Asomugha: I came 'really close' to being Jet

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Losing is hard, but Nnamdi Asomugha says he has no regrets about picking Philly over the Jets.“The thing that has been very difficult is not winning.” -- Nnamdi Asomugha, Dec. 14, 2011

Just a few months ago, Nnamdi Asomugha seemed almost certain to be a New York celebrity. The Jets called him the moment teams could officially talk to players after the lockout ended. The free-agent cornerback sparked fierce debate among fans. If the Jets got him, who would be the best corner on the team, Asomugha or Darrelle Revis?

Asomugha came close to joining the Jets.

“Really close, really close,” he said Wednesday on a conference call with Jets writers. “I really liked the staff there in New York. I was really close with Rob Ryan, so I know that Rex, being his twin, would be very similar to him. 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 wouldn’t be much adjusting or anything like that. I was really close.”

That was before the Eagles swooped in with a five-year $60 million contract. (The Jets reportedly offered him four years, $40 million.) Asomugha seemed to be the final piece of the Dream Team puzzle, but things have not been so easy. The Eagles, who will host the Jets in an afternoon game this Sunday are 5-8, and have won just two of their past six games.

“I think the tough part about that is the fact that the expectations were really high coming into it,” Asomugha said. “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 [that] everything will be and must be perfect with this team now that they’ve acquired these players and blah, blah, blah. 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.”

Asomugha hasn’t played as well as he is accustomed to. He is tied for 29th in the league among defenders who have been burned when targeted. Asomugha has been targeted 28 times and burned on 13 of those occasions according STATS, LLC. Compare that to Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who has been targeted 68 times and been burned 29 times, enough for 13th in the league.

Cromartie has been slightly more effective on the field and he was less expensive as well, signing a $32 million, four-year deal. If the Jets had landed Asomugha, they might not have been able to sign free agents like safeties Eric Smith and Brodney Pool.

“I was really close and the Eagles came in in that 11th hour,” Asomugha said, “and all along I’d always admired the Eagles and they were the team that, if they were involved, that was where I wanted to be.”

But NFL fans will never know what it would have been like to have arguably the two best cornerbacks in the league on the same team.

“Hey, I respect his game,” Asomugha said of Revis. “I always have. It’s a difficult thing in this league to match up, to line up and play one-on-one football. I know that first-hand, so I’ve always respected that about him and about the Jets’ scheme. Even with Cromartie, it’s a tough thing to do. I don’t know what it would have been like. It’s what we do best, so I don’t know what it would have been like.”

All what-ifs aside, Asomugha said he has made his choice and doesn’t look back, even if expectations and losses made it harder than he thought.

“I have never, have not and will not regret it,” Asomugha said. “Our story still isn’t over yet, so there is always something to learn and we’re still fighting.”