Quick Out, March 17, 2013
In a strange way, Nnamdi Asomugha may be the key to the entire Saints defense.
That’s not to say that we need him. If he is the key, then we don’t. Because the players the Saints already have are good enough.
Hear me out. In 2011, Asomugha was the top free agent, and the crown jewel of Philadelphia’s “Dream Team.” Probably half of all NFL fans would have said that he, not Darrelle Revis, was the best cornerback in the league. [Full disclosure: I'm one of them. I still think Revis would be an average corner at best if his constant hand-checking were flagged as it should be. On the other hand, I also believe that by the proper—i.e., pre-1978—standard, he's one of the greatest who ever played.]
Then, suddenly, Asomugha became a stiff. Was it the big payday? Was it the allegedly anti-social attitude? Was he simply overrated all along?
Or was it the scheme? Did the imposition of a new (and miserably inadequate) defensive scheme have anything to do with the fact that all of Philadelphia’s defensive talent suddenly turned into stiffs? I think you can tell here what side I come down on.
The same thing happened last year in New Orleans. A new defensive scheme suddenly turned a personnel group largely consisting of Super Bowl winners into “the worst defense in NFL history [sic].” Now, our defense, truthfully, was only adequate to win the Super Bowl. But when you have a Lombardi in your trophy case, “adequate” is just fine. Why did they suddenly, to a man, become inadequate overnight?
The answer, I believe, was that Spagnuolo’s tactics will only work if you have a world-class pass-rushing machine up front. The Saints didn’t, and don’t. But what they did (and do) have, is probably one that is adequate if it plays in a scheme that matches and supports its talent level.
The same goes for Asomugha. He flourished in Rob Ryan’s Oakland defense. He was a bum in Philadelphia under Juan Castillo. Which was the real Nnamdi?
And which was the real Saints defense? The (nearly) good-enough-to-win-it-all squad under Gregg Williams, or the clowns and klutzes that took the field for Steve Spagnuolo? I’m willing to bet the problems we had last year were almost entirely scheme-related, and that in fact the Saints’ talent level is much better than most people think. Similarly, I’m willing to bet that Nnamdi Asomugha still has it in him to be a star in the NFL. I wonder if Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis believe the same thing…because they’re meeting with him today.