I was wrong.
I felt strongly in 2018 that Allen Robinson would break the all-time receiving yardage record in franchise history before all was said and done. Robinson’s talent, often underestimated, leapt off the screen from his days in Jacksonville catching passes from Blake Bortles. Despite coming off a torn ACL, Robinson represented all the things the Bears lacked in 2017:
· Excellent route running ability
· Contested ball skills
· History of WR1 production
For those that forget, Kendall Wright led the 2017 Bears in yards with 614. Josh Bellamy followed with 376. Robinson missed a few games in that magical 2018 season and, in combination with the injury recovery, posted a modest 55-754-4 line in his first season. 2019 and 2020 posted numbers more appropriate to his station with 98-1,147-7 and 102-1,250-6. That steady production put him on the path to finally break the saddest of the franchise marks: Johnny Morris’s 5,059 receiving yards.
I wrote all about the inevitability of Robinson’s march to the top of the shortest NFL mountain after the 2019 year. In the end, Robinson finished outside the top 10 in receiving yards in Bears history. Like I said, I was wrong.
So, what happened?
Show me the Money
Few people know the full story and each side likely perceived it differently. No definitive report exists on contract negotiations because that sort of thing never sees the light of day, but we can make some general observations. During the 2020 off-season when Robinson and the Bears started talking about a contract extension, the Cowboys gave Amari Cooper a 5-year, $100M deal. Just before the season started, the Chargers agreed to terms with Keenan Allen on a 4-year, $80M deal.
Robinson and his camp likely saw these two contracts as the templates for a new deal with the Bears. Ryan Pace likely valued Robinson at less. The two sides could not agree and played out the final year of Robinson’s original 3-year deal in Chicago. The 2021 off-season resulted in another stalemate, with the added complexity of a shrinking cap due to COVID-19, and Robinson playing on the franchise tag.
From an outsider’s perspective, the relationship between Robinson’s camp and the team soured. Robinson’s production in 2021 suffered, posting a pedestrian 38-410-1 in only 12 games. As a free agent, Robinson signed a 3-year, $46.5M deal with $30 in guarantees with the LA Rams. He lands with the defending Super Bowl champions with an elite offensive structure.
Maybe that frustration over the last couple of years for Robinson will eventually pay off with opportunities to shine in big moments. Entering his 9th NFL season, ARob has only one Pro Bowl appearance and rarely gets mentioned with the elite targets in the game. Hopefully for him, the sunshine in LA will provide the glow-up he seeks.
Top 100 Bears of All-Time
Returning to our Top 100 Bears of All-Time list, my initial thinking on Robinson tied his legacy to Brandon Marshall. Both players started their careers elsewhere, both came most recently from a Florida AFC team, both could be counted on as target monsters. But Robinson never approached Marshall’s numbers nor post-season accolades.
Robinson’s argument for inclusion on the Top 100 list comes down to two 1,000 yard receiving campaigns and a 100-catch season. Luckily, we can look at historical comparisons in franchise history. Five other receivers posted two seasons of at least 1,000 yards: Harlon Hill, Curtis Conway, Marty Booker, Marshall, and Alshon Jeffery.
Hill was essentially the Randy Moss of the 1950’s before he blew out his Achilles and ranks as the top pass catcher in team history at #35 on the list. Marshall appears in the second half of the list at #67 overall. Of the remaining three players, two appear at the end of the list while one barely missed the cut. Booker (#98) and Jeffery (#99) made the list, earning one Pro Bowl each for their best respective season, while Conway did not. However, we have essentially moved Booker and Jeffery down a spot (#99 and #100 respectively) with the inclusion of Khalil Mack. Can we bump either Booker or Jeffery out of the Top 100 for Robinson?
Booker’s peak two seasons read remarkably similar to Robinson. Both have a season with 100 or more grabs and a season in the high 90s. Booker was able to get into the Pro Bowl once, which I think edges ARob out. Alshon was a different type of player - more big plays that produced stat lines higher in yards per catch and TDs. If I had my way, I’d rank Alshon above Booker, followed by ARob.
Verdict: Allen Robinson is not a Top 100 Chicago Bear of All-Time.
I think a song lyric sums up the relationship with Robinson well: “You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness/ Like resignation to the end/ Always the end. So, when we found that we could not make sense/ Well you said that we would still be friends/ But I’ll admit that I was glad that it was over… Now you’re just somebody that I used to know.”
What do you think? Hit up the comments below or find me on Twitter @gridironborn.