When the New Orleans Saints revealed a few months ago that they had signed recent Super Bowl LII-winning Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Patrick Robinson to a four year, $20 million contract with $8 million fully guaranteed along with a $5 million signing bonus, an audible gasp went out among some of the team's most ardently-loyal of followers.
"They did what??? Why in the world are they bringing him back for?"
That's a slightly tamer version of some of the actual and much more colorful (and unprintable) verbiage that some fans within the Who Dat Nation fan-base have expressed in regards to the franchise bringing Robinson back into the fold, following his successful stint that ended with a World Championship and a Super Bowl ring for Philadelphia.
Robinson, who was drafted with the 32nd overall pick out of Florida State by New Orleans in the 2010 NFL Draft after the Saints won the Super Bowl a few months earlier that year, isn't remembered all that fondly by a large portion of fans, thanks to his very notable struggles with the team during his first stint; specifically his struggles in the very forgettable 2014 season — which at that time was the now-30-year old Robinson's 5th season in the League.
Robinson had been an All-American CB in Tallahassee with the Seminoles, and expectations for him were very high coming to a Saints team that had just won the Super Bowl.
Suffice it to say, Robinson fell way short of those unrealistic goals that most fans seem to have for their favorite Black and Gold heroes; and the team eventually chose not to re-sign him when his contract expired at the end of 2014.
But the now 9th-year NFL veteran told reporters that it was his own mental toughness that helped him through that tough time in his life, and it's the same mental toughness and self-confidence that has seen him bounce back and achieve the pinnacle of success for professional football players.
“To be honest [the biggest difference for me was] not doing too much thinking,” said Robinson during a teleconference with the New Orleans media after his signing was formally announced.
“When I was on the field [for the Saints], I was doing a lot of thinking, a lot of ‘what-ifs’ and stuff like that,” Robinson said. “Instead, now I’m just playing football and not thinking about anything else but just playing football. That’s the biggest difference.”
Robinson's best year came as the Saints #3 cornerback in the 2011 season, when the Saints went (13-3) and were one of the League's best teams that year. In that season, the 5-foot-11, 190 pound Robinson had 4 interceptions in 7 starts; along with 15 passes defensed and 38 tackles.
His worst season came as a full-time starter in the 2012 "Bountygate" season; when instead of "blossoming" in his 3rd year as many young players often do, he regressed with a string of awful performances that saw him get beaten badly by several of the League's better wide receivers.
He still managed to pick off another 3 passes that year however, including a "Pick 6" for a 99-yard TD against the Eagles (ironically). Then he suffered a major knee injury in the very beginning of the 2013 season and missed the majority of that year.
But it was the 2014 season that many Saints fans still remember and vividly — especially during a Week #2 loss at "The Dawg Pound" versus the Browns in which Robinson gave up several big completions against then Browns-QB Brian Hoyer on the final drive that ended up leading to a last second game-winning field goal for Cleveland — that made many fans want to practically rip the hair right out of their own heads in complete disgust, and which undoubtedly also led to the surprised reaction among some fans following his announced re-signing with New Orleans just a few months ago.
Saints fans have very looooooong memories, that much you can be certain of.
Now to be fair, Robinson did manage to bounce back from those early struggles during that 2014 season, to play well as a nickel corner and part-time starter towards the end of that same year; but yet the team still chose to allow him to become a free agent in early 2015.
As fate would have it: leaving New Orleans and spreading his wings elsewhere (and no pun intended with reference to his time spent in Philadelphia) was exactly what he needed to get his career back on track.
First, Robinson immediately experienced success after signing a 1-year deal with the San Diego Chargers in 2015 NFL Free Agency, starting 10 games for them. He then battled injuries along with some inconsistency once again in 2016, after landing in Indiana and signing with the Indianapolis Colts on another 1-year deal; before finally thriving as the Eagles’ nickelback last season in 2017.
