The race to land the head coaching job with the Los Angeles Rams remains tight, with no apparent leader.
One of the top contenders to suceed Chuck Knox, St. Louis Cardinal coach Don Coryell, now finds himself locked out of his office by his boss, Bill Bidwill.
Stanford head coach Bill Walsh, supposedly in line for an interview with Ram owner Carroll Rosenbloom yesterday, had not yet been summoned to Los Angeles as expected.
Meanwhile, George Allen continues to play the waiting game; his Redskin contract due to expire in six weeks; his interest in the Rams reportedly growing. While Allen insists he is not looking for "another" job, many of his assistants and players are starting to wonder about where they will be working next season.
Sources say that the Rams want Coryell, but a major roadblock remains in that Bidwill wants a No. 1 draft choice in return.
The Rams, it is reported, want to hold on to their No. 1 pick so they can possibly trade it and other considerations to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for their No. 1 pick, the first in the entire draft. Thus, the Rams would wind up in a position to take Texas tailback Earl Campbell, the Heisman Trophy winner.
In St. Louis, Bidwill, has told Coryell's staff not to report for work. Sources say that Bidwill is obstinate enough not to fire Coryell until the Rams name their new coach. Then Bidwill reportedly wil fire Coryell and pay off the final two years on his contract.
Coryell has left himself in an untenable position with St. Louis management by criticizing its personnel and spending policies. Sources say Coryell's family is also unhappy in St. Louis.
"He's desperate. He wants the L.A. job badly. It's everything he wants," said a source close to Coryell.
Bidwill and Joe Sullivan, director of operations for the Cardinals, were reportedly in meetings yesterday. They could not be reached for comment.
Monday, Bidwill ordered the locks changed on the outside doors to the team's office in Busch Stadium. He called it a security matter.
In the past, according to an Associated Press dispatch, a Cardinal assistant took some game films and scouting reports when he left the club for a new post elsewhere. And, although Bidwill refused to discuss that incident, he said he wanted to take some precautions, especially after he said Coryell gave his staff permission to talk with other teams.
"When we found out Don had given the coaches permission, we felt we had to do something," Bidwill said.
Unlike Coryell, all the Cardinal assistants are hired on one-year contracts. They expire at the end of this month.
Coryell said Monday he planned to report to the offices yesterday to clear out some files and answer his mail.
Asked whether this meant he was preparing to leave for good, Coryell said: "Well, if all the coaches have been told to look for new jobs, you can draw your own conclusions. I just don't know."
Los Angeles newspapers continue to list Coryell as the Rams' No. 1 choice. But, in the San Francisco Bay Area, the papers there have been listing Walsh as the No. 1 choice.
Rosenbloom denied last week that Walsh was the leading candidate and that his ascent to the job was imminent. At the same time, Rosenbloom was reported as saying that his policy was to hold at least two face-to-face meetings with anyone he considers hiring.
A Stanford spokesman said yesterday that all of Walsh's contacts with the Rams have been informal, and with general manager Don Klosterman.
A Stanford spokesman denied reports that the school would force Walsh to buy out the remaining three years on his contract.
"He has talked to the Rams informally on a number of occasion," the Stanford spokesman said. "Basically there's been a lot of talking going on. (If he is offered the job) Bill would like it to happen soon because they (his staff) are in the middle of recruiting. Everybody here is on the edge of their chairs."
Sources close to Walsh said he took the Stanford job as a stepping stone to reach his goal as a head pro coach. Walsh was an NFL assistant for nine seasons at Oakland, Cincinnati and San Diego.
Like Coryell, he is known as an imaginative offensive coach. It was the lack of offensive imagination, apparently, that made Rosenbloom disenchanged with Knox, who took the Rams to the playoffs five straight years. Knox left the Rams last week to become head coach of the Buffalo Bills.
Steve Rosenbloom, assistant to the president, said he expected the Rams would be talking to Allen, who was fired as Ram coach by former owner Dan Reeves in 1970. The elder Rosenbloom said that if the Rams offered Allen a job it would be as coach only, not the dual capacity he currently has with the Redskins as coach-general manager.
The Rams have a general manager, Klosterman, who is one of the strongest in the league.