The headline atop the sports section speculated, "Allen Returning to L.A.?"

On the third sports page of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner was the story and a ballot with pictures of Ram coach Chuck Knox, team owner Carroll Rosenbloom, St. Louis coach Don Coryell, Tampa Bay coach John McKay, sportswriter Doug Krikorian, Washington coach George ALlen, Ram linebacker Isiah Robertson and a question mark over the blank reserved for "Other".

The question of who would be coaching the Rams, and possibly in connection with a change there, the Washington Redskins, went public with a splash today following the Rams' dismal showing against Minnesota in the first round of the NFL playoffs.

The more conservative Los Angeles Times reported in a two-column headline at the bottom of its first sports page, "Knox Says He's Staying But He Still Hasn't Signed."

The story by Bob Oates quoted "a high placed Rams spokesman" as saying, "Everyone thinks Carroll is mad at the coaches because they can't win (or get into) the Super Bowl. But that's not the main thing. What Carroll wants is what the average fan wants - a more exciting team. He thinks you can win and be colorful, too, and he says the AFC teams win colorfully.

"If Chuck ever gets the ax, people will say it's because he didn't win the Super Bowl, but that won't be true. It will be because Los Angeles is an exciting town and the Rams are a dull team."

That might account for some speculationfavoring an imaginative offensive coach such as Coryell over defense-oriented Allen.

A Ram spokesman denied that Knox will resign or be replaced. Knox said, "I'm staying here. I've got a job to do and a new contract."

Reminded that he hasn't signed it yet, Knox said, "It's going to be signed shortly. I have a commitment and Carroll has a commitment."

In the Herald Examiner's story, Rosenbllom said, "I'm completely numb. I feel sorry for my players and coaches. But most of all I feel sorry for our fans. We offered them so much promise and delivered so little."

The Herald Examiner said, "An impeccable source in Washington has informed us that Allen passionately wants to return to the Southern California area diring the Football season.

"It's known that Rosenbloom long has admired Allen but you wonder how two such strong-willed, independent personalities would function blissfully together. It's also known that Rosenbloom likes Don Coryell, but the Cardinals' coach still has three years on his contract. However, Coryell probably could get out of it in the wake of his recent criticism of the St. Louis management."

Columnist John Hall of the Times predicted Know will go to the Detroit Lions. Hall added, "I think George Allen, whose new contract with Washington remains curiously unsigned, will soon be returning to start a second term as head coach in Los Angeles."

A source outside the Rams organization said after talking to Rosenbloom, "He seemed very unhappy with his coach."