His football team had just won its most important game of the year. His offense is finally moving the football. His defense has been steady, and occasionally spectacular, week after week. And now the worst team in football is next on the schedule.
So how could George Allen stand out there at Redskin Park yesterday on a brisk October afternoon and actually insist he was worried about playing a Tampa Bay team that has never won an NFL regular season game in 17 tries.?
Very easily, because Allen knows his history.
He knows that in 1973, his heavily favored team lost to an awful New Orleans outfit by 19-3. The Saints were 5-9 that year.
He knows that in 1975, there were two galling losses to a Philadelphia Eagle team that finhed 4-10.
He knows that in 1976 Kansas City came into RFK Stadium 0-4 and left 1-4. And for good measure, the generouse Redskins provided the New York Giants, then 0-9, with their first victory of that season.
The Chiefs were 5-9 in 1976, the Giants 3-11. You get the picture.
Still, there was an occasional smirk yesterday at Redskin Park when Allen said, "Tampa Bay is a better team than a lot of people realize."
And later on, he elaborated. "That's the biggest problem we have this week - realizing that Tampa Bay is a good team. Minnesota was lucky to get our of there with a win (9-3). They beat Baltimore decisively (14-0) in the preseason, and we're playing in their backyard.
"When you have a veteran team you sometimes think all you have to do is show up. But it happens every week in every sport. It happened to Cincinnati, Chicago and New England (all upset victims on Sunday).
"Beating St. Louis won't mean a thing unless we beat Tampa Bay. And we can't be thinking about playing Dallas the week after that. Yes, I'm worried about it."
The oddsmakers apparently are not, because they have already installed the Redskins an 11-point favorite to send the Buccaneers to their 18th consectutive defeat since joining the NFL in 1976.
Tampa Bay, a team with an offense that still has not scored a touchdown in three regular-season games, may not even have its most productive runner - rookie Ricky Bell - available against the Redskins.
Bell suffered a badly bruised left shoulder early in the first quarter of a 23-7 loss to the Cowboys Sunday and coach John McKay said yesterday he considered him questionable at best for action against the Redskins.
Veteran tight end Bob Moore was lost for the season when he suffered ligament damage against the Cwoboys. He underwent surgery yesterday and will probably be replaced by third-year man Jack Novak on Sunday.
Tampa Bay is quarterbacked by Gary Huff, who is both gimpy and rusty after spending most of the 1976 season on the Chicago Bear bench and most of the 1977 preseason in the whirlpool after suffering a bruised knee in mid-August.
The Bucs have averaged only 140 yards in total offense in its first three games - 91 yards rushing and 49 yards passing - while the defense is yeilding 335 yards a game.
Still, before the Cowboy game, Tampa bay had given up only 22 points in its three previous outings, including that 14-0 defeat of the Colts in the preseason finale. Says no less an authority than Francia Tarkenton: "Tampa Bay's defense is better than half the defenses we'll play this year."
Mike Faulkiner, the Redskin scout who has seen the Bucs play four games this season, agrees for one every important reason.
"This is a team that can beat you because they play very well at home," he said yesterday."Their fans are tremendous. And you know they'd like to get their first victory against a George Allen team. They'll be sky high and psyched, I guarantee you that."
That same description could very well have been applied to Allen's demeanor yesterday in his weekly-post-game press conference. His voice was several dicibel levels above its normal pitch, and he enjoyed dissecting the previous day's victory before trotting off to make a public service commercial on the importance of fire prevention.
He also took a dig at the Cardinal coaching staff for its strange deployment of running back Terry Metcalf. The most exciting player on the field Sunday was used mostly on a spot basis for three quarters, and very nearly cost the Redskins a victory when the Cardinals finally decided to go with him full time in the fourth.
"We were glad to see it," Allen admitted. "Not using Metcalf is like having Johnny Bench balting ninth in the order. He's a great back. i would imagine next week (when the Cardinals play the Cowboys in St. Louis) he'll play a little more."
Allen also heaped his usual postvictory praise on just about the entire 45-man roster, though he justifiably singled out Chris Hanburger.
"He played a great game and he called an outstanding game," Allen said, mindful that Hanburger went 60 minutes after only one week of practice and a month-long stay in the hospital recovering from an appendectomy. "It was very similar to what Billy Kilmer did when he came out of the hospital to play against the Vikings in 1973."
And Allen was particularly gratified to see the return of all that emotion that seemed so lacking in the Redskins first two regular-season games.
"You've got to enjoy your job and like your job and play with emotion and enthusiasm, and that's what we did," he said. "There were very few guys sitting on the bench. Thet's the sign I'm looking for.
"The team played together for the first time. I hope we're back. I think we're back, and only time will tell."
The only semiserious casualty was defensive end Dave Butz, who suffered a sprained left ankle and probably will not be able to practice for several days . . . Cornerback Pat Fischer also had a slight concussion - "Nah, I was just knocked out," he told trainer Bubba Tyer - and should be available all week . . . The 4 p.m. start at Tampa Bay is a concession to the heat more than anything else. The game is not being televised nationally, though it will be available in Washington . . . Punter Mike Bragg's average is 37.7 yards per kick, and he has placed seven of his 19 punts inside the opposition 20 . . . Mike Thomas leads all Redskin runners with 202 yards in 48 carries, slightly under a 1,000-yard pace for the season.