It's July, almost August. We're reaching the part of the NFL schedule where fans begin to dream their team has a chance at winning it all. Whether it's an entitled fanbase that always believes they have a shot, a beleaguered one that feels like this might be the year, or the Raiders, glowing previews start to go up for everyone. The media puts their nose to the ground and finds reasons that things will be different this year. Atlanta is no different, having never won a Super Bowl. Coming off a 9-7 record despite Matt Ryan playing hurt for a majority of the season, surely you'd have to think that the Falcons have as good a chance as any NFC team of making it to the playoffs, right? They return a third-year Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White, Sam Baker, John Abraham, Jonathan Babineaux. They added arguably the most NFL ready linebacker in the entire draft in Sean Weatherspoon. Football Outsiders gives them a 72% chance to win nine or more games.
But it's not all these things that will turn around the Falcons. No, no. It's Dunta Robinson, because he now makes a lot of money.
I direct your attention to this sunshine and lollipops piece about Mr. Robinson. Reading the piece and trying to come up with a transition sentence between the link and the analysis is actively making me want to vomit, so I'll just get right into this.
The Falcons' newest standout at the position, offseason free agent pickup Dunta Robinson, is not likely to generate the Q rating of any of the figures mentioned above. The less flashy Robinson has heretofore spent his NFL career making statements on the field, as opposed to the various mediums preferred by his Atlanta predecessors.
Right, except for showing up to the team out of shape at the very end of training camp, whining his way through being franchise tagged for 3 months, bolting the absolute second that free agency started, and writing "Pay Me Rick" on his shoes. Oh, and the "statements" he had made on the field have been pretty bad ever since his devastating injury too. But yeah, other than that, sure.
"You will see [in] the way he carries himself an element of swagger we definitely are looking for on this football team, to help this young defense and to help this young secondary," Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff said soon after the team signed Robinson in March. "We are really excited about having Dunta help this team move in that direction."
Well, when his Madden 11 Swagger rating comes out, we'll find out for sure. I tend to think it will be pretty low, given that the creators of it have said that penalties play a big role in it and Dunta finished fourth in the NFL with 8 defensive penalties last year since he no longer can keep up with anyone. But hey, you seem like a smart guy and you have a great franchise going. Good luck with that one.
Robinson was a steadying force for a Houston defense that went through myriad changes - from both a scheme and personnel standpoint - during his six years there. He had six interceptions as a rookie in 2004, and soon after found opposing quarterbacks less than willing to throw in his direction.
Yes, that would be a good summary of Robinson's career up to about 2007. Unfortunately, you're forgetting the two years after his injury, where he was a good comeback story, and then later a terrible cornerback. He gave up 30 first downs or touchdowns last year in coverage, which is the same amount as you are about to disparage Brent Grimes for doing. It's a good thing teams are scared of him, or it might be even higher!
Still, the Texans refused to give the South Carolina product the type of contract he wanted, with the effects of a serious 2007 knee injury perhaps dissuading them from making a long-term deal.
Side effects of serious 2007 knee injury include sulkiness, losing effectiveness and the ability to get beaten deep on numerous occasions but get lucky that the quarterback, probably Keith Null, overthrew his receiver. Please consult with a doctor before taking serious 2007 knee injury in an attempt to get paid $57 million, unless of course you have lots of swagger.
Though Grimes, Owens, and Williams are all back, there is little question that the tone of this cornerback group will be largely set by the newcomer Robinson, who has drawn raves from head coach Mike Smith for his physical nature.
"I think the thing Dunta has is a complete game," Smith said in March. "We talked about his ability to tackle, and that is very important. I think tackling is a lost art in this league ... that's the thing that stands out the most in regards to his skill set."
After watching Dunta Robinson play the last two seasons, I can agree that tackling is a lost art in this league. He's got the complete game between that, his 0 interceptions last year, and his tendency to hold on to someone and pray nobody throws a flag.
Now, it would be one thing if someone wrote one of these pieces with all these flowery quotes, the money, and at least mentioned that Robinson was, by all empirical measures, awful last season. Maybe you could frame it as a bounceback story, except for the whole "paying him $57 million to get over being unhappy" angle. But you can't even find that. It's just piece after piece of praise and turnaround. John Clayton thinks he could be a Pro Bowler. Andy Benoit calls him an elite stopper. Michael Kun says that picking him up may be the difference between making the playoffs and staying home. Just try running Dunta's name through Google News sometime before training camp is over. You can't find a single bad word on the guy.
Kun's narrative is the worst of all for Texans fans. Because, if, as we have stated above, the Falcons have a pretty good chance to make the playoffs, Dunta Robinson will get an undue share of the credit. Make no mistake about it. He makes high dollars, the corners were bad last year, and the Falcons didn't make the playoffs. Robinson could have a year patterned right after last year, be terrible, and the Falcons could easily make the playoffs while he gets praised for adding absolutely nothing.
Which isn't to say I wish bad things on Robinson, because he did give the Texans all he had up and until the knee injury. He was a solid corner for quite a few years. He's just not one any more. And the level of credit he's going to get for the theoretical Falcons turnaround by association and reputation, rather than by play, is sure to dreg up bad opinions about why the Texans should have never let him get away when they absolutely made the right decision in letting him walk.
Owww, feeling woozy. Just fell down. Hang on a second.
Okay, much better. I think I just blacked out or something. I feel funny. What was I talking about?
Oh yes, Dunta Robinson. Best cornerback in the NFL. It's a shame the Texans ever let him get away. Didn't they need a cornerback like him?