The Rams announced Monday that they have signed John Robinson to a five-year, multimillion-dollar contract, a deal that will keep the coach in Anaheim through the 1991 season.
For Robinson and the Rams, it was a relatively painless deal, something one doesn't often associate with a bottom-line negotiating team and its money.
But feelings obviously run deep for Robinson, who has led the Rams to the playoffs in each of his four seasons as coach.
"It's always been a goal of mine to make the Rams into the best team in professional football, and John Robinson is the coach to fulfill our dreams," Ram owner Georgia Frontiere said in a prepared statement.
The Rams are calling Robinson's deal a four-year extension to his initial five-year contract, which was to expire after next season. But it's really better than that. The Rams tore up the last year of the old contract, which reportedly would have paid Robinson $350,000 in 1987, and started over.
Details of the contract, negotiated by Ram Vice President John Shaw and Robinson's agent, Ed Hookstratten, were not revealed, but sources said that Robinson's new deal puts him in coaching's upper echelon, though well below the $1 million-a-year salaries of contemporaries Bill Walsh and Don Shula. Robinson's salary is probably in line with those of Washington's Joe Gibbs, Dallas' Tom Landry and Seattle's Chuck Knox, who reportedly make more than $700,000 a season.
But Robinson, 51, said that money wasn't the primary reason for his long-term commitment.
"I don't know that I would have found anywhere else what I've found here," Robinson said.
And that is a future.
"I'd be very disappointed in the next five years if we're not right there every year," Robinson said of his team's Super Bowl chances. "And, I think we'll bring that championship to (Frontiere)."
"Or sooner," Robinson said, laughing.
Robinson is third on the list of Ram coaches with 42 victories, behind only Knox, who had 54 with the Rams, and George Allen, who had 49.
Robinson's record, including the playoffs, is 42-28. He has coached the Rams to successive seasons of 9-7, 10-6, 11-5 and 10-6.
Robinson, Knox and Paul Brown are the only coaches in National Football League history who have qualified for the playoffs in their first four seasons.
The key to the Rams' success, Robinson said, has been stability. His offensive coordinator, Ernie Zampese, and defensive coordinator Fritz Shurmur recently signed contract extensions through 1991.
"You have to be happy and have a chance to be successful where you are," Robinson said. "The people here are happy and competitive. And certainly, everyone in the organization believes we are going to win the championship. Those are the things you're looking for. . . . We've worked four years to be in the position we are. We're optimistic about the future."
The team also announced the hiring of former Ram back Tank Younger as an administrative assistant and consultant. Younger spent the last 12 seasons as an assistant general manager with the San Diego Chargers. Younger played for the Rams from 1949 through 1957 and served as a scout for the team until 1964. . . . Although John Robinson was signed with relative ease, agents for wide receiver Henry Ellard say they haven't heard from Ram management in months. Yet Frank Bauer, an associate of Ellard's agent, Mike Blatt, said he is not surprised with the Rams' eagerness to re-sign Robinson. "John Shaw has always said that the coach was a lot more important than the players," Bauer said. Ellard held out for 89 days in a contract dispute last season and seems headed in that direction again. . . . Robinson, Director of Operations Dick Beam and players Mel Owens and Reggie Doss will travel to London June 7 to help plan and promote the team's exhibition game with the Denver Broncos at Wembley Stadium Aug. 9. . . . The Rams are scheduled to open training camp July 19, though Robinson said camp might start a few days earlier for some players. Veterans must report by July 26, giving them less than a week's practice before the London trip.