Texans strike a blow for common sense
It was nice to see the Houston Texans win yesterday, to end a lot of speculation that they were tanking games to stay ahead of the pack for the right to draft Reggie Bush. For that talk, I was offended on two counts: 1) As a sports purist, the thought of a team losing games on purpose is sickening to contemplate; 2) More practically speaking, a team can’t be certain a draft pick will live up to his potential. Pick #2, or #3, or #199 (aka Tom Brady) could turn out to be just as good, if not better.
Without a doubt, Bush looks like a rare talent. Without a doubt, he also plays the position with the shortest shelf-life in the NFL. Tigers eat their young. The NFL eats its runners.
Let’s look at the running backs drafted first overall since the league expanded to 28 teams in 1976:
-- Ricky Bell, 1977, Tampa Bay: God rest him. A solid back (1,263 yards, seven TDs) during Tampa Bay’s near-run to the Super Bowl in 1979, he had six otherwise uninspiring seasons in a career eroded by injuries. ***WARNING: TREND ALERT!!!***
-- Earl Campbell, 1978, Houston: Still the most devastating runner I’ve ever seen, his bruising style cut many defenders’ careers short – but ultimately did the same to his own. Still, an easy choice for the Hall of Fame and clearly the best on this list, with more than 9,000 yards rushing and 74 TDs.
-- Billy Sims, 1980, Detroit: Two great years to start his career, a devastating knee injury in Year 3. His career lasted five seasons.
-- George Rogers, 1981, New Orleans: After an outstanding rookie year (1,674 yards rushing, 13 TDs), he got hurt in his second year and was never the same player. However, he did recover in 1986 to help Washington win the Super Bowl, rushing for 18 TDs.
-- Bo Jackson, 1986, Tampa Bay: The type of physical specimen that came along once a generation in the pre-steroids era. He couldn’t miss, unless he blew off the then-hapless Buccaneers for a baseball career. Returning to the NFL with the Raiders, he averaged more than five yards a carry over four seasons until going down with a career-ending hip injury in the 1991 playoffs. Still, that Brian Bosworth moment was cool, wasn’t it?
-- Ki-Jana Carter, 1995, Cincinnati: Another guy labeled as a can’t-miss, he blew out his knee in the 1995 preseason and rushed for a grand total of 1,127 yards in his career.
For that matter, the No. 1 overall pick has included busts at several positions: Kenneth Sims, Aundray Bruce, Steve Emtman, Dan Wilkinson, Tim Couch and Courtney Brown, to note.
In other words, who’s to say Reggie Bush won’t tear up an ACL or an Achilles and join the list of No. 1 overall picks to miss out on their potential. Certainly a team like Houston would love the opportunity to draft him, but when you have as many problems as the Texans do, what good is it to hold their breath and wait for the season to end so they can take the first calculated gamble of the NFL draft.