When the Chicago Bears signed running back Michael Bush to a four-year $14 million contract, I was among the many that thought the Bears would have one of the most feared backfield tandems in the entire league.
Before moving to the windy city, Bush was the backup to Darren McFadden in Oakland, and when McFadden was injured last season, Bush gained 977 yards on the ground and scored seven touchdowns. He proved he was a legitimate threat and was more than just a reliable backup. It has been said before, but it's worth mentioning again; Michael Bush could be the feature running back for several teams in the NFL.
Obviously, the Bears' rushing duties primarily fall to Matt Forte who has emerged as one of the best RBs in the business. He has deceptive quickness and is useful as a receiver when called upon. And so, the question everyone was asking was: 'what would be Bush's role in Chicago?
Would the Bears operate a running back committee that seems to be finding favor with a lot of teams? Or would Bush, the big, bruising running back be primarily used in short yardage and goal line situations?
To be fair, he has been pretty invisible, being used sparingly, and we just haven't seen him utilised in the way we thought he would be. He has rushed the ball 80 times this year for 297 yards, garnering a pretty mediocre 3.7 yards per carry. He does have three rushing TDs, which is the same as Forte has managed this year, but I think that says more about the Bears' star running back than it does about Bush. The running game, in my opinion, has not been as effective as it should have been. There is still a lot of football to be played, but the Bears need to get the run game going if they want to win down the stretch.
Bush isn't a bad receiving option, so it's surprising to note that he has only caught seven passes this season. That's less than one catch per game. Surely Chicago can find a way to incorporate Bush more into the passing game, even if they're not going to use him much in terms of running the ball.
And so it begs the question - what is the point of Michael Bush?
Was the plan all along for him to just be Forte's backup, stepping in to fill the void if injuries occurred? I think the money they spent on him would signify otherwise, but that's what it's looked like so far. He's too good of a player to not be used more. I can only imagine that a part of him wishes another team had shown an interest in him, and perhaps he would have found himself taking the majority of the snaps instead of floundering in the background. Take the win over Carolina earlier in the season; Bush played a mere five snaps. That surely doesn't represent value for money?
The situation begins to remind me of Tim Tebow in New York. Why would you spend a lot of money on someone and then pretty much not use him at all? Granted, it's not as extreme as it is for Tebow (even though it's the right decision for him to remain on the bench), but it can begin to feel that way.
The Bears fans haven't come close to seeing the best of Michael Bush, and you start to wonder if they ever will. Chicago would be a much more formidable team if they could get Bush more involved in the game. He is a very good running back and it's about time they used his abilities to their advantage.