Developer Chat

General WhatIfSports

John Robinson

Thursday, February 01, 2007

7:00 PM - 8:00 PM EST


The LIVE portion of this chat will begin on

Thursday, February 01, 2007 at 7:00 PM EST.

Welcome everyone to our Legends of the Game chat with Former USC and LA Rams Head Coach John Robinson.

Mr. Robinson, i know you coached 2 games against Bear Bryant's Alabama teams, in '77 and '78, splitting the series. How did you feel being on the opposite sideline of the guy who helped revolutionize NCAA Football, who had a larger-than-life personality and aura, especially seeing as you were relatively new to being a head coach at the time? (ianrmalcolm - Hall of Famer - 8:13 PM)

Bear Bryant was a great coach, probably the most important college football coach ever. We played here in the Coliseum in '77 and it was close. I was just a young coach trying to build a good team, so I was just happy to be there. In '78 though, we played in Birmingham and Alabama was ranked #1 in the nation. We would go on to split a national championship that year. But in that game, we beat them - dominated from start to finish. And after the game, Bear Bryant walked up to me and said, "y'all beat the hell out of us today." I will never forget that. He, his team and all of the Alabama fans were so classy and dignified. They respected our players and our fans. Bear Bryant was a good friend of John McKay so I knew him from my assistant days at USC, but it was a great experience to play one of his teams.

Hi Coach, I'm a lifelong SC fan. Tough task, and they were all different type of backs, but overall, how would you rank the heisman trophy winning tailbacks (Bush, Allen, White, Garrett, Simpson) (rickr - Hall of Famer - 8:16 PM)

I was involved with two of them and Ricky Bell came in second and Anthony Davis came in second as well. White and Allen won while I was there and Simpson and Garrett were there before just I was. OJ was the most devastating runner with great speed and fantastic size. Allen was the greatest competitor I had ever seen. He was a high school quarterback and played fullback for us because I had to find a way to get him into the game when he was a freshman and White was a senior. I thought that helped Allen in the pros too because he learned how to block. White was the toughest and Bell was a hard, hard runner. Bush is certainly as good as any of them, but you almost put him in another category more like Lynn Swann. Swann actually caught less passes than Bush in college, but every time either of them touched the ball it was for a big play. Bush was not like the old tailbacks. Bell got the ball from me 53 times one game and all of my tailbacks carried the ball about 30 times a game.

What was tougher? Coaching college kids or NFL players? (skonley - Hall of Famer - 8:17 PM)

They're different. The college kid required responsibility. Your first exposure with him is in his home at age 17 where you pledge to help him accomplish as much as he can in the classroom and on the field. The NFL is different because the relationship only has to do with football and there are different problems. Rarely does that relationship become very personal. As college coaches, we are in fact responsible for college players' ability to succeed in life. My greatest joy was helping these students overcome some problems and/or graduate when they may not have otherwise.

Greetings Coach Robinson...you have helped bring much glory to Los Angeles football during your professional career--what is your opinion of when LA might experience an NFL franchise again?? Respect,Boddicker (Boddicker - Hall of Famer - 8:18 PM)

That is really kind of up in the air. There are lot things that don't make sense because you would think that the second biggest market would have a team. In order for there to be one though, there must be a new stadium. There will not be a franchise with the current conditions. To build an adequate stadium, we would need to build a $1 billion stadium and the city is not going to put that money up. Then, the franchise would cost an owner about $1 billion. So who is going to come up with $2 billion? Right now, there is just some shrugging of the shoulders by those involved and maybe there will not be a franchise for a while or ever.

What was the difference between the USC team you coached from 1976-82 and the 1993-97 Trojans team you also coached? (cutter2004 - Prospect - 8:20 PM)

Things changed at SC in that period of time. There are the normal cycles that programs go through and obviously SC is in a great up-cycle now like the 70s. Before John McKay came they had gone through a difficult time. They drifted away from the focus on football in the ten years that I was gone. There was a status quo in regards to infrastructure and the entrance requirements changed. Also, LA endured the riots and the area got worse, so kids no longer saw LA as a great place to go to school. The quality of the player was affected by this. I felt bad that I did not recognize this immediately when I got there. It took a couple of years to realize that we had a problem and needed to improve the facilities and find a way to become appealing nationally. Pete Carroll is doing a lot of things now to redo the mentality that changed while I was off. When you are on top is when you have to move forward and build the program. Otherwise, the dip comes and it takes a long while to get back on top.

What is the key to success for a college head coach going to the same job in the pros? (maddove117 - Hall of Famer - 8:22 PM)

I think it has been difficult for almost all coaches. They tend to go into weak organizations because those are the teams most desperate for new coaches. It is important that a college coach find a franchise that is willing to win and willing to give him power and control over some personnel decisions. A college coach has to call some of the shots - he will never be able to call all of them. I think you also need coaches with some NFL experience. The game is not any more complicated, but the focus is different. All of those things make it difficult for any new coach to win. We were at the Rams for nine years and went to the playoffs in seven of them. I would not say that we were in the best situation to win though. We could never reach the top because we would not allocate enough resources to winning. We were losing money in LA and of course had to play the 49ers all the time. We could have been more committed. Actually, we played Chicago the last time they made the NFC Championship game. The game two weeks ago was reminiscent of that - cold and dominant by the Bears. That 85 Bears defense was one of greatest of all-time.

