Reggie Bush's NFL career has been...well, what do we really make of it?
Arguably the most hyped, decorated and purely scintillating college running back of the 21st century, Mr. Bush spent two years as one of the most famous football players on Planet Earth while he scorched defenses at the storied University of Southern California.
Oh, and he dated Kim Kardashian.
So, yeah, life as Reggie Bush has been pretty good.
Let's reflect on his football career, one of the most compelling of the digital age.
In 2005, Southern Cal was fresh off its second-straight, super-convincing national championship, and Matt Leinart and Bush were the Trojan's leading men with the Hollywood look.
YouTube "launched" in November of that year, and by the following July had 100 million views per day.
For football-loving fans, Bush's high-school highlight tape became one of the first legendary YouTube videos.
Leinart decided life at the pinnacle of the collegiate ranks in glamorous Los Angeles was just too good to pass up -- even for the NFL. He stayed at USC for his final season to again pair with Bush, with USC the clear favorites to win a third-consecutive national title.
All but three of the Trojans' victories were by 20 points or more that year -- they cruised to the BCS Championship Game against the Texans Longhorns.
That Rose Bowl, which oozed with NCAA superstars, was the finest football game I've ever witnessed.
In a high-scoring back-and-forth-then-back-again affair, Vince Young willed his white- and burnt orange-clad club to a thrilling 41-38 win on a fourth-down scramble into the right corner of the end zone with only a few seconds remaining.
Played on January 4 2006, it was the first defeat that the Leinart and Bush-led USC squadron had endured since September 27, 2003.
With 200 carries for 1,740 yards (8.7 yards per), 37 catches for 478 yards and more than 700 return yards to go along with 19 touchdowns, Bush was the easy Heisman Trophy choice.
How outrageously high was his stock heading into the 2006 draft after his A-list college career?
The New Orleans Saints, holders of the No. 2 overall selection, ran their pick to the podium. Bush would now don back and gold inside the Superdome.
New Orleans tenure
In his first NFL game, a 19-14 win over the Cleveland Browns, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner went for more than 100 yards from scrimmage on 22 touches.
However, new head coach and offensive virtuoso Sean Payton didn't view Bush as a between-the-tackles, 1,000-yard running back.
He saw him as a versatile offensive weapon.
Bush only had a singular 100-yard rushing game as a rookie and averaged just 3.6 yards per carry, but he caught 88 passes for 742 yards, and the Saints lost to the Chicago Bears in the NFC title game.
In 2007, Bush's statistics on the ground didn't improve, and he wasn't nearly as dynamic in the open field as a pass-catcher. Then, in 2008, when injuries led to the lowest rushing and receiving yard totals of his young career, the "bust" whispers began.
The following season, New Orleans' electric offense was too much to handle, and the defense morphed into a turnover-manufacturing machine. Bush again set career lows, but he averaged 6.88 yards per carry, caught 10 passes for 95 yards and accounted for two touchdowns in the Saints' magical playoff run that ended with an upset win over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl.
It was clear, though -- when Bush's rookie deal was up, the Saints likely wouldn't renew it.
Resurgence in South Beach, disappointment in Detroit
Determined to prove he could be a successful running back by conventional standards, Bush signed with the running back-starved Miami Dolphins in 2011.
He played 15 games, toted the rock 216 times and averaged 5.0 yards per carry en route to the first 1,000-yard campaign of his NFL career. After starring on HBO's Hard Knocks in the summer of 2012, Bush fell just 14 yards short of another 1,000-yard season.
Mainly due to the poor overall management and a lack of long-term, team-building vision from Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland, Bush was gone from Miami after two productive years. He inked a four-year, $16 million contract to play in the Detroit Lions' spread offense with elite wideout Calvin Johnson.
Bush again eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark while averaging 4.5 yards per rush in 2013, and the 54 receptions he registered were the most he had accumulated since 2008.
Detroit hired Jim Caldwell before the 2014 season, a head coach with an offensive background rooted in traditional, mainly-condensed offensive formations with two tight ends and lead fullbacks, which, from an X's and O's standpoint, doesn't exactly accentuate Bush's strength of playing in space.
A nagging ankle injury kept Bush on the sidelines in five Lions' regular-season outings, and he ended a disappointing season under 4.0 yards per carry.
Although he has three, 1,000-yard rushing campaigns on his NFL resume, Bush's receiving prowess will be remembered most. Here's where he ranks in catches per game among the running backs in the Top 15 in total receptions since 2006.
|RBs with most catches since 2006|
|Rank||Name||Games||Catches||Yards||Catches Per Game|
For a running back, who, to many, failed as a former No. 2 overall pick, the above figures are impressive.
Only Matt Forte and Darren Sproles have amassed more receiving yards than Bush in that time frame.
Having been released by the Lions Wednesday, Reggie Bush hits the free-agent marketplace. He joins Chris Johnson, another former home-run threat, and a draft class rich with running backs.
The Patriots aren't timid about adding former stars in the twilight of their careers on cheap contracts, and if free-agent pass-catching running back Shane Vereen signs elsewhere, Bush could fit snugly into his role.
Former Saints running backs coach Aaron Kromer, who spent three years with Bush in New Orleans, is now the offensive line coach in Buffalo with the Bills, but the thought is they'll add a young runner in the draft to eventually replace Fred Jackson.
The Panthers will be in need of some running back reinforcement in 2015, and have a decent chunk of cap room.
With Steven Jackson likely on the way out, the Falcons may be interested, and without a big-play threat out of the backfield, don't rule out the Giants and, yes, even a reunion with the Saints.
If the Jets don't want to give C.J. Spiller "big" money, new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey could certainly work Bush into his spread offense.
Bush's days being considered a core offensive weapon are likely finished, but there should be a role for him on a team somewhere, before, as Pete Prisco mentions in the above video, he heads to the broadcast booth.