NNAMDI ASOMUGHA said he "had a tough time last week," but he said it with a smile. He didn't mean to throw his defensive coordinator under the bus, he said, didn't intend for his questioning of last-minute defensive calls in the overtime loss to Detroit to be used as evidence that Juan Castillo needed to go.
"That's something I would never do as a player," Asomugha said. "And I think you guys will start to know that a little bit more as we continue to know each other."
Just a refresher for those who have just tuned in to the reality show the Eagles have become, or for those who missed a few episodes. Nnamdi is in his second season in Philadelphia, has spent as much quality time with the guys standing around his locker Monday as anyone wearing an Eagles uniform during that span has.
He also has a vocabulary that dwarfs most of them, too, present company included. It's not often a pro athlete makes you click the toolbar for definitions and the thesaurus, but when Nnamdi was asked whether he thought Castillo would still be the defensive coordinator if his side of the ball had played better, he said, "I don't know. As a player, how do you really adjudicate something like that?"
Later, asked what he liked about new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, he said, "There's like equanimity about him. It doesn't matter what's going on, he's always going to be calm and just relaxed and stuff like that."
Obama could use this guy, no?
Know this too: Signed as the best player at his position in 2011, Asomugha was also expected to be one of the defensive leaders, if not the defensive leader. But he seemed lost in Castillo's defense last season, chasing too much to lead anything.
There was a suggestion even then that Castillo's newness as a coordinator was creating confusion and chaos for system players like Asomugha. At Lehigh this summer, there was a lot of talk from the defense about becoming more comfortable in this defense with a full training camp and the presence of Bowles, and of how that would lead to less tentativeness and indecision and to more big hits and big plays.
It hasn't, and that's not just an end-of-the game thing. The Eagles are getting pressure, eliminating big plays and breaking up passes. They are getting off the field on third downs more than 70 percent of the time.
But they are almost as inept at getting turnovers as they are in giving them up. They have recovered only one opponents' fumble this season. That's a quarter's worth of work for an elite defense. They have recorded seven sacks in six games. Again, that's a day's work, maybe two, for a truly intimidating defense. They do have seven picks, but there probably has been twice that many balls that went in and out of their hands.
You want to lay that on Castillo, fine. But the more alarming part of this is a general perception by many of these guys that a better fourth quarter is all they need.
To survive, maybe. To save their head coach's job with a playoff run, highly unlikely.
I would like to note, by the way, that I might have been wrong about Andy Reid understanding that his team's strength is in its defense, not offense. On the surface, firing Castillo instead of an offensive coordinator who has accounted for just 103 points thus far is like Ruben Amaro Jr. firing pitching coach Rich Dubee after the Phillies' run production slipped dramatically from 2010 to 2012. But Reid now seems to realize that to remain as this team's coach beyond this season, he will need his defense to consistently tee it up for an offense with blockers who can't get out of their own way.
That's why Castillo was let go. That's why Asomugha was a tad disingenuous Monday as he expressed surprise about how his comments were taken, and the maelstrom that resulted. He has been on this reality show for two seasons now. He knows how we adjudicate everything, from comments to context. And while there was respect for the man and regret about his job loss, the general tone Monday was that, nice guy and all, Juan Castillo was not a coach they were willing to take a bullet for.
"I couldn't say if the players let him down or what the reason was for why he was let go," said Asomugha. "As a player, I can't even think on that level."
Contact Sam Donnellon at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @samdonnellon. For recent columns, go to philly.com/SamDonnellon.