OAKLAND — Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha already is looking beyond this season, and this has to be every bit as disconcerting to managing general partner Al Davis as Sunday's 49-26 loss to the New England Patriots.
It's bad enough that Davis witnessed yet another blowout loss in front of a silver-and-black-adoring crowd at the Coliseum. And that the Raiders trailed 21-0, former Raiders Randy Moss and LaMont Jordan scored three touchdowns and unheralded quarterback Matt Cassel outplayed No. 1 draft pick JaMarcus Russell.
Yet, Davis now faces the daunting prospect of winning back the confidence of cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
The news that Asomugha parted ways with long-time agent Stephen Baker and signed on with high-profile agent Tom Condon promises to stick with Davis far longer than the memory of seeing his team surrender 487 yards and more first-half points, 35, than they had at any point since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
"To go out there and for things not to go the way you draw them up, it's tough to tell the guys to keep fighting, just to keep pushing, that things are going to turn around," Russell said. "Everybody looks at each other like, 'When?' It's really depressing."
Sunday's lopsided loss was a kick to the Raiders' midsection. The thought of losing Asomugha no doubt is far more painful.
And, make no mistake, Asomugha switching agents constitutes a shot fired across the Raiders' bow, signaling to them that he wants both a long-term contract and assurances that things are going to change or he wants a one-way ticket out of town after six seasons.
He doesn't want his contract situation dragging on the way it did last season, and he wants it known now that he isn't interested in receiving the franchise-tag designation for a second straight season.
Asomugha is one day away from likely being selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time. He is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, at his position. That gives him tremendous leverage.
So does the fact that the Raiders allowed four more touchdown passes against a Patriots team playing without regular quarterback Tom Brady and it likely would have been worse without Asomugha holding his man in check most of the game.
However, the Raiders can trump that leverage by applying the exclusive franchise tag on Asomugha in February. Doing so would obligate the Raiders to pay Asomugha $11.718 million for 2009 -- if Asomugha signs it -- in exchange protection against any of the league's 31 other teams making an offer for Asomugha.
Condon has a reputation for driving a hard bargain. Even so, the only thing he can offer Asomugha is a recommendation of a holdout if the Raiders slap the exclusive franchise tag on Asomugha.
Asomugha signed the team's one-year tender for $9.765 million -- he would receive a 20 percent raise if he is franchise-tagged again -- on the eve of training camp in July and reported on time. He did so, he said, as a show of good faith on his part and so that the Raiders could avoid the distraction that a holdout would bring.
At the time, Asomugha said he contemplated holding out in an attempt to receive a promise from the Raiders that they wouldn't use the franchise tag on him again. He signed the tender without any such assurance.
"It's definitely important for me to get my situation straightened out, whatever direction that is," Asomugha said Wednesday. "However, I feel it's 100 percent important for me to get it taken care of. I don't want it to go against what I'm feeling and what I want. That's pretty much it. I really want it to work out the way I would like it to work out."
Asomugha didn't elaborate on whether he wanted to remain with the Raiders. However, he has made it clear that he isn't pleased with the constant losing and the way some of his teammates go about their business.
The Raiders dropped to 3-11 with Sunday's loss. In the process, they established the all-time mark for six straight seasons with at least 11 losses -- the Tampa Bay Buccaneers accomplished set standard with five such seasons from 1985-89. The Raiders are a league-worst 22-72 in Asomugha's six seasons.
"It's clear that I have been frustrated," Asomugha said. "I have spoken to the media about it on a few occasions now and I usually don't speak much. But it (has) reached points where the frustration level can get so high that sometime you don't want to be silent about it anymore. My frustration level has hit a different level this season than it has hit in any other season."
To Asomugha's credit, he hasn't let his frustration affect his play this season. He has allowed only eight completions in 14 games for 133 yards. Three of those came Sunday for 40 yards by Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss.
Opposing coaches and players routinely refer to Asomugha as the league's top cornerback. It isn't uncommon for teams to go entire games without targeting Asomugha even once.
Asomugha said he expects Davis to make sweeping changes in the offseason. Now Davis has a major issue on his hands that needs to be resolved sooner rather than later, for what happens with Asomugha has an effect on other moves.
Contact Steve Corkran at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The beat goes on ...
Some of the lowlights for the Raiders in Sunday's loss: