nobody exceeded that, with only Pierre Thomas equaling it. It wasn't my intention when I started writing, but I've just talked myself into believing this:
Reggie Bush is our most explosive and highest scoring offensive weapon after Drew Brees.
The Saints should have every right in an uncapped year to spend
way too much on a locally beloved role player who'll never live up to the hype$8m on Reggie Bush.
Fixed that for you, Mike. Ugh. The condescension here is overwhelming. "Of course the little ol' Saints can waste their money on Reggie to please the silly locals. Good for them!" It peeves me so much that I can barely form a rebuttal. First of all, "way too much" is subjective, and something I thought Stujo4 might jump on. Why is it way too much? Is it your money, Florio? Did we just go 0-16, with Reggie averaging 1.8ypc? Oh, right.
Fine, Reggie was drafted #2 overall and hasn't lived up to that draft position. We all know that. Does that bar us from re-evaluating his talent and potential, and adjusting our expectations accordingly? No. The hype he mentions died years ago, to be replaced by the Sean Payton Pragmatic Perception of Bush, which coincidentally is the title of his next book, a Buddhist meditation on 70's porn.
I've posted it here before. Reggie is The Invaluable Intangible: his ability as a back combined with his value as a decoy makes him a huge and potent focus of our offense. Nobody other than Reggie himself believes #25 will rewrite the record books, but without him we'd lack an important part of what makes our team work. Of course, why should that stop Florio from imagining things? To him, us poor deluded Saints fans still think Reggie is about to bust out that 2000 yard season. We don't. Does our understanding of his ability bar us from adjusting his contract from our armchairs? Yes. I'm sure we're all concerned for Tom Benson's chequebook and will be at the nearest dealership come Monday.
On the other hand, the Saints shouldn't ignore the connection between Bush's overcompensation and their inability to sign the franchise's top running back, Pierre Thomas, to a long-term deal.
I won't suggest that Bush's salary didn't affect PT's negotiations, as that would be incredibly naive. I'm sure that it did, and rightly so, at least from Thomas' point of view. He carried the ball twice as much as Reggie and believes he was just as instrumental in our Super Bowl winning season. That's something I agree with, and good luck to him in getting paid. But there's so much more to it than that, and to avoid exploring the reasons for their two contracts is typical of the Myopia of Mike. Why provide detailed analysis when you can get page hits from a vaguely controversial statement? Or does Florio really believe that if Reggie were cut, Loomis would give Pierre his Steven Jackson money? Or that, even more magically, PT would suddenly decide he only wants $2m/year?
NFL franchises are businesses. The money doesn't come from a bottomless pit, and negotiations proceed as such. In positions of power such as the one they were in with Pierre, they're going to try to wring every cent from every deal they make, whether it seems fair to us or not. When they're trying to win over a newly drafted potential superstar, they have no hand at all; hence Reggie's huge contract. While Pierre has now overperformed his pay level and Reggie has underwhelmed from the initial hype, contracts don't always reflect performance. Reggie is locked into his huge deal, while Pierre probably wouldn't feel too comfortable shopping his 936 yard season around the NFL for $5m/year.
Ideally, the Saints would pressure Bush into taking less money. But he'd most likely refuse, and then the Saints would have to decide whether to call his bluff by cutting him.
Here, Florio dives off the deep-end into complete fantasy land. Rumour and guesswork entirely. But hey, what's wrong with judgements based on opinion and incomplete evidence? There has been no rush to pressure Reggie into a restructured deal so far this offseason, as ideal as Florio thinks it is. Pressuring a player who we've proven above to be key to our offense to the point where the Saints are put in a position where they have to cut him would be stupid. Loomis knows this, and that's why Reggie isn't out drinking with Bobby McCray right now.
(Pre-reply: Didn't the Saints pressure Pierre almost to breaking point? Yes, but Pierre had no other option than to sign, being an RFA. Reggie being cut would have half the NFL salivating to pick him up.)
Ideal, to me, would be to pay him whatever is in his contract and to have him perform well in his role in the offense on our way to retaining the Super Bowl.
But why write that when you could suggest that Reggie! Reggie! should be cut?