Bruce Allen, Washington Redskins general manager, is the missing man in team’s chaos

After a dramatic week for the Redskins featuring two losses and coach Mike Shanahan's decision to bench Robert Griffin III, the Post Sports Live crew predicts where the team will do next. (Jayne Orenstein/The Washington Post)
Mike Wise
Columnist December 17, 2013

There’s been a lot of guff thrown around lately about a kid getting a job because of his old man, and it’s about time someone was called out properly.

Bruce Allen, come out, come out, wherever you are.

Mike Wise is a sports columnist for The Washington Post. View Archive

Week 3 of Franchise Held Hostage has come and gone, and the principal negotiator between the helpless owner and the off-the-rails coach has not been seen or heard from.

If you’ve ever wondered exactly what Allen does in his capacity as the team’s general manager — other than welcome creaky-kneed players back to an organization they no longer recognize — the answer is clear now: nothing.

Amid the organization’s very public crisis in the wake of a 3-11 season and numerous media reports dissecting the friction between Mike Shanahan and Daniel Snyder, Robert Griffin III and Kyle Shanahan, Mike Shanahan and, well, the world, Allen has remained mum.

Not a five-minute news conference to relay the owner’s thoughts. Not a two-paragraph news release to bring order to the calamity, to essentially say, “It’s been a rough year, we plan to lick our wounds and evaluate matters after the season.” Not a peep from the No. 2 man in the football hierarchy.

The lone spokesman for the club is the head coach, who through his calculated, if bizarre, public and private actions has shown he really doesn’t want to be here anymore.

Memo to Bruce: You’re not just letting Mike hang himself; you’re letting him undo every ounce of credibility you had sought to bring back to Washington when you were hired four years ago partly because of, yes, your genes.

It’s a well-known tale: The son of the late, legendary George Allen, the first coach to take the franchise to a Super Bowl, Bruce was once a ball boy for the “Over the Hill Gang,” Sonny, Billy and the boys. He sat on the back of the team plane with Chris Hanburger as a youth and once as a teenager actually squared off with another player from a visiting team who had bad-mouthed his dad’s team. Deacon Jones told me the story a year before he died, confirming what everyone always knew about Bruce: He loved this team, its players and everything it stood for.

More than Kyle Shanahan, Bruce Allen was hired because of his “heritage,” which Snyder actually referred to in his welcoming news conference. He was the recognizable, handsome, smiling face from the past — plastered on the face of a franchise that certainly needed one after the Jim Zorn-Vinny Cerrato experiment had come to a merciful end.

While Mike Shanahan would always have final say on personnel, Allen was hired largely to be what Scott Pioli was to Bill Belichick for eight years in New England — a competent front-office guy who deferred to the head coach.

Allen was also supposed to be the shock absorber between Snyder and Shanahan, the buffer between two stubborn, proud men who often would rather be right before they were happy.

Given how 2013 has imploded, you could argue that Allen has done his job poorer than any member of the organization — and that includes Keith Burns, the special teams coach.

Look, given its defensive holes and Griffin returning from knee surgery, this team was never going to be as good as some of us thought. But what’s happened in Ashburn since Griffin hurt his knee is the real shocker. One soap opera after another, several drama kings out for themselves instead of their teammates and players.

These were exactly the kind of almost cartoonish situations Shanahan and Allen were supposed to prevent upon their hiring. Remember that tired line from 2010? The adults are in charge now.

Really? Where?

No one could put enough perfume on this swine of a season. But a skilled ambassador could have kept Snyder, Shanahan, Griffin and the dysfunction within from becoming a national punch line leading the pregame shows for a month. The Texans and Falcons can say they were both monstrous disappointments this season, but at least they haven’t entered Bingo Caller territory as absurd-organization lore goes.

This is now “Unforgiven.” There are no redeeming characters. There are only people who have done wrong and people about to do more wrong. And just as Clint Eastwood’s character soothed a young assassin’s conscience in the film by saying, “We all got it coming, kid,” so too does everyone at the top of the organization have it coming — including the de facto general manager.

Allen was supposed to be the guy to bring an end to the chaos, the liaison between the owner and the coach, the cartilage between the boneheads of Snyder and Shanahan. As this fractured franchise undergoes major surgery in the offseason, maybe it’s time to replace that joint too.

For more by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.

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