Philadelphia Daily News Rich Hofmann column
Feb 27, 2013 (Philadelphia Daily News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
MIKE PATTERSON. Cullen Jenkins. And there will be more. Roster carnage is the only certainty when an NFL team fires an underperforming coach. Andy Reid goes, Chip Kelly arrives, the vision of the entire Eagles organization changes and the world is again reminded that those 8-year contracts signed by NFL players are really a series of eight, 1-year contracts. And don't forget to write.
With that, a word here about cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha:
He needs to go -- for his sake, and Kelly's sake, and everyone's. The Eagles will need to set fire to $4 million in order to do it, but they have the money and it will be worth it. Because here is the thing with Kelly. When he made the decision to allow Michael Vick a chance to compete for the starting quarterback's job, well, it was an interesting signal to the fan base. Just put it that way. It isn't clear that he can handle another one.
On the one hand, Kelly was telling everyone that he had no better options than this Vick-Nick Foles-Dennis Dixon tag team. On the other hand, he was sort of signaling that his system could fix Vick -- kind of a "trust me" message. And given that he has an excellent reputation as an offensive mind, and that he hasn't done anything to damage that reputation in the half-hour he has been the Eagles' coach, "trust me" is not an outrageous request.
The problem is that Vick represents, to much of the fan base, the final, desperate, failed gamble of a man named Andy Reid. And to subject everyone to another season of it while you are simultaneously trying to convince people that things are going to be new and bright and exciting and different under Kelly -- especially different -- becomes an interesting exercise in salesmanship.
And now you're going to try the same thing with Asomugha, too
At least on the offensive side of the ball, you can make the case that there are enough weapons in place, and that the line will be getting healthy again, and that there is a chance to be good if the quarterback -- whoever he is -- can avoid mistakes. That is a credible line of argument. You cannot say the same thing about the defense.
If the imperative for the offense is "transformation," the imperative for the defense is "overhaul." Given that, keeping Asomugha just doesn't seem to make a lot of sense -- unless you are convinced that his skill set was so mismanaged by the previous coaches that he is destined to flourish under new defensive coordinator Bill Davis and the fellas.
That is the standard: destined to flourish. Anything short of that, when you are rebuilding on that side of the ball, just doesn't make sense.
Because the first time he waves at a receiver going past him, secure in the knowledge that it isn't his fault that the guy is wide-open . . . or the first time he pretends to try to tackle somebody . . . or, well, you know. You cannot sell the hope of the future when one of the lightning-rod players from the demise of the past keeps getting electrified.
And now comes word, from former Eagles defensive tackle Hollis Thomas on WIP, that Asomugha used to eat lunch in his car last season in order to have some alone time. (Truth in reporting: I saw Asomugha walking in from the parking lot at least once last year during the players' lunch hour, but I did not see him brushing any crumbs off his shirt. I really didn't think anything about it. I guess I figured he was charging his phone or something.)
The whole thing just adds to the aloof, above-it-all image -- and you can only pretend that the image is irrelevant for so long. He represents a softness -- both physically and stylistically -- that doomed Reid's defense in the end. The only way for Kelly to make this work is if Asomugha becomes a great player.
With Asomugha, with all of them on that defense, Kelly needs to ask himself a question: Is this player likely to be a significant contributor when the Eagles are ready to make significant noise again in the NFC If not, you are just wasting your time -- especially if the player carries a big salary, which Asomugha will do, even if he agrees to renegotiate his massive deal.
It just isn't worth it.
On Twitter: @theidlerich
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