Author Archives: Amaar Burton

In the Cards: Nnamdi Asomugha

By sharing some of the football cards from my collection, my goal is to put a spotlight on defensive backs who may have become underrated or have been forgotten by history.

Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Philadelphia Eagles (Topps 2012)

Nnamdi Asomugha’s NFL legacy is complicated.

At one point in his career, the Cal-Berkeley alum was widely considered the best cornerback in football, even though he played for teams that were not good.

When Asomugha finally did land on a team that was supposed to be good — with a massive contract in tow — he didn’t perform up to expectations and the team became worse during his time with them.

And then, it was like his career suddenly ended sooner than it should have.

Possessing Hall of Fame talent and a borderline Hall of Fame resume, Asomugha could find himself immortalized in Canton, Ohio, as an NFL legend … or we could look up in 20 years and realize he’s been forgotten in the shadows of other elite DBs from his era. Either scenario seems just as likely.

Asomugha was a four-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler in his 11 NFL seasons. He was also named to the 2000s All-Decade Team by USA Today and FOX Sports.

Asomugha spent the majority of that decade with the Oakland Raiders, who took him in the first round of the 2003 Draft. Lockdown man-to-man coverage was his calling card. Quarterbacks rarely tested him, and when they did, they paid for it. During the 2006 season, Asomugha tallied eight interceptions; usually he was good for only one or zero in a season because he simply didn’t get many opportunities.

The Raiders never made the playoffs during Asomugha’s tenure, however. They never even had a winning record. Oakland’s 8-8 record in 2010 was the only time they didn’t have a losing record.

In 2009, Asomugha signed a three-year contract with the Raiders that made him the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history. It included a third-year team option, and Oakland declined to exercise it — because it would have meant they had to pay Asomugha a salary on-par with an elite quarterback — which made Asomugha a free agent in 2011. Asomugha was still playing like the best corner in the league, but it’s understandable why a bad team wouldn’t want to pay QB money to a DB when it’s not getting them any closer to the Super Bowl.

Asomugha then signed a five-year, $60 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. Unlike the Raiders who were stuck going nowhere, the Eagles were coming off three straight playoff appearances and an NFC East division title, aiming to get to the next level of serious championship contention.

However, Asomugha never reached that same All-Pro level in Philly that he had in Oakland.

There are a few theories.

Some say that he simply ran into Father Time. Asomugha turned 30 years old in 2011, and a lot of skill position players have rapidly slowed down once they hit that age.

Some say he wasn’t as motivated, whether it was due to the big contract (lack of hunger to prove himself) or because he had been dabbling in acting and his mind wasn’t fully dedicated to football.

There could be some truth there. But the most logical explanation is a simple one of style and system.

In Oakland, Asomugha played in a scheme where he was primarily asked to be a press-coverage corner, where his skill set shined. He excelled at being physical at the line of scrimmage and shadowing a receiver downfield.

In Philadelphia, Asomugha was put in a system where he played more zone coverage. Backing off the line and giving receivers a running start didn’t fit his strengths, and Asomugha didn’t make as big of an impact as he did with the Raiders.

Asomugha played two seasons with the Eagles, and the team missed the playoffs both years. He was voted a Pro Bowl alternate and had three interceptions in 2011, but overall he failed to live up to the expectations that came with his reputation and with that big contract.

The Eagles released Asomugha after the 2012 season after being unable to agree on a restructured contract, and he signed with the San Francisco 49ers. Before the 2013 season was over, when he’d played just three games for the team, the Niners waived Asomugha. Later that year, he signed a one-day deal with the Raiders and retired with that franchise.

Since his playing days ended, Asomugha has made a name for himself in Hollywood. He has acted in movies and TV, and he’s worked on the other side of the camera as a producer and writer.

During and after his football career, he has also been recognized for his commitment to serving the community and working with youth.

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2018-19 Football Season Awards

Eddie Jackson, Kyle Fuller

The 2018-19 football season is in the books.

The New England Patriots are the Super Bowl champions for the sixth time in their franchise history. The Calgary Stampeders took home the CFL’s Grey Cup for the eighth time.

Clemson won college football’s FBS national championship for the third time, unofficially (depending on who you ask) unseating Alabama as the amateur level’s elite program. North Dakota State won the FCS national title, Valdosta State earned the Division-II national crown, and Mary Hardin-Baylor earned the Division-III national title. Continue reading

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Super Bowl LIII: This is why The Corner Office exists

Stephon Gilmore, Devin McCourty

At some point during the 2018-19 NFL postseason, I decided — again — that I was done with The Corner Office.

Between my full-time job, freelance writing gigs that actually pay, and having a life away from the computer, managing a website that is essentially a hobby is tough to do. More than once since I launched The Corner Office back in 2014, I had come to a decision to put it down and discontinue the whole operation. But eventually, something would compel me to pick it back up.

This season followed that familiar script. It began with my renewed commitment to producing content, but sometime in October, I fell behind on updating the site. Continue reading

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Pick Six: Players of the Week (Oct. 15, 2018)

Juan Thornhill

Six secondary standouts from football’s work that was:

Juan Thornill, SS, Virginia (NCAA) — It’s possible Virginia senior safety Juan Thornhill hits so hard that some people forget he’s a defensive back and not a linebacker.

