Tall, silver-haired, straight as a goalpost, Alfred Earle (Greasy) Neale stood out in the group that had gathered around him at one of the cocktail parties arranged to enliven the annual meeting of the National Football League. His rugged face, normally wearing a deceptive half scowl, was relaxed in a delighted smile as he greeted old friends and some of the men who had played under him when he was coaching the Philadelphia Eagles.
Greasy put a paternal arm around the shoulder of Allie Sherman, coach of the New York Giants, drafted by the Eagles from Brooklyn College back in 1943. Allie was too small to get much attention as a quarterback, but he says now that it was what he learned from Greasy that made him decide he might have a chance as a coach.
"This boy used to get discouraged during his first season with the Eagles," said Greasy, patting Sherman on the back. "He came to me one time and said, "I'll never make it as a player, I'm not big enough," he says, 'and I can't take much more of you yelling at me.' Now what did I say to that, Allie?"
Allie smiled and said, "I believe you said that when you stopped yelling at me it would mean that you had lost interest."
Greasy slapped Sherman's shoulder. "Exactly right," he said. "I recognized that you were a serious student of the game and that you had real possibilities as a coach. You got your chance to show what you could do when we sent you to take over as coach of the team in Paterson, N.J. We didn't own that club, but we were interested in it. Do you recall, Allie, what I told you when you left for Paterson?"
"You gave me a lot of good advice, Greasy," said Sherman. "I often think that you were ahead of your time in many ways. We're still using some of your ideas—with a few modifications, of course—in the pro game. You were an original thinker, and you had a concept and an understanding of the game that went a lot deeper than formations and plays that might change from time to time."
"I told this boy," said Greasy, looking around the circle, "I told this boy that if he could come up to Saturday night and could feel in his heart and bones that he had done everything within his power to make every man understand clearly what the game plan was and what each player's assignment was, if he had gone over this time and time again until he was absolutely certain about every detail, why then, I told this boy, he could put his head on that pillow and banish worry from his mind."
"You said something else, Greasy," said Allie.
Greasy grinned and rubbed his chin. "Yes," he said, "I told you to put a pad and pencil on the table next to your bed, because you probably wouldn't sleep a wink and might get some good ideas while you were tossing around all night. Well, whatever you did, Allie, it was right, because you won your league championship that year. And that was just the start of a great career for you."
"Allie," said a fat man, elbowing his way to the center of the group, "I was reading your book
Allie Sherman's Book of Football where you explain about Greasy's theory on not wasting downs. Greasy put it to you—correct me if I'm wrong here, Greasy—what would you do, he says, if you gain nine yards on first down about midfield, I believe. You said you'd call a running play to get the yard and first down. Greasy said...."