There aren’t many college coach-college player relationships in NCAA football as historically significant as Pete Carroll and Reggie Bush. Carroll took over a downtrodden USC program in 2001 — a school that hadn’t won 11 games since 1979 — and led them to an 11-2 record by 2002. Without Carroll and a number four finish in the AP poll that year, does Bush, the number one running back recruit in the country per Rivals, choose to become a Trojan?
Together, they went 37-2 from 2003-2005, with two AP national championships. Bush won the Heisman in 2005, easily beating out Vince Young of Texas and teammate Matt Leinart. Then came the “Bush sweepstakes” in which it seemed like teams would want to lose their way to the top overall pick, which the Houston Texans basically did when Kris Bryant missed a 31-yard would-be-game-winning field goal attempt in Week 17.
In a mildly shocking move, the Texans instead decided on Mario Williams, while Bush wound up as a complement to the signing of Drew Brees and hiring of Sean Payton in New Orleans. Then came the controversy.
An investigation into Bush’s relationships while at USC, including improper gifts, culminated in a 2010 ruling that the NCAA would put the Trojans on probation for four years, they’d lose 30 scholarships, vacate 14 wins, including the 2005 Orange Bowl, and take away Bush’s Heisman. In what some said was quite a “convenient” transition, Carroll left USC six months earlier to take over as the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.
Now with the Buffalo Bills, Bush is 31 and about to wrap the worst season of his career. In 11 games, he’s carried the ball 11 times and gained five yards. Keep in mind: The Bills are the best running team in the NFL. Last season with the San Francisco 49ers, Bush carried it eight times and gained 28 yards in five games, before tearing his meniscus when he slipped on the concrete at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, a facility that is now itself vacant.
While I believe Bush’s career is considered a disappointment by most, he’s still someone who gained 1,307 yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie in 2006. Won a Super Bowl in 2009. Rushed for at least 980 yards in every season from 2011 to 2013. And caught nearly 500 career passes. Though he’s turning 32 in March and clearly nothing more than a “presence” at this point in Buffalo, Bush said this week that he still has “a lot left to give this game.” He’ll be a free agent in 2017. The Seahawks will need to add a third down running back in 2017 to insure depth behind C.J. Prosise, who has been consistently injured as a rookie.
Could Carroll and Bush finally reunite, over 10 years since that epic National Championship game against Texas?
There are a number of reasons to believe that it could happen. Bush won’t cost a dime more than the least expensive veteran available. He’s most likely going to be seen as a “camp body” to any team that signs him, if any team signs him. As said before, Seattle needs to hit the free agent market and draft for running backs again in 2017; they’ve had at least 12 running backs on the roster this season alone. Also, Bush has done the most important thing for any running back who wants to be signed by the Seahawks: He’s played for the Bills. Bush could join Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson, and C.J. Spiller in that regard.
Speaking of Lynch, the first time that Bush and Carroll played against each other on any field: The 2010 wild card game between the Seahawks and Saints, commonly referred to as “BeastQuake.” A completely forgotten storyline that day, Bush had 10 touches for 49 yards. Their most recent matchup was this past November 7, when Bush had two catches for 22 yards in Buffalo’s loss to Seattle on Monday Night Football.
There’s little reason to think that Bush has much left to give to football as a player though. Perhaps this season could be considered a lost year due to his recovery from the knee injury in 2015, but as far as running backs go, he’s a relic. He has little shot to make a roster in 2017, but maybe that’s enough reason to add him as a veteran with nothing to lose. Or enough reason to not even entertain the thought at all.
Other players from that era of Trojan football who Carroll has signed include Lendale White, Mike Williams, and a brief flirtation with Leinart. Most fans wouldn’t care to see Bush in Seattle if only because they know it probably wouldn’t lead to anywhere besides him being released in mid-August, but there’s some logic behind such a move.
And perhaps that’s the perfect way to tie a bow around his career.