By the end of the 2010 season, he was considered one of the best defensive players in the league, and certainly the best cornerback. He had been an All-Pro four times, was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2000s, and just for good measure we’ll throw in the fact that he was named the Home Depot Neighborhood MVP in 2007 as well.
In the ensuing offseason, fresh of his designation as one of the best football players in the league, Nnamdi Asomugha signed a five year, $60 million contract to join the “Dream Team,” or as we now know them, the trainwreck that was the 2011 Eagles.
Now, at just 32 years old, and having been cut by the San Francisco 49ers back in November, Asomugha is done with football. He’ll announce his official retirement as a member of the Oakland Raiders today.
So, what the hell happened to this guy? How did he go from one of the best players in the game to a punchline just three years later?
We may never know the reason for his incredible decline — though I’m willing to bet it has something to do with meeting and marrying the beautiful Kerry Washington and realizing there’s more to life than just football — but Asomugha will forever stand as a prime example of why NFL teams would rather cut a player than give him money to stick around. It’s also why you don’t see trades for established players as often as you do in other sports.
In football, the scheme trumps the player almost every time. Sure, some players are transcendent talents that you wouldn’t give up for anything… right now (Calvin Johnson and Adrian Peterson come to mind). But more often than not, a player’s success can be traced back to a number of factors that include his teammates and his coaches. With the Raiders, Asomugha was a great talent — but he was also one of the Raiders’ only good players during his time there, and his inability to adapt to new schemes, playbooks, situations and the amount of pressure doomed him in Philadelphia.
(It’s possible that we’re seeing a similar story arc with Darrelle Revis, who was a great player on a great Jets defense and a less effective force on a less-good Bucs defense.)
Asomugha will be fine — he made a lot of money in the NFL, is married to and expecting a child with a beautiful actor lady, and should have plenty of sports-media-related job prospects when he retires. But his NFL career will be mostly confined to that of an Oakland Raiders legend, and frankly, for a player of the 2000s, that doesn’t stack up to much.
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