The Detroit Lions have been making plenty of noise in the offseason. Unfortunately, when paired with their franchise’s historically poor postseason success, it comes across as static.
Reggie Bush hasn’t lined up in the Lions backfield yet, but there are multitudes of Kool-Aid-drinking fans who believe Bush can lead Detroit to heights they’ve never reached before. Count Bush as president of the Lions fan club.
After declaring on Monday that the Lions have the potential to be the NFL’s best offense next season, Bush one-upped himself by echoing Nick Fairley’s sentiment that the Lions are in position for a Super Bowl run.
Those may seem like lofty predictions for a 28-year-old running back on his third team in four seasons, but Bush has been a part of a floundering franchise’s resurgence before. In New Orleans, a younger Bush flourished as the all-purpose threat that added an extra constant to the “Aints” by propelling the Saints offense to two NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl title.
If the boisterous Philadelphia Eagles or Rex Ryan have taught us anything in recent seasons, it’s that Super Bowl declarations usually backfire. That said, it’s true that a huge chunk of the Lions return to NFC relevancy whittles down to Bush’s effectiveness as a runner. The rushing attack never recovered from the concussion that halted Jahvid Best’s career in 2011; the Detroit Lions regressed and as a result, they became a one-dimensional offense. They also piled up garbage yards attempting to rally from behind. Not only did Calvin Johnson obliterate the single season receiving yardage record, but Matt Stafford attempted more passes than any quarterback in single-season history.
Because of the imbalance between their passing and rushing attacks, the Lions faced defenses with six or fewer players in the box on 855 of the team’s 1,160 plays, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Defenses concentrating their efforts on the Lions passing offense were susceptible to game-breaking runs. However, the Lions runners only uncorked four runs of 20 yards or more; fewer than Bush had all of last season.
After signing Bush, Jim Schwartz used one of Detroit’s successful franchises as a metaphor for the impact Bush could have on the offense.
“If the Tigers had Cabrera and they had (Jim) Schwartz batting behind Cabrera, how many intentional walks would Cabrera get?” Schwartz told the media at the NFL League Meetings in March. “But Reggie Bush can clear the bases. When they choose to intentionally walk Calvin Johnson – Calvin’s the kid in little league that the other coach ... intentionally walks four times in a row. Well, along with the other guys, we need to make more explosive plays when teams choose to play us that way. I think Reggie will be a big part of that.”
Stafford has the physical tools, but he also has a bit of Jay Cutler’s daredevil mentality in him. If Bush can become the safety valve that forces Stafford to gaze somewhere away from Calvin Johnson, take fewer chances with throws into tight coverage and limit his turnovers, then Bush will be worth the investment.