After nine months in Washington, Allen has yet to see the sights, although he had dinner with the President at the White House. "It was a memorable evening for Mrs. Allen and me," he says. What did you eat? he was asked. "I don't remember," he says.
Williams gave Allen the kind of contract most coaches would not dare dream of: $125,000 a year for seven years, bonuses, chauffeur-driven car, house, ad infinitum. He also built him (in three months) a half-million dollar field house-and-office complex on six acres in the middle of a forest near Dulles Airport. There are two practice fields, one with artificial turf. Trees, now in fall foliage, ring the fields; hawks soar above. It is the perfect sylvan setting, with the Blue Ridge Mountains looming on the horizon, for the low-key Allen approach to dedicated-but-friendly practice.
The complex fairly hums with ambition. There are player comforts everywhere (weight rooms, handball court). The film room bulges with footage. Allen has duplicates made of every film that comes to him on loan from other teams. Sometimes the hum of intrigue can be heard. The week of the Dallas game a quarterback who had been cut by the Cowboys wound up in the Redskin camp. Actually, his father had called and asked for the tryout, but while he was there the quarterback had some interesting things to say about the Dallas offense. Naturally, the Redskins listened.
Allen is famous for listening. It is one of the things that separates him from Lombardi. Says Williams, "He is still striving. He has not reached Olympus yet." The Allen way to do it is to expend energy and money in vast quantities. "I have given him an unlimited budget," says Williams, "and he's already exceeded it."
Last week, before the St. Louis game, Allen, as usual, was at his complex in the woods from morning to midnight: he thinks it is the only way to get the edge. "I'll be working here late at night," he said, "and I'll call a coach, and he won't be in, and I think, 'Uh-oh. He doesn't love his job.' " Allen fidgeted in his chair as a visitor dragged the conversation out. Allen fingered a three-sided cardboard sign that he had had made and put on every desk in the complex. "I'm sitting here," he said, "and I'm looking at this sign, is WHAT I AM DOING, OR ABOUT TO DO, GETTING US CLOSER TO OUR OBJECTIVE—WINNING? and I'm thinking, 'No.' "
He got up and walked to the window and looked out over the fields. "Shangri-La," he said. He turned around. He said he had read that morning where a coach threatened to fine a player if the player didn't come around. "I'll never do that," he said. "I would never punish a player to make him play." It has been duly noted in Washington that this is the most obvious difference from the Lombardian approach. With Lombardi, it was "Make me happy, we'll be happy." With Allen, it is "I'll make you happy, we'll be happy."
Upon arriving in Washington, Allen made the same basic promise he had made in Los Angeles: "The future is now." He said his goal was 10 victories (the last time the Redskins won 10 games was in 1942). He said he would, as always, stress defense. The Redskins' approach to defense was to get Sonny Jurgensen to throw four touchdown passes. Against the Giants last year, Washington scored 57 points in two games and lost them both. Allen said that would not happen again. Ever.
Then came the trades, 19 in all. It was the same pattern as in Los Angeles. Allen went for quality, regardless of how shopworn, and nary a rookie made the squad. Three of the Rams he got were players he had traded for the first time around: Running Back Tommy Mason, age 32; Safety Richie Petitbon, 33; Linebacker Myron Pottios, 32.
Another trade brought in John Wilbur, an offensive guard who was with Allen last year at Los Angeles. Wilbur has now been with four teams in two years. Along the line he was traded to St. Louis. He decided to quit. Allen sent out a feeler. He considers Wilbur one of those men of "character." Wilbur canceled his retirement. "Football is fun with Allen," he says. "I love the guy. He synthesizes in a team the importance of winning."
Wilbur noted the number of older players who work out after practice. "Every time you see Billy Kilmer walk out of here he's got three rolls of film under his arm," he says. Wilbur was very disturbed last week when some Ram players were quoted in a Washington paper criticizing Allen and his ways. Wilbur was moved to call his old friend, Merlin Olsen, in Los Angeles, and to tell him to knock it off. The Over The Hill Gang, said Wilbur, has absolutely no internal problems. "No troublemakers. No racial hang-ups. No psychological bad guys. No nothing."