You could say Michael Bush is having a down year.
Of course, that statement depends heavily on your expectations of him.
Boasting a career average of 4 yards per carry, his 1.6 average this season is a bit of a blemish on the 29-year-old's bio. His performance in last Sunday's game in St. Louis saw him rush seven times for negative 5 yards, but also included his second rushing touchdown of the season.
After averaging 158 carries and 660 yards during four years in Oakland, now in his second season in Chicago Bush has been relegated to only occasionally having his number called. The fewer opportunities, the more each one gets magnified, leading to recent criticism.
Marc Trestman bristled on Monday when asked about Bush's struggles
"It depends how you look at it. Michael Bush was pretty effective a few weeks ago in Green Bay. He’s been pretty effective running the football in four-minute for us throughout the season and won some games with his physicality and I think that started before Green Bay," Trestman said. "I don’t know where this is all coming from overall."
Against the Rams, Bush's fourth-quarter numbers specifically left a bad taste in viewers' mouths. Three times on the goal line he rushed for negative or no gain.
On Thursday, Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer also was asked if the criticism of Bush was warranted.
"Michael Bush comes in on short-yardage situations, so he’s never going to have yards per carry because he comes in on the 1-yard-line or he comes in in short-yardage," Kromer said. "He’s not going to get yards per carry."
If we shouldn't use yards per carry to determine a back's efficiency, what measure of success should we? His short yardage numbers are lousy too. Of his 42 carries this season, only 11 even qualify. And he's converted on just four of them. That total does, however, include his two scores (4th and 1;2nd and 1).
Being tabbed a short-yardage back is more of a disservice to Bush than a distinction. It elevates the expectations in those situations and he simply hasn't had the success to be considered a dependable option. Unless the Bears start using him more frequently (which may have happened if Matt Forte's hyper-extended knee kept him out Sunday against the Vikings) Bush is simply the backup running back.
Call him what he is: the guy who spells the starter. Not some short yardage specialist.