The difference between MEDIOCRITY and GREATNESS is EXTRA EFFORT.
100% is NOT...enough.
These aphorisms are so ingrained in the Rams that they frequently use them in conversation. During a recent practice session a rookie already steeped in Alienisms was almost breaking a gut on his last few bench presses with a field weight. When someone praised him, he replied, "That's the extra effort you have to make to be a champion."
Since it was as a defensive strategist and teacher that Allen made his reputation, he spent most of his time during his first three years as head coach of the Rams with the defensive unit, installing what is generally regarded as the most complex system and code in pro football. Here, for example, is how he once explained to Gabriel the team's method of containing tight ends. "Whenever we run into a team that wants to go to the tight end too often, we go into the defense we call a 46 jet stub ax combo. If stub can make a good ax block on the tight end a time or two, they quit calling the play. Quarterbacks don't like to waste plays."
Last year, for the first time with the Rams, Allen devoted his attention to the offense in camp. "This year," he told Gabriel, "I'd like to see you call six draws in every game, six screens and one halfback option. You'll have to call that many to count on getting results. The screen pass, particularly, is a play you have to stay with. It can either work the first time or be a bust three or four times in a row. But I've never seen the day when a good team struck out on half a dozen screens. The main thing wrong with this play is that the quarterback doesn't call it often enough. The main reason the 49ers screen so well is they keep using it. And the thing I like about the screen is that it's a game-breaker. It's a more reliable play to get you 40 or 50 yards at one crack than any other play in football. You might not go all the way with it, but this is the play that can set up the winning field goal."
As a final safeguard Allen favors experience and craft over youth and heft. From the moment he joined the Rams he started unloading younger players for oldtimers on other clubs. As of last week Allen had made 50 trades in 4½ years, a major point of dissension between him and Reeves, who had taken great pride in the Rams' scouting system. To be sure, it was extremely thorough and produced 12 of the Rams' starters last year, including such All-Pros as Gabriel, Jones, Meador, Merlin Olsen and Tom Mack. Yet they were never winners until Allen complemented them with veterans from other clubs.
As this year's exhibition season got under way, Allen was distraught over the retirement of two of his oldtimers—Meador, 33, who had decided to devote himself to his insurance business, and Maxie Baughan, 31, the right linebacker and "defensive general," who had played on a patched-up right knee last season. All winter and spring Allen phoned Meador and Baughan several times a week. Last month he finally persuaded them to rejoin the club. "Allen always stands on the side of his players," Meador has said. That, more than anything else, accounts for the extraordinary personal devotion they feel toward him and their joint dedication against their common enemies on the field and in the front office.
Allen's Rams are known around the league as a highly emotional team—and for this reason they are vulnerable. When they are high, as they were during the first half of their Western Conference playoff with the Vikings last December, they can be devastating. Yet, when they're not on a jag, as in the second half, they look sluggish and disinterested.
One might expect that Allen charges his team up before a game with Rockneian oratory. Before last year's opening preseason game against Dallas, Allen's "human engineering" consisted of a 20-minute lecture in which he said such things as "I want the defense to sit on the right side of the bench and the offense on the left. I want the linebackers as close to the phones and tables as possible. I want the receivers as close to the tables and phones as possible....
"I don't want any long faces on the sidelines. I'd rather have you sitting on the bench with everyone cheering....