I figured the Saints organization would have parted with the celebrithete after the Black and Gold’s Super Bowl victory due to his expensive contract, though the front office surprised this observer retaining him under the same terms.
With almost $12,000,000.000 due to Reggie Bush this season, the conventional wisdom was that the running back would either renegotiate his deal or be cut.
Head coach Sean Payton has been Bush’s biggest fan and steadfastly defended the former Heisman Trophy winner’s value to the Saints’ turbo-charged offense.
Granted Payton couldn’t cite the stat sheets as solid evidence on this count, since linebacker distraction is not a quantifiable statistic.
Bush’s greatest gift to the organization was his very presence.
His selection by the Saints with the second overall pick in the 2006 draft signaled a new way of doing business on Airline Drive, that the organization was not going to shirk from picking an expensive fan favorite.
Unlike the ridiculous Ricky Williams-Ditka deal, the Saints didn’t mortgage the future to acquire Bush; those rights were paid upfront by Jim Haslett’s club.
It wasn’t a head coach who stood anonymously in line at a drug store in post-Katrina New Orleans nor the newly signed still recuperating quarterback who could barely raise his Saints jersey at the press conference when the team signed him who sold out the Superdome on a season-ticket basis for the first time in the history of the franchise.
It was Bush who created an unprecedented level of excitement and energy.
It was after he was picked that I made the decision to become a season ticket holder again. If the club was going to step up by giving the fans what we wanted, then I felt it fair to reciprocate by reinvesting in an organization that was no longer going to be content with mediocre play.
I don’t know if any player could have lived up to the stratospheric expectations that were assigned to Bush with his own complicity.
I remember not long after the draft a typically objective observer gushed that the Saints had the best running game in the league just by having him in a Saints jersey and I’m sure there were those who were ready to give him his gold jacket before he his first NFL snap.
Reggie Bush did not earn his considerable pay by what he did on the field but how he packed the stands and created an electric atmosphere.
Oh, he also shut up that obnoxious Bears fan I had the misfortune of being seated near with his spectacular 88-yard reception run during the otherwise miserable NFC Championship game in Soldier Field.
Both sides are winners. The Saints got a load of badly needed salary cap relief, a talented special teams player and a fourth round draft pick, the last two being modest prizes but more than what the organization had ended up with had they just cut Bush.
And short of an unlikely Saints-Dolphins Super Bowl matchup, the Black and Gold defense won’t face him in a regular season game until 2013. That they denied a potential conference or worse yet divisional rival of his services is a victory of sorts.
For Reggie, Miami marks a new beginning where he will enjoy more sun no longer being in quarterback Drew Brees’s shadow. In addition to playing on grass, which is easier on running backs than man-made turf, he’ll fit better into the Dolphins culture, which attempts to fill the Hollywood hole left in a Los Angeles-less league.
Bush will also have a final chance to prove that he is a featured running back as oppose to an infrequently deployed gimmick player.
Hopefully Bush is cognizant of the love New Orleans had/has for him. How Saints fans stood by him during his not so productive games and the Heisman fiasco. New Orleanians know all about tough times and public embarrassment and there was probably no city that would have been more supportive of him during his public tribulations.
When the Saints picked him, we didn’t get the Hall of Famer most unreasonably hoped for; but we did pick up one of the key ingredients of a new Saints team.
Thanks Reggie, it’s been fun.