At a time like this, with Lawrence Timmons suspended indefinitely and the Miami Dolphins scrambling to fill out their linebacker corps with unheralded players, it pays to know who is running that beleaguered position group.
The answer is Frank Bush, and he’s a good one, though we really haven’t gotten to know him very well. Adam Gase’s policy, similar to that of many other NFL head coaches, is to put strict limits on the media availability of assistant coaches below the coordinator pay grade.
The first thing to know is that Bush has really been around. The Dolphins added him in January to fill the role of Matt Burke, who was promoted from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator. Bush was a defensive coordinator, too, with the Houston Texans in 2009 and 2010, but has spent the bulk of his 26 years in the league as a linebackers coach.
The best of it was a back-to-back Super Bowl championship run with the Denver Broncos in 1997 and 1998. As linebackers coach, Bush worked with Bill Romanowski, a volatile Pro Bowler who was only three years his junior, with both in their 30’s. Mike Shanahan was the Broncos’ head coach.
The biggest disappointment surely was being fired as Texans’ defensive coordinator following the 2010 season. Houston dropped from 9-7 to 6-10 that year and the defensive unit was among the league’s worst statistically as Bush and senior assistant Ray Rhodes, a future NFL head coach, were overcome by injury problems.
Through the years Bush has coached with the Oilers and the Texans in Houston, and with the Broncos, Cardinals, Titans and Rams. He started 11 games for the Oilers as a rookie linebacker in 1985 but his career was cut short by a spinal condition that made it too dangerous to continue. He never left the game, moving into a college scouting position with the Oilers for five seasons and then into coaching.
Bush, 54, is known for his positive attitude and the motivational messages he e-mails each day under the heading of “TKG BIG,” or Think Big.
“People always think I’m going to to be living the dream,” Bush said last year in a feature article written by the Rams communications staff. “If you’re doing what you want to do or doing the things that take you to where you want to go, you’re actually living the dream. The dream is to get there.”
This is the kind of guy that Gase needs to be working on his linebacker problem right now because the dream of having Timmons and rookie Raekwon McMillan (out for the season) as the dependable foundations for that unit is long past. Chase Allen, an undrafted rookie, started last Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers, and Bush surely had a lot to do with keeping him on the team’s final 53-man roster for the regular season when Neville Hewitt was placed on the waived/injured list.
Mike Hull is another undrafted player who started for the Dolphins last week and played every defensive snap. In a rare interview opportunity early in training camp, Bush had this to say about the former Penn State star.
“In this league, as you know, it’s next man up and you’re one snap away,” Bush said on Aug. 4. “Mike’s just done a good job of learning all three (linebacker) positions, being there on call when we need him, but also making plays on the football field.
“He’s a smart kid who knows how to retain information and it’s not too big for him. We do put a lot on him in the sense of asking him to know all three positions. We’ve got to be smart about that, but he does a good job right now of being able to handle that.”
From the start it has been up to Bush to be handle all the personnel problems and changing situations that are thrown at him as Dolphins linebackers coach. So far, so good, but man are they stretching him thin.
Indicative of the trust Gase has in Bush is the title of assistant head coach the Dolphins have given him. It’s based on the experience he gained working under the following head coaches – Shanahan, Jeff Fisher, Jack Pardee, Dennis Green, Gary Kubiak and Mike Munchak.