Wide receivers around the NFL shed some tears on Thursday evening upon hearing the news that four-time All-Pro cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is retiring from pro football. Multiple outlets are reporting Asomugha will sign a one-day contract with the Oakland Raiders on Friday then ride off into the sunset. He last played for the San Francisco 49ers, but was waived on November 4.
In some parts of the world, people might ponder whether Asomugha belongs in the Hall of Fame. This particular corner will not be one of them*, because the only thing Nnamdi Asomugha is famous for around the City of Brotherly Love is being the biggest free-agent bust in Philadelphia Eagles history.
The Eagles signed Asomugha to a five-year contract worth $60 million with $25 million guaranteed in July, 2011. He was the prize piece from Joe Banner and/or Andy Reid’s Post-Lockout Summer Free-Agent Bonanza, a last-ditch effort to slap a team—a “Dream Team”—around Michael Vick after he had just taken the league by storm the previous season.
Widely considered one of the top two cornerbacks in the NFL at the time of his signing, Asomugha never lived up to his reputation as a shutdown corner. There were debates over whether the coaching staff—led at the time by offensive-line-coach-turned-defensive-coordinator Juan Castillo—was using its new personnel correctly, a theory Asomugha himself seldom denied. Regardless of technique or scheme though, he continued getting beat.
Asomugha was cut after two abysmal seasons with the Eagles. The team happily parted ways despite eating $4 million in guaranteed money in the deal. He eventually signed with the 49ers in April, but did not last the season, appearing in just three games.
What brought about his sudden decline is still not entirely clear. Asomugha had just turned 30 upon joining the Eagles, so it’s possible after eight seasons in the NFL, he simply hit a wall. It’s possible the decline began much sooner—Nnamdi had such a reputation in Oakland that quarterbacks often refused to throw or even look in his direction. Being shuffled into different roles in Philly likely accelerated the process, as opponents quickly began to see he could be exploited.
Asomugha also seemed indifferent at times. He wasn’t above upstaging his teammates on the field. He would openly question the game plan in the media. Was he unhappy with the organization or in Philadelphia? Did he lose his desire after cashing in on one last big payday?
Whatever the case, Asomugha’s rapid exit in San Fran and decision to retire indicate the Philly coaching staff didn’t break him. He was never very good to begin with by the time he got here.
So, I guess this is goodbye—at least until he acts in something again. Nnamdi Asomugha will never blow off his teammates at the cafeteria to make personal calls and eat lunch alone in his car again. He’ll never halfheartedly miss another tackle, or get burned on a deep pass and make faces at the nearest safety.
A fan base weeps for DeSean Jackson, as we all get Nnamdi’d one last time.
[gallery columns="4" ids="1045187,1045188,1045189,1045190,1045191,1045192,1045193"]
*Okay, even if we did entertain the notion of Asomugha in the Hall, he spent six full seasons as a starting quarterback cornerback for the Raiders, and while they were presumably six elite seasons (even if probably they all weren’t), his career arc didn’t have enough longevity. Also, just no.