In Los Angeles, however, Reeves and Allen did not exactly have a meeting of the minds. In fact, they butted head for several years, particularly over Allen's penchant for wheeling and dealing. Finally, on the morning after Christmas in 1968, Reeves announced that he was firing Allen. That very day, Cooke, then living in Los Angeles, contacted Allen to express the Redskins' interest in him.
"I got a hand-delivered message from Jack," Allen once told an interviewer, "saying that it was urgent that I call him. He had tried to call me, but the phone was so busy he couldn't get through. Two days later, Ed Williams flew out to Jack's home in Bel Air, and we met for about three hours. I told them then that I was interested in the Redskins job but I wanted to finish my job in Los Angeles. I thought we had a chance to win the championship. I still had two years left on my contract, and I wanted to complete the job.
"I remember Jack made the statement at that time: `It's 10,000-to-1 that you'll get the job back.' And I said, `Well, I'd like to take that one shot.' We had built a home and had made so much progress with the team. I felt that once you start a job, you should finish it."
Allen's players in Los Angeles apparently felt the same way. They threatened a boycott if Reeves did not take Allen back, and the owner reluctantly agreed to honor Allen's contract. At that point, the Redskins decided to turn to Lombardi, but Williams had come away from his 1968 discussions with Allen convinced that if he ever needed another head coach, he had found his man.
That opportunity presented itself two years later, after the 1970 season. Reeves announced then that he would not renew Allen's contract, despite the Rams' 49-17-4 record and two playoff appearances over Allen's five-year tenure. Still embroiled in a major personality clash with Allen, Reeves had had enough. This time, so had Allen.
"I operated in an atmosphere of hatred," Allen once said of his relationship with Reeves, who would die of cancer a year later. "Our whole team did. Reeves hated me. Hating me, he hated the team. He sought to split us so we'd come apart. Somehow, I held the pieces together."
Over those five LA years, Allen had engineered 51 trades, including the one for Gary Beban that had victimized the Redskins. In 1968, Allen had convinced Williams to give up the Redskins' No. 1 choice the next year in the trade for the UCLA star quarterback. Allen had drafted Beban on the second round, but the Rams had not been willing to meet Beban's contract demands. It was not only Williams who jumped at the opportunity to get such a high-profile player.