It just wasn't a professional operation. Wellington's friends were always around, and so were Wellington's kids. The kids would chase each other and play tag in the locker room the day of the game. A half hour before the game, they'd be chasing each other and throwing chalk back and forth. It was unreal. And at training camp, Wellington would be out there walking around with a little notebook jotting down notes.
It was a frightening atmosphere to be involved in. When we went up to Minnesota for a game I took along a tape recorder. I went to the locker room early to get taped and I set up the recorder and put on some music, just relaxing before the game. But in walked Allie and said, "What are you doing with that?" I said, "I'm listening to the music," which seemed like a reasonable answer. "We didn't come here to listen to music," he said. "Turn that thing off." Nobody had complained about the music. Nobody had protested. But that was life on the Giants. You never knew what you could do or not do until you were told you had done something wrong. Then you were in trouble.
It was grim, and the closer Allie came to being fired the longer and longer the practices became. I used to say things like, "Let's set a record, let's go for an all-timer and make it three hours today." Talk about tension, whew! By this time Allie was just as much of a problem as Wellington.
We lost our first four exhibitions in 1969 and then flew up to Montreal to play Pittsburgh. This was our last exhibition and, as it turned out, Allie Sherman's last game as head coach. We lost 17-13, and the Canadians in the stands were chanting, "Goodby, Allie." Some were saying it in French: "Bon soir, Allie."
When we got back to the locker room, everybody was screaming at everybody else. We decided to hold a players' meeting right there and then, so all the coaches and Wellington Mara were asked to leave.
I started it off. I said how stupid it was for a team with so much talent to be so uptight. I said nobody can be a man on the field if he isn't a man off the field, that everybody ought to be able to relax wherever he is. I said, "It's really ridiculous when you're afraid to say——in the locker room because there might be somebody standing behind you who could hear it and you might lose your job for saying it."
And with this, Fran Tarkenton jumps up and says, "That's right! If you want to say——, say——. ——!——! ——!" It was hysterical.
Then he made a speech, something like "We're all men here and we're sick and tired of losing these games and everybody being afraid of who's standing behind you or who's sitting in front of you or anything else. We've got a good football team and you ought to be able to say what you want to say. Don't you all agree?" And everybody chimed in, "Yeah, yeah."
But, really, watching Fran get emotional was like watching a Looney Tunes cartoon. He just wasn't convincing. I mean, he was slamming stuff down and kicking things around, and he probably convinced some of them, but to me, he was just politicking. It just seemed like the right time for him to get up and say something, so he did.
In any case, the next morning Wellington fired Allie.