Gold Jacket Spotlight: Coaches asked Santa for linebackers like Robert Brazile 

When coaches at Jackson State University reviewed film of ROBERT BRAZILE blocking as a tight end, they reacted with awe. 

“This guy wants to destroy people,” Chuck Ren would write a few years later.  

That film session led the coaches to move Robert from tight end to linebacker, a decision that became the genesis of what would become a Pro Football Hall of Fame (Class of 2018) career for Robert that this week lands him in the Gold Jacket Spotlight. 

During his senior season in 1974 at Jackson State, Robert made 129 tackles and grabbed nine interceptions, persuading the Houston Oilers and head coach Bum Phillips to select him in the first round (sixth overall) of the 1975 NFL Draft. It was Phillips’ first draft pick as a head coach. 

While Robert’s size and speed attributed to his success, his comprehensive preparation was equally critical in his development. 

“Robert has all the tools all right,” former Oilers coach Eddie Biles observed, “but he’s also well-prepared to face his opponents. He studies films and tendencies and gets himself familiar with what a particular offense is trying to do. That preparation, as much as the physical ability, is what makes him one of the game’s greatest linebackers.” 

Defensive strategy was evolving during Robert’s tenure, and included among the changes was the conversion of the 4-3 defense to the 3-4 defense. Robert played a major role in that transition. 

Lee Goddard of the Corpus Christi Caller Times observed that Robert was in the “vanguard of the NFL’s shift.” He noted that when Robert entered the National Football League, only the Oilers and New England Patriots employed the 3-4, but when Robert retired, all but seven teams aligned in that defense.  

Phillips claimed that Robert, nicknamed “Dr. Doom,” liked the defensive strategy because, “He got to rush the passer a lot. He got a lot of sacks,” and added, “The rush became more noticeable with Robert. He was the one who started it out. No way a halfback could handle him. Offenses had to change their blocking schemes.” 

The Oilers’ proficiency in the 3-4 defense aided their march to three consecutive 10-win seasons (10-6 in 1978 and 11-5 in both 1979 and 1980) and appearances in back-to-back AFC Championship Games. 

Robert was named to seven consecutive Pro Bowls (1977-1983) and was named to the second unit of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1970s. 

“Physically, he is perfectly structured for a linebacker: tall enough to intimidate tight ends, fast enough to sweep the corners stride for stride with the swiftest scatbacks and vicious enough, on the field, to execute tackles with saber-like precision. Add to that his movie-star good looks and you have the type of linebacker that coaches talk to Santa Claus about,” Rusty Holster wrote in the “Oiler Report.” 

JACK HAM (Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 1988), a division rival and outside linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, summed up his feelings about Robert succinctly: “He’s the best. That’s all.” 

As the saying attributed to BILL PARCELLS (Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013) extols, “The best ability is availability.” Robert’s 147 consecutive games playing streak was an Oilers record at the time of his retirement. 

“They take you out of a game, somebody’s gonna take your place,” Robert stated during the streak. “Somebody takes your place, they may never give it back to you. I don’t want that to happen. Look what happened to the guy Lou Gehrig replaced. See what I mean? I don’t know the poor guy’s name.” 

Dr. Doom made sure his name would be remembered.