Who do you think will win the Super Bowl - Bears or colts? (schmoldty - Newbie - 8:23 PM)

Like everyone else, I am not sure. I would agree with most that the Colts are the favorite. I think the middle pass rush is going to be crucial. Grossman is very vulnerable to rushes up the middle. Pressure in his face makes him fade back and make bad decisions. When he drifts back and to his right, he plays poorly. The Colts have a good pass rush, but it comes from the outside. If they can find a way to get that rush up with the middle, whether it be from the tackles, blitzes, or twists or stunts they can rattle the Bears. Manning is kind of similar, but he is not going to be bothered from the outside rush at all. The rushing games will cancel each other out, so the team with the best pass rush should win the game... I think.

Just like in real life, Here on this site, having sucess in your college football program comes from recruiting. How difficult was recruiting, and how do you think Pete Carroll does souch a great job at USC now? (mrturtle - Prospect - 8:25 PM)

Pete came in and really changed the culture of recruiting at USC. He has pulled out all the stops to be personally involved. They use private jets to cover the nation - unheard of on the west coast. That has allowed the team to improve nationally. Pete is also a personable guy and has made it fun to play at USC. It is not an overly disciplined group and players like that. He has also convinced recruits that if they are good enough, they may play as freshman - and he gets those players into games as freshman. Personally, I enjoyed recruiting. We had a run of some the greatest college athletes of all-time. Those 78-79 teams were two of the most talented teams ever. Getting involved with players and their families was something we really enjoyed. When we decided to recruit nationally, we succeeded. When I came back, that focus had been lacking and we no longer had the national pull.

Who was the first player to honestly impress or wow you with their football skills that you recruited? (cokeman - Hall of Famer - 8:26 PM)

Going back to my days at Oregon, my first recruiting trips were Dan Fouts and Ahmad Rashad. They were outstanding players with some really special qualities. Mel Renfro was our tailback as well, on the freshman team I coached at Oregon. All three went on to be great pros. At SC, Ricky Bell was great and I always thought Sam Cunningham, our FB, was one of the best players that I had ever coached.

Who was the better football player growing up in California - you or John Madden? (tinmanpb - Hall of Famer - 8:26 PM)

We played totally different positions. I had a little more notoriety at a younger age and he was much more successful in college. He would say now that I peaked as a junior receiver in high school. John was an offensive tackle who went on to be an outstanding tackle at Cal Poly. They were ranked as a DII team and John was able to continue on to the NFL in Philadelphia before getting injured. He started his coaching career after that injury ended his career.

Describe the football coaching fraternity. Is it stronger in college or the NFL? (buzzardbill - Prospect - 8:27 PM)

They are separate and different in terms of what is required of them. I think the challenges are so different. The college coaching fraternity is much bigger, yet teaching brings those coaches together. In the NFL, things have gotten better with respect to teaching, but it is still more based on scheme.

Would you ever consider to coach in the NFL again? (cosmicjim70 - Hall of Famer - 8:27 PM)

I am 71 years old, so I don't know if I am going to get asked. As a consultant or a similar manner I could have some fun. Now I work for Madden and NBC researching games and have done some radio broadcasts so I am keeping up with the game. The thing that gets you as a coach is the energy level. Bobby Ross recently retired from the Academy citing lack of energy. As something other than a head coach, I think I could find enough energy for another go-round.

Which city did you prefer coaching and living in - Las Vegas or Los Angeles? (nyoudontstop - Prospect - 8:29 PM)

Los Angeles - it is the center of everything in sports. I coached there for 20+ years. No one lasts that long in LA. I was always treated well and had a great relationship with the press. Las Vegas is a great place to live. For younger couples or single guys, it is even more fun a place to live - not just on the strip, but with all of the communities and great housing. And the weather is great in both.

What are your opinions on "pay for play" in college athletics? (nyoudontstop - Prospect - 8:30 PM)

First of all, it's impossible. Most athletic departments are not solvent as it is. There is no way that you could pay a player a stipend of anything more than what they get now. Maybe OSU or USC could do it, but every other school would go broke. I think the athletes do struggle though in terms of being able to survive economically. One of the things that is not good is that the athlete is required to go to school year-round and workout year-round. The old days of having a summer job are not there. None of them are starving to death though and no one should be in a position where they would turn down the scholarship. For the individual who has extraordinary ability can go to the NFL - or NBA. If you do not belong in college due to your athletic ability, the rules exist to allow you to go to the next level... But you have to be ready.

