Allen Robinson deserves something for this.
It’s hard to build a convincing case for the Bears wide receiver to make the Pro Bowl with so many other NFL receivers putting up monster numbers, but it would be a fitting reward — even if he gets in as an alternate — for a guy who consistently finds a way to produce despite playing in the NFL’s second-worst passing offense.
Robinson isn’t fixated on Pro Bowl voting and might not have even realized it’s underway if not for a staffer handing him a ballot at his locker after practice Thursday. The Pro Bowl is an individual accolade, and Robinson has seen firsthand that awards and statistics don’t cure the malaise of losing.
“When I went before [representing the Jaguars after the 2015 season], it was a great honor and a memorable experience,” he said. “But don’t get me wrong — I would much rather play in the Super Bowl.
“It’s a lot more fun when you’re winning. I’ve got more catches right now than I had all last season, but I would rather be playing for something than have the numbers.”
Robinson has been, by far, the best thing about a Bears offense that sits near the bottom of the league heading into a home game Sunday against the Giants. He leads the team with 57 receptions and 633 yards. The next-closest receiver is Taylor Gabriel at about half that. Robinson has accounted for 22.5 percent of the Bears’ total offense.
And he’s doing it in some of the worst possible conditions. That’s the part he would never bring up, and it makes him uneasy when someone else mentions it.
“I just try to do my job regardless,” he said.
Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky ranks 33rd out of 33 qualifying QBs in yards per game and is in the bottom third in completion percentage and passer rating. His average completion is 4.7 yards past the line of scrimmage, which doesn’t bode well for maximizing Robinson’s capacity as a deep threat.
No one else in the Bears’ passing game draws much of a defense’s attention away from Robinson. Tight end has been a dead spot, and the running game has been — almost literally some days — nonexistent.
Yet, Robinson has a shot to be the Bears’ first 1,000-yard receiver since Alshon Jeffery in 2014. He’s on pace for 1,013 yards, so the margin is thin. Averaging 61.2 yards per game the rest of the way in this offense is no given. But if he cracks 1,000, he’ll be the 11th player to do so in the Bears’ 100-year history.
It will mean something if he gets there. Every wide receiver in the league cares about hitting 1,000 — just to varying extents. Robinson is proud of his 2015 Pro Bowl season with the Jaguars, when he had 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns, but the team went 5-11. He was pretty good the next season, too, at 833 yards and six touchdowns, but it felt somewhat hollow on a 3-13 team.
“As you get down the stretch, it’s tough,” Robinson said of those years — and surely he realizes that’s his present situation as well. “Comparing [Jacksonville] to last year here: My numbers weren’t great, but [the Bears] were 12-4, won the division, went to the playoffs and had a chance to move to the next game. The excitement that season brought was memorable.”
That’s a guy you want — and guy you want to see rewarded, even if it’s merely a consolation prize.
Robinson ranks 13th in the NFC in yardage, ninth in catches but has just three touchdowns. That typically isn’t enough to win one of the four Pro Bowl spots, which are decided by a combination of player, coach and fan voting and announced Dec. 17.
But if he fares a little better than expected in the polls and a couple of players drop out for various reasons, maybe he’ll get at least a fraction of the recognition he deserves.