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What went wrong with Greg Robinson and Rams?

Los Angeles Rams tackle Greg Robinson (73) lines up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Tampa. The Rams won the game 37-32. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)
Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini

The book was closed on Greg Robinson and the Rams’ decision to select the former Auburn standout with the second-overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft when the now Los Angeles-based team shipped him to a desperate Detroit Lions club in search of a replacement for the injured Taylor Decker.

In less than three years, Robinson went from perceived franchise cornerstone to a guy sent to the Lions for whatever was laying around in Allen Park; in this case, a 2018 sixth-round pick.

And Robinson, by the way, is hardly guaranteed anything with the Lions, who also brought in former Buffalo Bills tackle Cyrus Kouandjio as the emerging Decker convalesces from right shoulder surgery, something that is expected to keep the Ohio State product on the shelf for a significant period of time.

“Good athletes that have ability and they played a bit in the league,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell explained when taking about his team’s two additions. “We’re happy to have them. Both guys give us an opportunity to get better, and that’s the key.”

We’ll see how things work out for Detroit, but it’s now fair to perform the autopsy on what went wrong with the Rams.

The easy way out is to just say that the then-St. Louis Rams just struck out on a high-profile pick. But it’s not like other organizations around the league wouldn’t have been lined up to take the big man had the Rams looked in another direction.

In other words, general manager Les Snead didn’t reach for Robinson, who was regarded as a clean prospect by just about every draft analyst out there. And Robinson’s ceiling was further echoed by Caldwell years later when he brought up the player’s athleticism.

But, that’s the thing in the NFL. Everyone is talented, and relying on your physical gifts alone isn’t going to be enough to excel.

With the NBA Finals recently wrapping, so much of sports-talk radio has been about whether LeBron James is worthy to be compared with Michael Jordan as the greatest of all time.

Before coming to that conclusion, you should probably read about the history of the game and also put Wilt Chamberlain in the conversation. But any debate like that really comes down to your personal definition of the greatest.

If you are looking for the Mariano Rivera (the best closer of all time), it’s easily M.J., who would rip out your heart like he was Mola Ram at the Temple of Doom. If you want Mr. Do-It-All, and the most well-rounded of all time, well then, sure, LBJ belongs in the conversation.

Anyone who is in the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) conversation in any sport has one thing in common, however, and that’s work ethic.

You can’t be great in professional sports unless you have the desire to be great. And that’s what people in Los Angeles are saying Robinson didn’t have.

“He coasted on his athletic ability and assumed that would be good enough,” one NFL source close to the Rams explained to FanRagSports.com. “They brought in [Andrew] Whitworth to teach him how to be a professional and already pulled the plug. That says a lot.”

To be clear, Whitworth, the long-time Cincinnati Bengals stalwart, is 35 years old and still playing at a high level. So first and foremost, he was brought in to stabilize the offensive line in front of quarterback Jared Goff. But there’s no question that the Rams hoped that his professionalism would rub off on Robinson.

Long-time NFL writer Jason Cole, meanwhile, was hearing similar criticisms of Robinson:

Ultimately, the Rams tried Robinson all over the line in an effort to get something to click; at both tackle spots and even inside at guard. But the 24-year-old remainined a liability, despite the pedigree. When you have the physical gifts Robinson has, a second chance is assured, though.

“I’m concerned about what he does for us here and now and this point forward,” Caldwell said. “I don’t look back much. Those are speculation and stuff. You guys can do that. I guess that makes for interesting reading. For us, he’s got ability. He’s very capable, and we’re happy to have him. We’re looking forward rather than back.”

The Rams are also looking forward, and that’s why they tapped out on Robinson despite the optics of giving up on the second-overall pick before his rookie contract was even finished.

-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen.

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