Who was the first quaterback you coached that you knew would be a great NFL player? (cokeman - Hall of Famer - 8:31 PM)

Dan Fouts. We were both young at the time actually, but he certainly was great. He was one of the national leaders in passing every year that I coached him and had such a natural competitive edge about him that I knew he would succeed.

Do you think we will ever have a college football playoff at DIA? (fejtrain - Newbie - 8:33 PM)

I think there is potential for a plus-one type system, which is something that I always thought was the right answer anyway. The bowl games have already lost something due to the BCS. I went to the Rose Bowl this year. It was a great matchup with USC and Michigan - that should have been one of the greatest games ever. But, there was something missing because both teams had just missed the championship and the game was a bit of a letdown. If those two teams were playing in that game and Florida played OSU in another game it would have been fantastic. The number one sporting event in the world is the Super Bowl. The second biggest event only generates half of the revenue that the Super Bowl does. And, the Rose Bowl itself used to be bigger than any of the BCS games. So if they can find a way to drop the BCS and copy the Super Bowl for college that would help dramatically.

Having retired and then come back a couple times yourself, do you think that Bill Parcells is done coaching in the NFL? (zchild - Newbie - 8:34 PM)

I would suspect that he is done. I could see Bill coming back as a general manager or as part of an ownership group. He certainly has the knowledge. He is one of those who I would reference as having a complete football knowledge - like John Madden. Parcells could run a team, but I actually doubt that he will come back in any capacity.

Who are the best active coach and player in football? All-time? (schmoldty - Newbie - 8:35 PM)

I think Tony Dungy has been one of the best coaches for a long time. Jeff Fisher is a guy I would put up there as one of the best coaches too. He has been up there with Tennessee and has found a way to build them back up even with cap problems. LaDanian Tomlinson is a phenomenal player and Peyton Manning is as well. Those two stand way out in the NFL today. All-time - Bill Walsh was fabulous in San Francisco. He has had a huge impact on the game with his offensive prowess. And you cannot go wrong with the true legends - Shula and Landry and Lombardi. As a player, Joe Montana was exceptional. We played him every year with the Rams. On that team with Ronnie Lott and Jerry Rice may have been the best player of all-time at three different positions.

When you were at UNLV, what time of day did you practice? (tinmanpb - Hall of Famer - 8:37 PM)

We would practice from 7-9 in the morning and then 7-9 at night. It was hot during the day so we had to find a way keep the sun off of us by practicing early and late. They do not have an indoor practice facility. The school definitely does not have enough money to accommodate the team in that capacity. Still, when we started at night (7 pm), it was generally over 100. But when we lived in that temperature everyday it was not as much of a problem.

How difficult was it to balance being a head coach and AD at UNLV? (zchild - Newbie - 8:39 PM)

My wife and I both got sick soon after I started there. But, under normal circumstances, I think it can be done. So many things these days fall under the ADs umbrella that whole staff is needed to handle them anyway. The most important role of the AD is that of a fundraiser and coaches, as the face of athletic programs, are sometimes better suited for that. Too many "down programs" right now higher ADs who are administrators, but not good with Alumni. It does not matter if you are great with a budget, if there is no money to budget.

What did you do with John Madden this last season? (tinmanpb - Hall of Famer - 8:39 PM)

I had a blast with NBC this year. A lot of people think that John just rides around in his bus and shoots commercials. He really spends a great deal of time breaking down tape and talking to coaches. He is amazing and I really admire John for his ability to take the game from a coach's perspective and relate that to the fans easily. During the season, John and I would interview coaches on Thursdays and Fridays and then spend about 8 hours on Saturday breaking down the tapes of previous games and of the coaches' comments. We tried to focus on the game from a coaching angle. When we watch tape together, we don't want to think about how we would commentate, but how other coaches would analyze the video. It was a lot of fun.

Who was the best coach you ever coached against while at SC? And who was the best player you ever coached against? (tracyr - Hall of Famer - 11:36 AM)

Bo Schembechler, Don James from Washington and Terry Donahue from UCLA were all tough. The best players were Joe Montana from Notre Dame and John Elway at Stanford. A great Bo story - We were recruiting a kid on a cold winter night in Iowa. I flew in to Iowa dressed like a typical Californian and when I walked in, Bo was there talking to the family. He was just finishing up. Bo stood up and said, "Here is a great young coach from SC who is a great guy. Your family should really consider that school seriously, but...look at this guy's shoes. How can you trust someone with those shoes?" He was laughing as he said it, but the family sat there and just stared at my shoes the entire time I talked to them. That player ended up at Michigan.

How did you begin your coaching career? (pkprostudio - Newbie - 11:36 AM)

I graduated from Oregon where I had played a little and then they hired me as a grad assistant in 1959. They hired me full-time on the staff the next year to coach the freshman team. And I have not had a real job since.

Thank you very much for participating in our Legends of the Game chat with John Robinson. It's been great being able to pick the mind of one of the more legendary football coaches of all time. For more information regarding upcoming chats, please click here.

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