Making a football team's most dynamic scoring threat ride the pine for most of a half is not a winning strategy, but Miami Dolphins RB Reggie Bush said Sunday he had no problem with coach Joe Philbin benching him after a first quarter fumble.
"He surprised me a little bit," Bush told the Miami Herald. "But, still, I've got to protect the ball."
With the game scoreless, Bush rushed for a first down on the Dolphins' second offensive drive, only to lose the ball at the Miami 30-yard line. Tennessee recovered and scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive to take a 7-0 lead.
That was the last time Bush would see the field in the first half. Backups Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller played in his place.
But why take Bush off the field (in what was then a close game) when he is the only player on the team capable of scoring any time? Philbin said after the game the move was "not necessarily" a reaction to the fumble.
With a game against Buffalo coming up on Thursday, Philbin may have also wanted to avoid overworking Bush, but it hardly seems like he planned to shelve his best offensive player for nearly an entire half.
Still, Bush refused to complain about the move after the game. "I didn't deserve to be back in there," Bush said. "I fumbled the ball and I've had two fumbles lost this year. I have to do a better job of protecting the ball. I've been in this league long enough to know protecting the ball is the most important thing as a running back."
It is clear Bush does not want to ruffle feathers with his boss. Even so, he would be justified if he had pointed out that the back who replaced him (Thomas) may have one fewer fumble on the season, but he is also averaging a full yard less per carry than him.
The Dolphins have applauded Philbin's no-nonsense attitude this season, but in this case, that attitude made it harder for the Dolphins to win. Having Bush on the field probably would not have prevented QB Ryan Tannehill from throwing three costly interceptions, but it is doubtful the team would have been worse off with Bush on the field.
Benching Bush tells Philbin's team that no one player is above the team, but what kind of message does it send when Bush's punishment continues even as the opposing team runs up a 24-3 halftime lead?
Philbin's players are adults, they don't need a schoolmaster telling them how to play the game the right way. They need a coach who puts them in the best position to win games.