He very nearly signed with the Jets, and if Nnamdi Asomugha had made a different decision back in July, hed quite likely be headed to the playoffs right now instead of mired with an also-ran team going nowhere.
On Wednesday, in a conference call with the Jets beat writers, Asomugha said he was very close to becoming a Jet this summer.
Oh, really close, he said. I really liked the staff there in New York. I was really close with Rob Ryan (his defensive coordinator from 2004-2008 in Oakland), so I know that Rex, being his twin, would be very similar to him.
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Philadelphia sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
During the 48 hours or whatever it was that we were able to talk, they were saying some really great things. I liked how the defense played. They were doing a lot of the things that I had done throughout my career, so there wouldnt be much adjusting or anything like that. I was really close.
Matter of fact, it was widely believed the Jets and Cowboyswhere Rob Ryan is now defensive coordinatorwere the two finalists to sign Asomugha, who was the consensus No. 1 free agent available on the open market during the brief post-lockout free agency period.
When the Eagles came out of nowhere and signed him, nobody was more surprised than the Jets and Cowboys.
The Eagles came in that 11th hour or whatever it was, Asomugha said. All along, I had always admired the Eagles. They were always the team that, if they were involved, that was where I wanted to be. At the end there, they did, they came in, so I managed to flip back to how I was thinking in the beginning. I said Philly had been the place since day one, so thats the place that I should be.
I wouldnt say that there was one huge, overwhelming factor, Asomugha said. I really know a lot of the guys that were on the team. Its different when youre able to talk to actual players and find out how they actually feel about it and everything like that. That helped out a lot, just talking to them.
Obviously, no one is going to say anything disparaging about their organization, but everything they were saying, I just took it to heart and really liked it.
A lot of the talk actually started at the Pro Bowl with the Eagles guys and talking with Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson and a lot of those guys, just them knowing what the situation would be and them saying its a great place to be. They were kind of one of the first teams to even, based off players takes, to get into it.
On Sunday afternoon, Asomugha will face the team he nearly signed with. The Eagles, 5-8, face the Jets, 8-5, at 4:15 p.m at the Linc.
Rex was great, Asomugha said. The whole 48-hour recruiting process, it was all fun because the way he talks. Hell get you to laugh, hell get you excited. The way he recruits I think is the way it should be done. It was always a fun process with him. I know he called me on that first moment that they could call and I got a voice message from him. It was a pleasant surprise.
During his eight years in Oakland, the Raiders never reached the playoffs. Now theyre 7-6. The other two teams he considered, the Jets and Cowboys, are 8-5 and 7-6.
The Eagles, of course, are 5-8 and Eagles fans have been questioning Asomughas five-year, 60 million contract since opening day. Many probably wish Asomugha had signed with the Jets.
Asomugha said he has no regrets, even though defensive coordinator Juan Castillo effectively took him out of his comfort zone on Day 1 and asked him to play a variety of roles hed never played before without even getting a chance to practice them.
I dont regret it at all, he said. The thing that has been very difficult is not winning. I think the tough part about that is the fact that the expectations were really high coming into it. Even if my expectations were realistic, the expectations that were out there, I think, I kind of let that get to me as well, the expectations of everything will be and must be perfect with this team now that theyve acquired these players and blah, blah, blah.
I think if it was just a season where it wasnt viewed with high expectations, it was just lets go in, lets play and see the results and that sort of thing, obviously, you would be upset, but this one kind of digs a little deeper for each of us because we know we have a bunch of talented guys, have some good coaches here and we know we can win games. The fact that we havent been able to is kind of what has hurt the most.
I always have a realistic approach to it, but I kind of let that seep through and then that made the losing of it all a little bit tougher, a little bit more difficult to deal with. But our story still isnt over yet, so there is always something to learn and were still fighting.
There is always something to learn. Even in defeat, there is a valuable lesson learned, even if its just a way that you can do something better. I know when youre pursuing what were pursuing, when youre pursuing excellence, there are always some difficulties, there is always something to learn from. Weve kind of been able to grow closer with each other as a team through all of the difficult moments that weve had this season.
E-mail Reuben Frank at email@example.com