Before the 2006 NFL Draft, there was a scout who said that if Reggie Bush failed as a pro football player, it would be because there was something wrong with the NFL.
Two years into Bush's career - since he's likely done for the season - it isn't looking particularly good. Bush has only rushed for 1146 yards through two years at 3.7 yards per rush. I should, however, also mention that he has 1159 yards receiving in those two years, which means he's not one dimensional. But his tendency to drop passes, along with being fumble-prone (7 times this year), is discouraging.
Even teammates are starting to sour on him a bit, as was made clear by AOL Fanhouse. The easy answer is that Bush needs to concentrate more, work harder, etc., etc. The more truthful answer is that he needed Deuce McAllister healthy to help him carry the load.
But there may also be another answer as to why he's struggling. And that is that there may actually be a problem with the NFL.
Bush is most often compared to Gale Sayers, who had a brief, but brilliant, NFL career. Sayers, like Bush, is 6-feet tall, and played at approximately the same weight as Bush currently does - 200 lbs. The problem for Bush, however, is that the NFL he plays in is not the same NFL that Sayers played in.
When Gale Sayers played pro football (1965-1971), there wasn't a single 300-lb. lineman in the game. In 1990, there were 39 players who weighed 300 lbs. or more. Today, there are over 300 guys in the league who tilt the scales at 300 lbs. or more. And not only that, they're faster and stronger than they used to be. Plus, Gale Sayers never had to face a guy clogging the running lanes like Broncos D-Tackle Sam Adams, who is politely listed at 350-lbs.
And it's not just guys that are over 300-lbs. that are a problem. It's also linebackers who weigh 240 lbs. or more and have ridiculous speed.
Shawne Merriman is listed at 6-4, 272-lbs. and supposedly runs the 40 in 4.6. The average linebacker in the NFL right now according to the Elias Sports Bureau weighs 242-lbs. Dick Butkus (1965-1973), one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history and considered an absolute monster in his day, was 6-3, 244-lbs., which would make him an average sized linebacker in today's NFL.
The truth is that everyone who plays in the NFL is a physical freak to some degree, since that's what the job demands. It's always been that way. But, over time, people who play in the NFL have become more than just physical freaks, they've become pharmalogically modified freaks.
Zach Thomas of the Dolphins is, by all accounts, a very small linebacker by NFL standards. He's 5-11, 230 lbs. Meaning he outweighs me by more than 60-lbs. even though we're the same height. But those extra 60-lbs. aren't fat. They're primarily muscle. Needless to say, that's unnatural.
We've seen guys like Merriman, Julius Peppers, Rodney Harrison, and countless other individuals receive suspensions for either steroids or HGH or God only knows what. We've also seen guys like Brian Urlacher morph from a college safety into a 258-lb. linebacker at the pro level. This kind of pharmalogical modification isn't the exception anymore - it's basically the rule.
And that, frankly, is what Reggie Bush is up against. An NFL that is no longer dominated by those with sheer talent, but by those with sheer talent who also have chemicals coursing through their veins.
While Tiki Barber and Barry Sanders both excelled in the NFL as small backs, they were shorter than Bush (Sanders: 5-8, Barber: 5-10) and weighed slightly more than he did (Sanders: 203, Barber: 205). They also not so surprisingly retired early to avoid the physical toll of playing in a juiced-up league. Bush may ultimately have to become a receiver in the mold of Wes Welker if he wants to have a significant impact in the pros.
But what's clear is that Bush would have been an every-down back in the days of Gale Sayers. In today's NFL, he can't be that, and it isn't his fault.
He was just born 40 years later than he should have been.