Greg Robinson '75 remembered as defensive coaching stalwart
Greg Robinson ’75, a standout University of the Pacific football player who became a highly regarded defensive coach in college and the NFL, died Wednesday. He was 70.
His passing comes just months after the university publicly announced plans for the Pacific Football Legacy Project that will memorialize the tremendous impact of Pacific’s football program and the contributions of its legendary players and coaches.
A Los Angeles native, Robinson played at Bakersfield College and Pacific before starting his coaching career as an assistant with the Tigers. After 15 years as a college coach at several schools, including North Carolina State and UCLA, Robinson moved to the NFL as a defensive line coach for the New York Jets.
“Greg was an incredibly hard working person. Another thing that set him apart was he was so strong technically,” said Ted Leland ’70, ’74, a former Pacific athletic director who coached Robinson at Pacific. They later were together on the coaching staff.
“I was defensive coordinator, Pete Carroll was secondary coach and Greg coached the defensive line,” Leland said. “We were all together on the same side of the line as defensive coaches.”
Robinson’s ties with Pacific continued with career-changing job opportunities with the New York Jets. In 1990, he joined the coaching staff of new Jets Head Coach Bruce Coslet ’68. Then, in 1994, when Pete Carroll ’73, ’78 was promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach of the Jets, Robinson was picked to fill Carroll’s coordinator role.
Robinson was a defensive guru, whose specialty was creating pressure on quarterbacks. That strategy worked well when he moved to the Denver Broncos as defensive coordinator.
The highlight of his three-decade coaching career came in 1997 and 1998, when the Broncos won consecutive Super Bowls. While quarterback John Elway and the offense received much praise for the titles, it was the Broncos’ stifling defense, coordinated by Robinson, which dominated playoff foes.
During his second Super Bowl winning season, Robinson’s defense held the Miami Dolphins to 3 points, the New York Jets to 10 and the Atlanta Falcons to 13 in the playoffs.
Robinson returned to the college ranks to conclude his career. He was head coach at Syracuse University from 2005 through 2008, and also had defensive coaching positions at Texas, Michigan and San Jose State.
Through the years, Robinson remained in close contact with many former Pacific coaches and players.
“Greg came back when we had a reunion to honor (former head coach) Chester Caddas,” Leland said. “When the Bay Area hosted the Super Bowl in 2016, we had a nice gathering at the Presidio in San Francisco with a program on Tigers who had experienced a Super Bowl. He was a big part of that get-together.”
Pacific teammate Steve “Spike” Spiro ’74 recalled Robinson’s versatility as a player.
“He was our Swiss Army Knife,” Spiro said. “He played center and then they needed him at tight end, and he also played some linebacker. We were a close-knit group. Greg, Pete Carroll and many other football players were my frat brothers in SAE (Sigma Alpha Epsilon). Greg was a great player and so fun to be around.”
He is survived by his wife, three children, four siblings, and six grandchildren. A funeral is expected to take place in Los Angeles at a later date.