Maybe George Allen won't coach the Redskins next season.Though both sides took part in a grand announcement of a new contract this summer.
Allen has not signed that piece of paper with the Redskins. Depending on what you think of Allen, his reasons for not signing may be sinister or simple. Sinister: The Redskins are dying and he wants out quickly. Simple: Legal technicalities made signing a distraction that could wait unti the season ended,
One thing seems certain.
He won't be coaching the Detroit Lions.
The Lions would be a nice project for Allen. A respectable defensive team, they may be only five or six players away from the Super Bowl. For Allen, who believes in mortgaging the future for immediate gratification. Detroit would be heaven because it has all of its top draft choices available for years to come. By trading those draft picks. Allen might get the five or six men Detroit needs now.
Not only that, but the Lions have enough money to support Allen in the style to which the Redskins have accustomed him. The coach who is said to have exceeded an unlimited expense account would have to order Cucci footballs to break William Clay Ford, the Lions' owner, whose wealth has been estimated at $800 million.
What a perfect place for Allen. The Silverdome, the Lions' new playpen in suburban Pontiac draws full houses of 80,000 for a team that only once in the last 20 years has advanced to the playoffs. Think of it. A few trades, some dollar bills sent winging for free agents, a generous application of George's coaching genuis and voila, greatful Detroit might gear up for production of an Allenmobile.
As neat as it sounds, it won't happen. While the top brass of the Lions won't talk to newspaper men about any coaching change. Allen's name has suffered with rumor mongers. But the team's history suggests that George Allen will coach the bears of the Moscow Circus before he'll ever coach these Lions of Detroit.
That's because the owner and general manager like to have the say in the goings on. More than that, the owner, Ford, and general manager, Russ Thomas, are said to be meddlers in coaching decisions. They deny it, but one newpaperman. Jerry Green of the Detroit News, had his tape recorder running when Ford made a remarkable locker room speech after last year's season-ending game.
The Lions would "make bold trades." Ford said. "I want an offense that shoots Roman candles over the sidelines. If we go down, we' go down with our guns blazing." It's on the tape, folks, along with Ford's comments on that day's starting quarterback, Greg Landry, who was benched after two series. "Yeah, we had to get him out of there," Ford told Green. "We didn't want another el-foldo."
Imagine any team owner making such a speech in George Allen's locker room. Allen would have him traded on the spot. Presidential privilege is fine in its place, Allen believes, but its place is not in football. He says the coach is ultimately responsible for a team's success or failure and so deserves total authority. The owner can go to parties and get in the papers and take friends to the stadium. That's fine with Allen. But leave the organization's operation to the coach.
A lot of owners don't like dictatorial coaches. The owners put up, say, $12 million for the best toy Santa ever delivered. And then along comes this dictator with a whistle who says the owner can'tplay with his toy. What fun is that?William Clay Ford, with his $800 million, remembers the words of Dan Reaves, who owned the Rams when George Allen coached there. "It was more fun losing," Reaves said, "than winning with George Allen."
Men who ought to know say the Detroit organization is amateurish. This is Ford's 14th year as owner, Thomas' 12th as general manager. In that time, the Lions have made one trade of consequence, obtaining J. D. Hill in 1968 for a No. 1 draft choice. The only "name" player the Lions have drafted in a decade was Steve Owens, the Oklahoma runner. That critics say, is evidence that Ford and Thomas won't spend big money.
Those critics also say Ford and Thomas are the only constants in the Detroit equation of futility. Coaches, players and front office people have come and gone. Only Ford and Thomas, a close personal friend, have stayed on.
Though the Silverdome is packed with 80,000 people, there are unmistakable signs of disctontent. A Michigan legislator talked of introducing a bill that would force Ford to sell the Lions. And columnist Joe Falls of the Detroit Free Press asked his readers. "What would you do if you owned the Lions?" The mail brought 500 letters, one saying, "If I was Russ Thomas I'd put myself at quarterback and get what I deserve."
In late January of this year, the Lions tried to hire Chuck Knox, the Los Angeles Rams' coach, once the Detroit assistant. Knox is said to be unhappy working for owner Carroll Rosenbloom, another reputed meddler. But Rosenbloom demanded so much compensation from Detroit - three frontline players - that the Lions quit trying. Some people believe Thomas was just as happy, because Knox would have usurped some of the general manager's authority.
Despite the potential conflict, Jimmy the Greek repeated on CBS the Knox-to-Detroit rumour on the NFL pregame show today and predicted that Alllen would replace Knox.
In any case, it appears the Lions's present coach, Tommy Hudspeth, will be fired.He is the sixth coach who has worked for Ford and Thomas. The Detroit newspaperman, Green, recently compiled a semi-serious list of possible successors to Hudspeth.
At odds of 10 to 1, Green put Don Shula of Miami in the frontrunner's spot. Then came Monte Clark, Earl Morrall, Knox, Ara Parseghian ("a very good possibility"), then Bo Schembechler, Alex Karras (semi-serios, remember) and George Allen ("a million-to-1. He might have started the rumor himself. He's so devious he might believe such a rumor would help him with his Redskins'contract").