The Redskins are bystanders during the National Football League playoffs, officially labeled unqualified for thefinal scenes. But the football season is not over in Washington.
George Allen has the city in a bothersome suspense. Will he or won't he? If he doesn't sign that new four-year contract that has been on the table since July, where will he go, and who will be the Redskins' new coach?
All of these questions are being raised by Allen himself, with his continuing pout about that new contract Redskin president Edward Bennet Williams proffered him five months ago.
The money is fine, about twice as much as the trifling $125,000 they've been paying him the last seven years, and he can keep his chauffeured Redskin limousine and still use for his very own jogging the running track meant for the team. But some of the fine print bugs him.
It says here that Williams is determined to clip his wings; that Allen can't have all that authority he seeks over the Redskin operations, or even as much as he's had the last seven season. Williams is telling Allen his blank check as the biggest-spending coach in the NFL is no more.
So Allen isn't signing, on the advice of his attorneyhe has said. Allen said he wants to get some things straightened out. These are the same things Williams also wants straigthened out, but no longer in Allen's favour.Simply put, Williams wants his frachise back from a coach who was viewing it too much as his own.
Allen is balking because, he told United Press International, a successful coach needs absolute control of the team and its resources, but Williams is saying a $20 million asset is too important to be entrusted to a football coach who may know his X's and O's but has only a feeble understanding of balance sheets.
The situation is that Allen is pitting himself against Williams with what he believes to be the advantage of certain leverage. The coach is banking on the support of Washington fans to whom he has given one Super Bowl team and four playoff teams in his seven seasons here.
This year he gave them another good show, with a heroic near-miss after winning five of the last six games when it appeared the Redskin were dead. The fans should remember that after their sufferings with previous Redskin coaches.
And, in roundabout ways, Allen likes to remind Williams of his friendship with the majority owner of the Redskin, Jack Kent Cooke.
"I had several opportunites to go elsewhere," Allen told UPI last week "I came here primarily for Jack Kent Cooke, a close friend in Los Angeles."
There may be no profit for Allen in bouncing that one off Williams, whose associtiaon with Cooke has been longer than Allen's and much closer. Williams is a substantial Redskin owner himself and has run the show here without interference from Cooke.
If Williams wants to fire Allen for reasons of good business, businessman Cooke will have perfect understanding. Business has always been his game. Between the pleasure of Allen's company and good business, Cooke is expected to tilt toward the latter.
Allen, off his record, is supposed to be in demand as a coach elsewhere and there are teams to which he could be an asset. But there has been a curious nonscramble for Allen among teams needing a new coach.
The Kansas City Chiefs made no bid for him in filling their coaching job, and the Detroit Lions are reported not to be looking Allen's way. Neither are the RMS, who may be losing Chuck Knox to Detroit after taking them to five straight playoffs.
The coolness toward Allen may be explainable. He has priced himself out of such jobs as the one at Cleveland, and the teams that can afford his free spending - Kansas City (Lamar Hunt), Detroit (William Ford ) and Los Angeles (Carroll Rosenbloom) - dont't take a shine to him.
As columnist Gerald Strine has pointed out, these millionaire hobbyists see no sense in owning an expensive toy if they can't dip and play with it themselves. Allen is agreeable to letting owners to have all the box seats they need, but no to interference otherwise.
With the Redskin, Williams is in a squeeze unknown to other owners. He has at the same time one of the smallest stadiums (54,208) in the league, the most expensive coach and one of the biggest payrolls.
Turning profit under these conditions is a contest, and Williams' recourse has been to raise prices to the highest level in the league. He is not eager to be famous for that.
No other coach in the league gets as much, or is asking for as much authority as Allen wants. Tom Landry does not seek full control of the cowboy resources, nor does he have 12 coaching assistants like Allen. Yet Landry has had Dallas in the playoffs 10 of their last 12 years.
Nor is the Cowboy payroll as high as that of the Redskin, under a coach whose habit has been to give battlefield promotions to players he likes, without consulting the ownership. This was Allen's practice with the Rams according to the complaint of their late owner, Dan Reeves.
Williams can point to the fact that his coach, with more assistants and a bigger payroll than ever, was knocked out of the playoffs this year by those two ghastly losses to the Giants. Such folly cannot be obscured when Allen talks of the "character" of the Redskins.
Examinations of the Redskins' 9.5 record could raise some questions about the brilliance of Allen. His team was presented with one of the softest schedules in the NFL, 14 games against an array of opponents whose combined won-lost record for the previous year was 60-79.
Yet the Redskins were 4-4 after the first eight games, and showed a 5-4 edge after beating the inept Philadelphia Eagles, 17-14, in the next game.
That the Redskin won five of the last six games in a seemingly gutsy comeback to keep them alive for the playoffs in the final week of the season was a big plus for Allen. It enabled him to keep repeating on his own television show that his team had "character". Implicit was a tribute to his own coaching.
But why were the Redskin so close to getting into the playoffs? Because in their 13th game they managed to beat the demoralized St. Louis cardinals, who were knocked off the next week by the surging Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and because in their final game the Redskins licked the Rams, who already had clinched the division and were not motivated.
In the final hours of the regular season. Allen and the Washington fans were reduced to the wishful hope that either the Minnesota Vikings of Chicago Bears would lose their final games so the Redskin could sneak into a wild-card berth. This isn't exactly the desired control over your own destiny.
It is off that kind of a season that Allen now wants more control find Williams and Cooke uncooperative and also tempt them to point out to Allen with come irreverence that two of his former assistants, Ted Marchibroda and Jack Pardee, brought their own less-expensive teams into this season's playoffs.
Allen is playing games with the club president under the implied threats that 1) he has Jack Ken Cooke's backing and 2) job offers elsewhere. On Point One Williams has a different view and on Point Two he appears to be unconcerned.
If Jimmy the Greek were making a line on it, Williams would be the favourite. The probable upshot is that Allen will agree, quietly, to stay in Washington. Under William's terms.