As a disappointing season heads into its final quarter, Nnamdi Asomugha talked about the expectations heaped on the Eagles this year, and the backlash the team has faced as a result of their 4-8 record.
As usual, he was thoughtful and insightful, pointing to a difference in the way Eagles fans have reacted -- disappointed because they had such high hopes -- and the national reaction, where the corner thinks many put big expectations on the Eagles so they could revel in their struggles.
"Sometimes expectations come from excitement, and I think the town and a lot of people were excited for the possibilities for what we had. When you look at the quick offseason and the people we were able to bring in and what we were able to do and that type of energy, it was an exciting period," he said.
It seems long ago, but when the Eagles added Asomugha, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Ronnie Brown, Vince Young and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in a matter of days, it was hard for anyone not to get caught up in the possibilities for this team. Many pointed to the youth and low-round picks at linebacker and questioned whether Juan Castillo was the man to lead the defense, but the overall feeling was that the Eagles' strengths would outweigh their weaknesses. Asomugha could understand that excitement.
"But you don’t look at the whole picture and how is it all going to be put together, how quickly will it be put together. You just see it on the surface and you get excited," he said.
Outside of Philadelphia, he sensed something other than hope.
"Obviously there was the other group of people that it wasn’t as much excitement, but it was like 'let’s throw these expectations on them and then when that doesn’t happen we can try to beat them down' sort of thing," he said. "It kind of worked both ways. With the Philly fans, with the people over here, it was a lot of excitement. Elsewhere, there was a lot of 'I hope that this doesn’t work out sort of thing,' so we’ve be tried a lot this year."
I think Asomugha's right that many around the country are enjoying the Eagles' struggles, but that's hardly unusual when it comes to big-spending teams, and I don't think the Super Bowl expectations were unfair. The Eagles won their division last year and unquestionably added more raw talent. Any playoff team that made the signings that the Eagles did would have been expected to contend for a title - and at the very least the NFC East crown. Management, while rejecting the "Dream Team" label, certainly embraced the notion that this was a team built to win a championship now.
The Eagles are hardly the only star-laden team to become the subject of national scorn. That's the burden of being a favorite: some love you, but many want to see you fall. Think of the Yankees and the Lakers, the early 2000s Patriots and, of course, the current Miami Heat. (UPDATE: I should add that the backlash is usually directed at teams that pull themselves together by out-spending everyone else on free agents; teams like the mostly homegrown Packers usually get a pass even when they're good).
I mentioned the Heat example to Asomugha. There was another team of stars that had immense talent, but that many wanted to see fail.
References to the Heat, Asomugha said with a smile, are "banned in this locker room."