Allen continues to reminisce. The last four years, since the Rams' late owner, Carroll Rosenbloom, hired him away from the Redskins in '78 and then fired him after two exhibition games, haven't been happy ones. "My problem is figuring out each morning how to pass the day," Allen said soon after he was let go. "How many miles can a guy run? How long can he sit reading a book?"
Rosenbloom said he'd made a "serious error" in hiring Allen. There was grumbling about the trades Allen pushed on the Rams' management—especially one in which L.A. gave up two players and three good draft choices to get Redskin Defensive Back and Kick Returner Eddie Brown. There was a prospective deal involving a first-round pick for 39-year-old Billy Kilmer, Allen's quarterback in Washington. Then four veterans walked out of camp after they got a taste of his three-hour practices.
"When Carroll hired me, he told me, 'I want someone who knows how to beat Dallas,' " Allen says. "Then a week into training camp he said I was working the players too hard. I told him, 'I thought you wanted to beat Dallas.' Players were telling me to relax, we'd win the division. I said, 'What's so special about that? I could win this division with the Redskins' second unit.' They should've been thinking Super Bowl instead of division."
In his first stretch with the Rams, 1966-70, Allen was fired twice by Reeves, the first time in '68 (he was reinstated after a player rebellion), the second time in '70. In Washington, his and Williams' relationship rapidly went to the dogs. During Allen's four years on the beach he has been regarded as anathema by NFL owners—a coach who never put a losing team on the field but a guy who'd take the joy out of it for you.
"I've been accused of ruining the Redskins' franchise by trading away draft choices," Allen says. "All I did was give them the seven best years they ever had, seven years of standing ovations, plus I doubled the worth of the franchise. Ed had a purpose in what he did. He always said we had the biggest payroll in the league. When I got to the Rams, I found out the Redskins were fifth. He was very clever in what he did, though. That was the lawyer in him. Every time he raised ticket prices, and he raised them all the time, he said, 'Well, George is spending too much money.' I served a purpose for him.
"You know, you lay your guts out on the table. You sacrifice your family and health. You couldn't give any more of yourself if you owned the whole damn ball club. And all you get is criticism from someone trying to justify keeping his job."
Well, George Allen is back now, sort of. There's money to be made, a franchise to be turned around. And who knows? Someone back in the NFL might be watching.