Nnamdi Asomugha is the unquestioned best cornerback in the NFL. The media might have a love affair with Darrelle Revis but one great season does not a shutdown corner make. We’ll revisit this topic when Revis has three plus years under his belt of seeing fewer balls thrown his way than the number on his jersey.
Nnamdi didn’t become the best at what he does overnight. It has taken him years of hard work and dedication during the worst period in franchise history to earn the biggest paycheck ever cashed by a defensive back.
With his standing comes respect.
Check the jersey he wears on Sundays and you’ll notice a patch with the letter “C” sitting just below his right shoulder.
With respect comes leadership. Nnamdi is a team captain because he is a modern role model.
Asomugha leads by example. Anybody can flap their gums and tell you how to go about your business. A true leader shows you how it’s done.
Don’t get it twisted though. Nnamdi isn’t afraid to speak his mind when the situation demands it. He’s the only man on the roster who will openly question the authority on high – Al Davis. Not in a disrespectful manner, mind you. This isn’t the brash ignorance of T.O. we’re talking about. Nnamdi has a Berkeley education to show for his athletic prowess. So when he talks, he’s giving you a piece of his mind in the most constructive way possible.
Back in December, Aso took a moment to discuss the Raiders and their continued dependence on a rudimentary defensive scheme. His diatribe ended with these poignant words.
“The game changes, the game is never going to be the same as it was 10 years ago or five years ago with the rule changes and things like that. You have to be able to adapt. But it is what it is.”
Not exactly the kind of stuff you’ll see plastered across the crawl on ESPN, but outspoken none the less.
Despite his greatness personified both on and off the field, Nnamdi is lacking in one key area.
He has yet to assert himself as the team’s unquestioned leader.
Sure, he sets the tone everyday at practice with his professional demeanor then goes out and backs it up by making whoever he’s covering disappear like a deck of cards in David Blaine’s house.
Still, there is something missing. Something you see in the eyes of Ray Lewis. Something you hear in the voice of Payton Manning. Something you notice whenever Drew Brees gathers his team before they take the field.
Leading by example is great, but it’s not enough.
Nnamdi Asomugha must become the vocal authority of the Oakland Raiders.
This is his team.
Forget about waiting for a leader to emerge at the quarterback position. The odds of that happening are as long as the chances of the Raiders lifting a Lombardi in 2011. Mind you, those are just odds. All that means is that it can happen. There’s just a good chance it won’t.
With a vocal presence both on the field and in the locker room, who knows what this team can accomplish.
Since Rich Gannon departed the East Bay, the Raiders have become a rudderless ship without a captain to take the helm and guide them to land.
Nnamdi must become the one who sets the tone not just with his deeds but also with his words. This is a trait you find amongst all the true legends in the history of sports.
Michael Jordan gave his teammates two options: either step up to his level or step aside.
Asomugha must do the same.
The Raiders are a young team filled with a wealth of talent. They’ve proven themselves capable of beating any team on any given Sunday. Just ask the fans in Philly, Cincy, Denver and The Steel City about that. They’ve also proven that they can stoop beneath the eye level of some of the most inferior teams in the NFL. Just ask the folks in KC, Cleveland and DC about that.
How do you explain this phenomenon?
Coaching certainly plays a role. So too does leadership.
This is Nnamdi’s team. He must set the tone and hold every man in a Silver and Black jersey accountable. Whether that means criticizing teammates like JaMarcus Russell publicly when they fail to deliver or praising them privately when they succeed. He must become the face of the franchise and emerge as the guiding force in the rebirth of the Oakland Raiders.
The time has come for Asomugha to take the final step in cementing his legacy as the best in the business. The time has come for Nnamdi to let his words speak louder than his actions. He owes it to himself and to his teammates.