One of the most disappointing chapters in Las Vegas (then-Oakland) Raiders history was their crushing defeat in Super Bowl XXXVII. But how much of it was the fault of Barret Robbins, the Silver and Black’s center?
It was supposed to be the crowning moment of a Raiders rebuild that began when they they hired head coach Jon Gruden in 1998. Instead, it became one of the most embarrassing performances by a team in the Super Bowl era. One of the most bizarre and captivating headlines that weekend was the disappearance of Robbins. The six-foot-three 320-plus pound center joined the team in the second round of the 1995 NFL Draft.
The Year That Was 2002
That 2002 season saw Robbins bestowed with both Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. Undoubtedly, the leader of the Raiders offensive line and to an extent, the whole offense. The loss at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Gruden was unfairly pinned on Robbins for years.
Robbins’ teammate, right tackle Barry Simms recently shed some light into the incident. The one where the Raiders’ center literally disappeared. Speaking on the Sports Uncovered Podcast, Simms spoke about what went down that weekend.
“We jumped on the bus and waited for a bit, And couldn’t find him. And it was really surreal to be out there doing walk-throughs and, you know, missing our guy. Missing our Pro Bowl center.”
He Barely Knew His Name…
Different things have come up in regards to Robbins’ disappearance, in particular, his depression and partying. Monte Poole of NBC Sports recently highlighted that a man’s inner demons derailed what should’ve been his crowning moment.
“After making 11 p.m. curfew Friday night, the Pro Bowl center climbed out of bed early Saturday and quickly began waging war within himself. He lost every battle, ultimately plummeting to such emotional depths that he was powerless to fight off his demons… Robbins, diagnosed with depression nearly a decade earlier while attending Texas Christian University, got up early that morning, hopped into a car of men he barely knew, and left the team hotel, the La Jolla Hyatt. Robbins was miles away, so immersed in a spree of debauchery he barely knew his name…”
Looking back, it was truly tragic what happened to Robbins. Perhaps we can blame the stigma of mental illness, something that thankfully has begun to dissipate, albeit slowly. Sometimes though, you can have all the support in the world and it’s not enough. I have no doubt his Raiders teammates would’ve done something had they understood what was about to go down. Thankfully, it was ex-Raider Calvin Branch that put Robbins in a cab back to San Diego. As Poole pointed out, who knows what could’ve happened?
In the end, it was a perfect storm for Robbins. A mental illness as crippling and ruthless as depression, combined with alcoholism (or binge partying in his case), and the immense pressure of carrying a team in the Super Bowl proved to be too much for one mortal man to deal with.
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*Top Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images