Billy Kilmer sat on a training table in the basement of the Redskin Park office building. He wasn't worried. Upstairs earlier, Edward Bennett Williams, the team president, announced that George Allen, the coach, had agreed to an extension of his contract. So a seeker of truth tracked down Kilmer, the quarterback, who was found wearing a cap with the number "1" on it.
"I'm glad he's signed, and I'm glad he's happy." Kilmer said. "But it wouldn't make any difference to the way the team plays. Even if the didn't sign, it would's change the way he coaches. He'd be just as intense. Naw, just wouldn't faze him at all."
The fevered imagination of zealots possessed by Skinmania might have created terrible visions of The End. Here was Allen about to enter the last year of seven-year contract. And he hadn't signed a new one, and we all know what happens to coaches who don't get a new contract before the old one runs out. They get fired.
George Allen fired? Unthinkable. Under his direction, the Redskins have won seven of every 10 games for six years, causing zealots to multiply hourly. The man who fires Allen should have a doomsday plane waiting to whisk him to safety. So if Allen didn't get a new contract, obviously it would be of his own doing. Obviously, it would be a sign of his melancholy, a sign he wanted out of Washington.
On Feb. 3, Allen said it was no good to be a lame-duck coach, it hurt the entire organization, even hurt the fans. And Williams, in April, said a new contract was no problem. It would be done soon, he said. No problem. Both the coach and the president said that a lot.
Time passed. No contract. But no problem, they said. Suddenly it was July, and training camp was about to open, and no contract had been signed, and it centainly seemed reasonable, off the public evidence, to wonder out loud if the coach and the president were having problems. After all, it was the ice age when Allen said a lame duck hurt everybody, and cherry blossoms decorated the city when Williams said a contract would be signed soon.
Well, maybe three months later is "soon." Maybe it is one of nature's silly little quirks of timing that Williams announced Allen's new deal two days before training camp opened. Maybe there never was any problem.
It is exhilirating to see excellence in action. Only a week removed from a hospital bed, only three weeks after abdominal surgery, Edward Bennett Williams appeared healthy and vigorous meeting the media yesterday morning. And his performance, as we should expect from one of America's best lawyer (and, practically by definition, actors, was so excellent, so convincing, that at least one member of the audience felt a rush of embarrassment for ever thinking the coach and the president might be having a problem.
William said he was pleased to have come to an agreement with Allen. He reminded everyone of his great respect for Allen. "He's a winner, always has been a winner, never been a loser." William reminded everyone, too, that he'd said Allen would be the last coach he ever hired. "And I usually mean precisely what I say."
It was June, which is hardly soon, when a newspaper story said Allen hadn't signed because of a problem with Williams: the president wanted more say-so in the operation of the franchise, taking away some of coach-general manager Allen's authority. "It would be sheer fantasy." William said yesterday, "to say there was a problem over the amount of control he had or I had."
It was all a matter of economics, Williams said. "Nobody ever told you there was a problem," Williams said to an inquiring reporter. "You deduced there was a problem, and your deduction was wrong."
The delay, Williams said, came because Allen's lawyer works in Los Angeles and that caused logistical difficulties. Then, three weeks ago, Williams went into the hospital. But why, the deductive-reasoning reporter asked, didn't you tell us there was no problem? "I said that so many times I began to bore myself," Williams said. "And everytime I said there was no problem, you assumed there was a problem."
If the Redskins have any sense, they'll be overjoyed anybody cares enough about them to spend time wondering what would happen - would the team collapse? Would it win one for George? - should Allen go into the last year of a contract. If Williams says there's no problem, never was, then it's time to move on to other serious topics, such as predictions for the upcoming season.
Skinmaniacs remember well Williams' proclamation last September that the 1976 Redskins were the best team in Washington history. So what does he think of this year's team?
"I made a promise to myself." the lawyer/president/actor said with a little smile born of forced humility, "not to say how the team is going to do."