Johnny Robinson's HOF nomination long overdue for coach who knew him well
Johnny Robinson may be the best player not enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame but he moved one step closer to Canton last week when the Senior Committee made him their 2018 nominee. One of the happiest guys to hear that outside of the 78-year-old Robinson himself was 82-year-old Tom Pratt, the last active NFL coaches to have coached in the old American Football League before the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.
Pratt was the Chiefs’ defensive line coach 1963-1977, a time when Kansas City boasted one of the best defenses in football. An anchor on the backline was Robinson, a member of the AFL’s All-Time team who still ranks 13th in pass interceptions with 57 even though he retired 47 years ago.
Pratt, who for the past five seasons was pass rushing coach with the Arizona Cardinals, visited Talk of Fame Network this week to talk about Robinson and the 196 Chiefs team that crushed the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV, thus forever leaving the two rival leagues tied 2-2 in Super Bowl championships.
“Johnny totally qualified for a gold jacket long before he got in,’’ Pratt said of Robinson’s Hall of Fame chances. “He was an outstanding player in every respect. I think he was a victim of us having so many (Chiefs) voted into the Hall of Fame. ‘Oh, no. Another Chief?’’’
Robinson’s 57 interceptions came in only 10 seasons because his first two years he was a starting running back for the Chiefs. In his rookie season Robinson finished top five in the AFL in total yards. Pratt was not involved in the decision to shift Robinson to defense but he says his line was blessed to have him behind them.
“We played zone defense and Johnny was responsible for the deep middle,’’ Pratt recalled. “He had it covered. And there was no one tougher than Johnny Robinson.’’
Pratt told Talk of Fame Network he thought Robinson would not be able to play in Super Bowl IV after breaking three ribs a week earlier in the final AFL Championship Game.
“He said, ‘I’m playing,’’ Pratt recalled. “They wrapped him up with about all the tape we had and they gave him as many aspirin as he could take and didn’t miss a snap. He had an interception. That was as courageous a performance as I ever saw. He’d be the sixth defensive player on that team in the Hall of Fame and he was really one of the top leaders.’’
Speaking of leaders, Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl winning coach, Doug Pederson, has a new autobiography issued this week. Aptly named “Fearless,’’ it is not only the story of how the 2017 Eagles upset the New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl by refusing to anything but bold but also his story of overcoming long odds as first an undrafted rookie quarterback who lasted 12 years in the NFL and then a guy who went from coaching at a small Louisiana Christian high school to becoming a Super Bowl champion.
Co-author Dan Pompei, who is a Hall of Fame voter and long-time NFL reporter, stopped by Talk of Fame’s studio to talk about Pederson and explain why “fearless’’ is the right title to tell his story.
“It’s a perfect word to describe him,’’ Pompei said of Pederson. “It captures his leadership style and his game style. He was never afraid to go for it on fourth down. He had players who backed him up but he showed confidence in them.’’
Pederson recalls in the book watching the Jacksonville Jaguars taking a knee just before halftime, trying to sit on a lead against the Patriots in the AFC title game. Pederson said he swore if he found himself in the same situation he would never do that. Two weeks later he did against those same Patriots and he played boldly, repeatedly attacking their defense in what became a memorable, 41-33 victory.
Pompei explained on the show how deeply Pederson was hurt by a comment earlier that season by former NFL executive Mike Lombardi that he was “the least qualified coach in the NFL.’’ He reacted to it, as with most things, fearlessly.
“He was taken aback by it,’’ Pompei tells Talk of Fame. “It was before the season opener against Washington. He was dealing at the time with the death of his father.’’
What made the story more intriguing was Lombardi was close friends with Eagles’ defensive coordinator, and former NFL head coach, Jim Schwartz. Some believe he was the source for Lombardi’s assessment. That could have become a divisive issues but Pederson put out that fire and the rest is history. You can read all of that history in “Fearless,’’ which is on sale now.
Talk of Fame co-hosts Ron Borges and Clark Judge also delve into the debate over who the Hall of Fame’s contributor committee would nominate this week. That turned out to be as they predicted, Broncos’ owner Pat Bowlen and long-time Dallas Cowboys’ scout and personnel maven Gil Brandt.
Clark serves on that committee so he provided his unique insight into what was to be expected and who the other leading candidates were. Tune in to learn why Bucko Kilroy and George Young were also in the mix and Ron reveals who his choices would be. They weren’t the ones who emerged this year.
Ron also states the Hall of Fame case for a forgotten 1930s lineman named Ox Emerson, who was an all-decade selection and six time first team All-Pro in an eight-year career.
When it comes to our “Borges or Bogus’’ segment, Ron touches the third rail of NFL issues. This week it’s a discussion on why the lowly Cleveland Browns, winner of only one game in the past two seasons, have had more money bet on them to win the AFC North in Vegas than the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals combined. Is that bogus? Ron has his opinion on that.
There’s also the weekly two-minute drill and much more. To hear it all tune into SB Nation Radio Wednesday night’s from 8-10 pm or you can hear the show at any time on our free podcast. Just go to iTunes or the TuneIn app and search “Talk of Fame Radio.’’ You can subscribe for free and have the show automatically dropped into wherever you get your podcasts each Wednesday.