Why Allen Robinson's negotiation tactics are genius originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
I like to think that somewhere inside Halas Hall, an exhausted Ryan Pace is rubbing his face and lamenting about his week while Jack Donaghy reminds him that it's only Tuesday.
If you don't have the distinct pleasure of working in a job that requires you to stare at Twitter all day, let me fill you in: on Monday night, under the cover of darkness (dramatic tension is the key to any good story), Allen Robinson wiped almost all mentions of the Chicago Bears from his social media accounts. Then Tarik Cohen, Darnell Mooney, and Anthony Miller all joined Cordarrelle Patterson's public campaign to get Robinson an extension. THEN the Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs reported that Robinson has already talked with Chicago about being traded. It's been a day.
There's a particular nuance in Robinson's approach that isn't getting the credit it deserves. He's in a tough spot; being one of the team's established veteran leaders implies a level of selflessness that's as unfair as it is nonsensical. You'd think being the best offensive player on the team may earn you the right to have a contract extension fast-tracked to the top of Ryan Pace's to-do list, but nope. Instead, as he plays through an athletic peak that even most NFL receivers fail to reach, Robinson has to sit there six days a week and listen to a bunch of self-fulfilling punditry about how he should "be patient" because "these things always get done." Then on the seventh, he runs around a football field diving head-first for inaccurate passes across the middle. You'd excuse him for not feeling like time is on his side.
A player as talented as Robinson shouldn't have to quietly suffer Blake Bortles and Mitch Trubisky, but he does. A player as (supposedly) valued as Robinson shouldn't have to subtweet to get his team's attention, but he does. His precarious position is exactly why Tuesday's approach was so brilliant. For Robinson, there's no point in getting Peter King on the phone for an exclusive. Going on-record with a columnist for 30 inches isn't the power move it used to be, and it offers Robinson no tangible advantage in what looks like an increasingly tense stalemate. We've already seen this play one thousand times: player goes on record, columnist writes a headline to grab eyes, aggregators milk it for page views, and The Takes arrive. Think about how trade requests land in the court of public opinion. Even today, the conversational tone around Robinson's approach took a drastic turn when Biggs reported details of an actual ask.
Instead, Robinson let everyone else talk for him. Herd mentality is a powerful tool – ask anyone in politics how useful grassroots campaigns can be. And putting aside whether he did or didn't orchestrate it himself, having close to half a dozen teammates publicly call for an extension is no small feat. Now it's not Allen Robinson vs. The Front Office, but The Bears Locker Room vs. The Front Office. The Bears are no longer doing Allen Robinson dirty – I mean they still are, but – they're doing the Bears Locker Room dirty. Hell, Tarik Cohen's tweeted more about Robinson's extension than his own, which also happens to be due this spring. At this point I half-expect Akiem Hicks to tweet some pertinent quote from Gladiator soon.
There's probably still an element of posturing to all this. If Robinson truly wanted out of Chicago, wouldn't he just lay low and walk out the door in January? Unless he truly has no interest in hitting free agency, requesting a move four months before he's set to become one of the highest-paid receivers of the offseason almost seems like more trouble than its worth. Precedent is still on the Bears' side when it comes to in-house extensions, too. But the goodwill they've received from Robinson – not to mention his own patience – has clearly run out, something he made abundantly clear on Tuesday. It's almost like this isn't his first, or second, rodeo.