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Oakland Raiders Nnamdi Asomugha signals a thumb-up to fans before the preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, Sept. 2, 2010. (Ray Chavez/Staff)

If Nnamdi Asomugha is as intelligent as he seems, he won't come back to the Raiders.

If he is the competitor he seems, he can't bear to come back.

If he is the historian I believe he is, he is as good as gone.

This is not to suggest Asomugha should leave the only NFL team he has ever known. But as a four-time Pro Bowl cornerback who now is a free agent, he has earned the right to dictate the next phase of his career. He can choose his next employer, sign on where he is properly compensated and comfortable with the environment.

Inasmuch as owner Al Davis loves few things more than a superb man-to-man cover corner, there is no question the Raiders should re-recruit Nnamdi. Losing him would leave the secondary with more holes than an argument against education.

Why, though, should he listen?

Asomugha has been a loyal Raider, the team's best and most respected player and its quiet leader. He acknowledges the destructive idiosyncrasies of the franchise without railing against them. Not once has he done or said anything that would give Davis the slightest reason to put him in the doghouse.

Such devotion has brought Asomugha great wealth and individual honors. That would satisfy some. Not Nnamdi. His vision of fulfillment runs considerably deeper.

He has to believe, has to know, his career can signify so much more than it has through eight seasons. Yes, there is more than $40 million in contracts and four invitations to the Pro Bowl. But, at its cold surface, there is a 37-91 NFL record -- appreciably worse than the 15-30 mark Asomugha endured at Cal.

Though winning is something Asomugha has not done at the highest levels, he doesn't accept losing. As thoughtful and philosophical as he is when discussing the challenges of being a Raider, it's evident he's completely unfamiliar with the culture of winning.

The Raiders would like to think they're in the process of recreating that. They'd like to believe their 8-8 record, after seven consecutive losing seasons, is indicative of ongoing progress and continued improvement in the years to come.

Those who have faith in the franchise believe that what started in 2010 under Tom Cable will be seized upon by Hue Jackson or whomever Davis decides will be the next head coach.

Maybe the faithful will be rewarded. Or maybe not. But why would Asomugha, having seen what he has seen and knowing what he knows, be among the faithful?

Davis' 48-year run as Raiders football boss was marvelous for a quarter century or so but profoundly unspectacular over the past 20 years. Only twice in the first four decades under Al did they require dramatic turnaround. The last time came after a 4-12 season in 1997, after which Davis dismissed first-year coach Joe Bugel.

Bugel's replacement was a young coach named Jon Gruden, who insisted on having some input on assistant coaches and considerable input on the roster.

Oakland went 8-8 in each of Gruden's first two seasons. The turnaround was completed in 2000 when after a six-year playoff absence, the Raiders finished 12-4 and hosted an AFC Championship game for the first time in 17 years.

The Raiders in 2001 went 10-6 and lost a disputed AFC divisional playoff game at New England.

By then, they had reshaped the roster, changed the culture and created an identity. Oakland had pulled itself back into the fraternity of the NFL elite.

Sometime during this turnaround, though, Davis grew agitated with Gruden. Three weeks after the Raiders were robbed against the Patriots, the boss traded the coach to Tampa Bay for $8 million and a bounty of draft picks.

A veteran Raiders team under Bill Callahan -- Gruden's chief assistant -- reached the Super Bowl the following season, lost to Gruden's Buccaneers and soon fell from the league's elite, becoming one of its least competitive teams.

The meticulous turnaround was swiftly undone. What took three seasons to create took three weeks to destroy.

This is documented history, which means we should expect someone as curious and studious as Asomugha to know it.

Then, too, Asomugha, who turns 30 in July, has experienced his own Raiders history. He was one of Cable's biggest supporters, and surely is disappointed to see his first ever nonlosing season punctuated with the firing of the coach.

If he is skeptical, it's valid. He has been a Raider long enough to realize they follow not the arc of logic but the arc of Al's standards and, moreover, his moods.

With Asomugha's intellect, his desire to excel and, most of all, his grasp of history, how can he not find at least a dozen teams where his chance of earning a Super Bowl ring are better than they would be in Oakland?

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.