Robinson, who will turn 31 in September, enjoyed the best season of his career with Philadelphia. He played the 'slot' CB position in the Eagles secondary for a majority of 2017 and posted 4 interceptions (tied for a career high); which included a memorable "Pick-6" in the NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings.
As a direct result: the player that some Saints fans disliked once upon a time because of his early-career struggles, has since "blossomed" (finally) over the course of the past few seasons to become one of the NFL's premier CB's at covering the 'slot' position.
Patrick Robinson helped the Eagles win the Super Bowl with his impressive play from the slot before re-joining the Saints in free agency. pic.twitter.com/ApQ4q1cvIa
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 22, 2018
The Miami, Florida native will not only likely be the new starter for New Orleans at the 'slot' position, but also likely will serve as a "mentor" for the young Saints CB group (led by superstar #1 CB Marshon Lattimore and #2 CB Ken Crawley), all of whom are in their early to mid 20's.
In his time with the Eagles, Robinson played in all regular season 16 games and started 8 of them; but he saved his best performance for last during the Playoffs: a 50-yard "Pick 6" against then-Minnesota QB Case Keenum (who's now in Denver with the Broncos) that spurred on a dominant performance by the Eagles defense enroute to a 38-7 NFC Championship Game blow-out win over the Vikings.
.@PatRobinson25 PICKS off Case Keenum.
Sets up his blocking.
And takes it to the HOUSE.
— NFL (@NFL) January 22, 2018
The Eagles would then go on to defeat the New England Patriots 41-33 in Super Bowl LII, which now allows Robinson to make a triumphant return back to New Orleans with a Super Bowl ring of his own.
Robinson was asked recently in a one-on-one interview with ESPN beat writer Mike Triplett, if he was concerned about coming back to New Orleans after the change of scenery had served him so well.
“Really, that did make it a little hard to come back -- me leaving, then getting the success I was looking for. That did make it a little harder to come back,” Robinson said. “But I figured since I know exactly what it takes, then it shouldn’t be a problem coming back and doing the same thing I’ve been doing the last couple of years.”
Robinsonn told Triplett that it’s going to be “kind of weird” coming back now as “one of the vets”, but said that the decision to return to where his NFL career first began, was an easy one to make.
“Being here in New Orleans, my wife loves it and my kids love it, so that kind of helped the decision, also,” Robinson said. “I just see it as me coming back home and having that opportunity to win a ring. That’s how I’m trying to look at it, to be honest.”
Robinson also told Triplett that he hopes his Super Bowl-winning experience in Philly can help him pass on some valuable, firsthand knowledge to the Saints’ young secondary, which was one of the biggest reasons why the Saints were one play away from being in the NFC Championship Game last year.
It's pretty obvious that given his notable success last year, that Robinson fits best as a nickel specialist in slot coverage; and that's where he's expected to see the most action moving forward; with the team currently in the final week of OTA's and the team's annual Mini-Camp coming up next week.
In fact, "P-Rob" has stood out in the practices observed by the media at OTA's so far; with New Orleans Advocate writer Nick Underhill noting the other day that Robinson made some plays during the session and held his own in one-on-ones, breaking up a pass to #1 WR Michael Thomas.
Underhill added that Robinson also looked good during team drills and pointed out that if he plays like he did last season, Robinson will provide a significant upgrade to a secondary that includes 2017 breakout rookies Lattimore and Marcus Williams, and young 2nd-year veterans Crawley and Vonn Bell.
“I think the sky’s the limit with these young guys,” Robinson said to Triplett a few weeks back.
“That’s something that I wanted to be a part of, especially so late in my career. I definitely want to be a part of a group that’s hungry, with good character and at the same time we’re winning games.”
Given his accomplishments last season, there's no reason to suspect that the "old P-Rob" will show up again in the upcoming 2018 season.
But you can also appreciate the trepidation among some Who Dats, whose fears over Robinson's past performances in a Saints uniform clearly haven't been forgotten.