Was that a sign that this gang really was over the hill? "That has nothing to do with it," Allen snapped. "Anyone who says that does not know what he's talking about."
The largest controversy, however, came when former Rams punter Bruce Gossett, now a member of the 49ers, sounded off against his former coach. "There isn't anything good I can say about Allen," Gossett told the Oakland Tribune. "I just don't think he's a first-class guy. He lies to you, and he's out for himself. There's no question about it . . . Allen is just dishonest with people when there is no need to be. He told me face to face, in front of my wife, that I would be with the Rams as long as he was. A couple of weeks later, I was traded. What do you think of a guy who does that?"
Allen's response? "It will be a pleasure to play against Gossett and the 49ers . . . He can say what he wants."
In the end, though, it was no pleasure at all. On a day with strong winds and pelting rain, Washington was eliminated in a 24-20 defeat, the result of a series of mistakes and some unsolicited help from the White House.
In the first half, the Redskins coach who was always so conservative on offense made a surprise decision. Faced with a fourth down and inches at the San Francisco 11, Allen decided to go for the first down instead of a short field goal. Kilmer called the play a sweep to the left by Larry Brown that had worked for a key touchdown two weeks earlier against the Rams. But 49ers linebacker Frank Nunley came up and caught Brown for a two-yard loss, and San Francisco took over on downs.
Allen later would insist that his call had been right. "It was just inches," he said. "The percentages were in our favor to pick it up. It was just a few inches . . ."
Despite that play, Washington still was outscoring San Francisco. Late in the half, the Redskins were ahead 10-3 when Speedy Duncan returned a punt 47 yards to the San Francisco 12, with only 30 seconds left on the clock. Surely the Redskins would pad their lead and send a demoralized 49er team to the dressing room.
On the next play, Harraway gained four yards on a pass in the flat. But then Kilmer called an end-around to Roy Jefferson and the 49ers were not fooled. On the con-trary, Cedrick Hardman tackled Jefferson for a 13-yard loss. That may have caused some dismay in the White House. Bill Brundige later reported on TV that President Nixon, a huge Redskins fan, had called Allen the night before the game with a play-calling suggestion, adding: "President Nixon told Coach Allen, `I'd like to see you run a flanker reverse with Roy Jefferson against the 49ers.' "