Going into this season, Thornhill landed on watch lists for the Chuck Bednarik and Bronko Nagurski awards — both given to the national defensive player of the year — but he didn’t make the watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top DB.

When the Cavaliers upset 16th-ranked Miami (Fla.) on Saturday, Thornhill’s biggest hit may have been on the referee that he ran over during a 62-yard interception return that got the Cavaliers inside the 10-yard line. Continue reading

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Pick Six: Players of the Week (Oct. 8, 2018)

Marcus Maye

Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:

Marcus Maye, FS, Jets (NFL) — Two members of the New York Jets made history during the team’s 34-16 dissection of the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

The headliner was running back Isaiah Crowell, who carried the ball 15 times for a franchise-record 219 yards, an average of 14.6 yards per touch. Crowell’s highlight reel included a 77-yard touchdown run.

Then there was Maye, who set an NFL record on the game’s final play. Maye intercepted a pass in the end zone by Denver quarterback Case Keenum and returned it 104 yards before he was caught at the 1-yard line. According to the Elias stat service, Maye’s 104-yard adventure was the longest non-touchdown interception return in league history. Continue reading

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Pick Six: Players of the Week (Oct. 1, 2018)

Ugochukwu Amadi

Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:

Ugochukwu Amadi, FS, Oregon (NCAA) — Last week, the Ducks defense bent too far and broke at the wrong time during a devastating loss to Pac-12 rival Stanford in which Oregon blew a 17-point lead in the second half and dropped a nail-biter in overtime.

This week, the Ducks defense held up when necessary in a 42-24 win over California. Leading the way was senior safety Amadi, who had seven tackles and two interceptions, including a 32-yard INT return for a touchdown that gave Oregon a comfortable cushion in the fourth quarter.

“The mindset was to redeem ourselves,” Amadi told reporters afterward. “We were eager to get back on the field. We wanted to give the world what they needed to see and that was playing Oregon football.” Continue reading

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Pick Six: Players of the Week (Sept. 24, 2018)

Earl Thomas

Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:

Earl Thomas, FS, Seahawks (NFL) — Earl Thomas is single-handedly destroying the notion of “distractions” in professional sports.

In every season, in every one of America’s four major sports, there are stories full of speculation regarding teams underachieving and athletes suffering due to “distractions” off the field. Whether it’s legal problems (e.g. Addison Russell in MLB), disagreements over money (e.g. Le’Veon Bell), controversial issues (e.g. Colin Kaepernick), or a spat between teammates and/or coaches (e.g. Jimmy Butler in the NBA), the dreaded D-word is poison in pro locker rooms and just the threat of it is good enough for a team to hastily part ways with even its best players.

This past NFL offseason, Earl Thomas and the Seattle Seahawks engaged in a contract dispute that spilled into training camp, engulfed the preseason, and threatened to overshadow the team’s regular season. Continue reading

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In the Cards: Martin Mayhew

By sharing some of the football cards from my collection, my goal is to put a spotlight on defensive backs who may have become underrated or have been forgotten by history.

Martin Mayhew, CB, Washington (Pro Set 1991)

Martin Mayhew won a Super Bowl and intercepted more than 20 passes and scored a couple of touchdowns in his eight-year NFL career, but his post-playing career has been equally, if not more, impressive.

Coming out of Florida State in 1988, where he and Deion Sanders were teammates, Mayhew was a 10th-round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills. As the 262nd overall pick, he wouldn’t have gotten drafted today in the seven-round draft era.

A wrist injury cost Mayhew the ’88 season, the Bills cut him, and he didn’t make his pro debut until ’89 with Washington. Continue reading

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Pick Six: Players of the Week (Sept. 17, 2018)

Grant Delpit

Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:

Grant Delpit, S, LSU (NCAA) — Of all the college football programs that give themselves the unofficial “DB U” moniker, LSU has as legitimate a claim as any.

The list of Bayou Bengals who have gone from Baton Rouge to the NFL is long and littered with defensive backs: Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, LaRon Landry and Eric Reid are some of the more recent Pro Bowl DBs from LSU. (Crazy how a recent Pro Bowl safety like Reid couldn’t get a team to sign him in free agency this offseason. I wonder what that’s about?)

Two of the league’s fastest rising defensive stars are Jets safety Jamal Adams and Bills cornerback TreDavious White, both LSU products. Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills, also from the LSU lineage, was a starter on last season’s Super Bowl championship team. Continue reading

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Pick Six: Players of the Week (Sept. 10, 2018)

Denzel Ward

Six secondary standouts from football’s week that was:

Denzel Ward, CB, Browns (NFL) — Despite being the No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Ward is not even the most talked-about rookie on his team. That’s because the Browns also had the No. 1 pick in the draft, and they used it on Heisman-winning quarterback Baker Mayfield.

But in Cleveland’s season opener, Ward stepped into the spotlight while Mayfield never stepped onto the field. Ward started at cornerback and intercepted two passes to go with six tackles and three pass breakups in the Browns’ 21-21 tie with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ward also spent some time covering Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown, who happens to be probably the best receiver in the league.

A tie usually isn’t something worth celebrating, but considering the Browns went 0-16 last season, a tie almost felt like a win on Sunday. Continue reading

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