Everyone waits for Allen to deal off the second choice, too, but he still owns it by the time the 15 minutes that are allotted each club for its second-round draft choice starts for the Redskins. Allen is trying to work out a trade with the Cardinals, but with about five minutes left The Waterboy is told that if none can be made the selection will probably be Cotton Speyrer, a diminutive wide receiver from Texas. Dutifully he writes this name down on the card that he must submit when a choice is officially made. A league executive walks to his desk and says, "One minute." The St. Louis Cardinal representative, seated just in front of him, turns and says, "Tell 'em we'll give 'em Dave Williams." The Waterboy repeats that name into the phone and hears pandemonium break loose in Washington.
Then from the front of the draft room, he hears an official declare: " Washington passes in round two." All eyes turn on The Waterboy, and there are mean murmurs. Does this mean, he wonders, that Washington has blown its draft rights for the whole round? The answer to that is no, the team has just lost its place for the moment, but at the time no one in Washington answers The Waterboy's anguished plea for this information. In desperation, he hands the league official the card, and when the man in front of the room reads, "The Redskins choose Cotton Speyrer," a gasp, louder and more horrifying than the last, arises.
Finally there is life at the other end of the line. "Who is this?" asks a voice The Waterboy has never heard before. It belongs to George Allen. "Well, listen," the voice continues, "I don't want Sprayer or Spryer or whatever his name is. Let me talk to the Cardinals." But it is too late.
Nevertheless, day after day in training camp that summer the new coach praises Speyrer. And then, as suddenly as he was selected, he is traded, along with one of those future first-draft choices, for Roy Jefferson, a big, talented wide receiver. Privately, Allen lets it be known that he has fitted the last piece in the jigsaw puzzle.
By mid-October of 1971 the Redskins are 4-0, the only undefeated team in the league. They practice now in the seclusion of Redskin Park, a development near Dulles Airport that set Allen's unlimited expense account back half a million dollars. Practice is invariably a lackadaisical affair. Some of Allen's old Rams lie in the grass in brightly colored painters' hats while around and around the track on a bicycle goes Maxie Baughan, an aging red-haired linebacker in an engineer's cap. He jingles the bell on the handlebar and waves to his teammates. Out on the field George Allen is quietly talking to his defense, showing them diagrams after each half-speed play, exciting little enthusiasm, making little noise.
It is hardly inspiring, yet that Sunday the Redskins take victory No. 5 with a 20-0 shutout of St. Louis, and Redskin fans, who for years have accepted mediocrity with the same resigned smiles they wear during rival political administrations, get close to hysteria. But injuries begin to plague Washington. The Redskins play only .500 the rest of the way, and although they make the playoffs for the first time since 1945, they are immediately eliminated, extending George Allen's sorry record of never having won a playoff game.
But 1971 is not the last gasp for Allen's "old geezers." In 1972 they get even better and go 11-3, win their first division title since 1945 and their first playoff since 1943—and Allen's first ever. The town's football fans no longer tolerate defeat, and on New Year's Eve they bellow deafeningly as Washington buries Dallas 26-3.
Moments later, in the Redskin locker room, one of the oldtimers tries to explain Allen's genius. "Take Ray Schoenke," says the veteran. "He sat on the bench all year and he had to know the plays for every line position. Last week he filled in at guard and did a great job. Now today he has to go in at tackle and do another great job. You think George Allen will ever forget that? Ray Schoenke will be on pension with the Redskins for the rest of his life."
EBW is grinning from ear to ear, hugging two friends in his enormous arms. "You know," he says, "when we were losing, everybody loved us. I'd go to league meetings and they'd say, 'Ed-d-d-die,' and slap me on the back and hug me. I was almost as popular as Art Rooney. Now they see me and they growl 'Those S.O.B.'s.' " Williams' smile is growing too large for his face. "They hate us," he shouts gleefully.
And as The Waterboy stands looking at the now-empty field, one image keeps returning. At the final gun on New Year's Eve, the 1972 Washington Redskins run off the field with George Herbert Allen on their shoulders.