Thursday, July 28, 2011

New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints pulled off a major coup in the wee hours of Thursday morning by trading Reggie Bush to Miami.
The deal is a win-win for the Saints, even if they lost a key part of their offense.
And make no mistake, Bush, for all of his shortcomings, was a critical weapon in Sean Payton's high-octane attack. The Saints offense will be different without Bush. It'll still be potent. But it won't be nearly as versatile.
Still, the Saints understood the likelihood of keeping Bush on board was minimal. They tried to keep him but Bush held all the cards.
His $11.8-million base salary was unlivable. With one year left on his contract and the Saints desperately in need of salary cap space to sign free agents, something had to be done. Bush and his agent Joel Segal knew it.
His public comments to the contrary, Bush had little interest in returning to New Orleans. It was an option, sure, but a back-burner one at best.
The two-year, $9.75-million deal was almost certainly more than the Saints could offer, but ultimately. this deal was about something Bush regards as much if not more than money: Status.
After five years of playing alongside and in the shadows of Drew Brees, Marques Colston and Deuce McAllister, Bush sought a more prominent role than New Orleans could offer. The selection of Alabama running Mark Ingram only exacerbated the problem.
In Miami, the competition for carries and catches will be greatly reduced. Bush should be able to showcase his skills more often than he did or would in New Orleans.
To his credit, Bush played a supporting role in New Orleans for five successful seasons and did so without complaint. That's not an easy transition for a player of his pedigree.
Of all of his wondrous abilities, his greatest might be his fierce competitiveness. His drive sometimes led him into mistakes on the field - 19 fumbles and countless negative plays in five seasons - but it was an admirable quality given his resume and bank account.
Say what you will about Bush, but he never rested on his college laurels.
Still, the question remains, was Bush made a role player in New Orleans because of his ability or in spite of it?

The Saints clearly believed it was the former. Bush's injury history has been well-documented. He missed 19 games in five seasons because of various setbacks. Coach Sean Payton was his staunchest supporter but even he learned that less was more with the frail Bush.
The last time the Saints dealt a Heisman Trophy-winning back from San Diego to the Dolphins it worked out fairly well for everyone.
The Saints received four draft picks, including two first-rounders, from Miami in return for Ricky Williams back in March, 2002.
Miami received a franchise back to solidify their running game.
And Williams received a fresh start and was able to resurrect his career. (He rushed for an NFL-high 1,853 yards and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl in 2002, although his tenure was infamously sidetracked later by suspension for violations of the NFL drug policy.)
By executing a rare sign-and-trade deal with the Dolphins, the Saints were able to accomplish two things.
They received compensation - likely low-round draft picks - in return for a player they otherwise were going to have to cut free to the open market.
And most important, they controlled his landing spot. Tampa Bay and St. Louis reportedly were serious suitors for Bush. By dealing him to Miami, the Saints were able to keep him out of the NFC.
In many ways this move was the exact opposite of Miami's last heralded superstar acquisition. Lebron James was The Man in Cleveland and left to become part of a championship team. Bush is doing the opposite. He's leaving a championship team to be The Man.
He'll get his chance in Miami. The ball - and the touches - are in his hands.