Allie Sherman is a small, sincere young man who looks like a successful stockbroker. He is thoughtful, introspective, kind, cheerful and prone to exhaustive self-examination. He is that rarest of men—one who is doing precisely what he wants to do, something he has always dreamed of doing since he was a ragged-pants boy growing up in Brooklyn.
He was an unlikely-looking pro football quarterback under Greasy Neale (SI, Aug. 24) of the Philadelphia Eagles. He is now an unlikely-looking pro football coach for the New York Giants but he happens to be one of the best coaches in the National Football League.
He came within a dropped pass and a sprained knee of winning the NFL championship last year, and then broke up the team that had done much better than most fans had expected and almost as well as Allie had thought they would do. He took an enormous gamble by trading a way Sam Huff and Dick Modzelewski, two of the keys to a Giant defense which was not spectacular but was always sufficient to the needs of the day.
Last week Sherman dropped a real megaton bomb when he traded away the Giants' first draft choice—Joe Don Looney—and their No. 1 ground-gainer, Phil King. Looney and Lou Kirouac, a reserve lineman, went to the Baltimore Colts for End R. C. Owens and Defensive Back Andy Nelson.
"We have to go with young backs. In Ernie Wheelwright, Steve Thurlow and Clarence Childs, we have three good ones," Sherman explained, pointedly omitting mention of Looney. "Then we have experience in Webster, Morrison and James. It's an ideal combination."
Besides the "ideal combination" the Giants also have a surplus of receivers and defensive backs. Should they suddenly be caught short anywhere else they have eminently tradable material. So there are likely to be more trades.
Sherman has lived dangerously ever since he took over as head coach of the Giants, because the Giants have only one quarterback—aging, bald, brilliant and brittle Y. A. Tittle. Glynn Griffing, who was No. 2 last year, never proved himself under fire and was released. There are two rookies on the Giant roster this year—small, quick Gary Wood from Cornell, who has the arm and the desire—as he so well demonstrated in last week's exhibition game when he threw three touchdown passes to beat the Philadelphia Eagles—and tall Henry Schichtle, who has not yet shown the spark that enables a quarterback to move a team.
But Sherman is a gambler and a good one and, beyond that, he is technically and psychologically fitted to coach a pro team.
"You get a lift playing for him," a veteran from another club said a couple of years ago after being coached by Sherman in the Pro Bowl Game in Los Angeles. "The guy I played for during the season, all I got from him was a growl if I blew an assignment. When I came off the field in the Pro Bowl after making a good block, Allie made a point of coming over and saying something good. And if I made a mistake, he discussed it and he didn't cuss me. I wanted to play for him. It was different." "The only inventory you have in this business is human beings," Sherman says. "Almost anyone can draw the circles and Xs on the board. But you have to learn that the circles and Xs are people and that you have to operate within their limitations."
Sherman learned the lesson of limits early, because he was himself a left-handed quarterback of limited ability who did not impress his high school coach enough to draw a uniform.