A few years back, the LA Times Sports department decided that longtime pro football writer Bob Oates should “only” appear online. At the time, it appeared to be a kind of demotion, or maybe a clover-filled pasture for this aging scribe to frolic in. Now, it’s clear that for the Times as well as most newspapers, they need to look hard at how they can get people to look at their online product. Bob Oates would be a fine writer to start promoting as “exclusively online.”
His column today on the New Orleans Saints (and ex-Trojan) Reggie Bush is a good example. Oates is not a flashy writer, and thank goodness for that. But he’s thoughtful, insightful and imaginative. Here’s a taste:
Reggie Bush is so greatly different from all other NFL players — past and present — that the question of the week is again how his employers, the New Orleans Saints, will use him in the Dallas game Sunday night. The crowd of Cowboy fans will see a player who is the NFL’s most dangerous runner in an open field. Yet the Saints have never shown that they know the best ways to get him open.
To date, they’ve been alternating Bush with running back Deuce McAllister, which is a conventional way of lining up two great players. But there’s nothing conventional about Bush. First off, the Saints should realize that as an NFL player, Bush is primarily a receiver, not a scrimmage runner. Instead of rotating him and McAllister, they should regularly start both of them, using Bush as a third wide receiver in a basic three-wide-receiver offense.
I watched some of last Sunday’s Saints game against the San Francisco 49ers, and assume it was that incredible performance that inspired Oates to write this. When he was with USC, when Bush was “on,” he seemed unstoppable — blessed with quick moves and speed, but incredibly powerful and hard to tackle. But that was against other college boys. It was amazing to see this mere rookie dominate another pro team. Sunday night’s Saints v. Cowboys game looms as the game of the year so far.