We have heard all the knocks against George Allen. He's devious. He'll win at any cost. He lies. Players learn to hate him for it. We have heard it all, and so has Bob Brunet. He loves George Allen. If we knock the man, fairness demands we listen to an admirer. So Bob Brunet was on the telephone from his home in Baton Rouge, La.
Brunet may never play football again. For 10 seasons a Redskin, he was nearly killed carrying the ball against Dallas this year. They took him off the field on a stretcher and he didn't play again. He judges it a miracle that the severe neck injury didn't paralyze him. The neck still bothers him, however, and he'll be examined by Redskin doctors today.
"It looks like my career may be ended, and George Allen is not the coach of the Redskins anymore, so I'm not saying these things to benefit Bob Brunet in any way," Brunet said. "But George Allen has a lot of admirable qualities. He has treated me much the way I like to think I'd treat people. For sure, there's no doubt about it, knowing him made my life better. He affected my life in a very positive way."
We have ssen bits and pieces of quotations from other Redskins praising the deposed leader. The quarterback, Billy Kilmer, said Allen simply couldn't abide quitters. If you didn't quit trying, you would win. Simple. The linebacker, Chris Hanburger, said Allen was a great coach whose personality happened to be "different" and therefore misunderstood. Players spoke of Allen's attention to detail. They remembered his long, repetitive practices. Somebody once said genius is the capacity for taking infinite pains. That, George Allen did, and in seven seasons here his team won twice as often as they lost.
He did it with magic. A magic of sorts, anyway. As Kilmer didn't really say why Allen's teams won, neither could Bob Brunet find an explanation that satisfied. Brunet talked on the phone for a half-hour, trying to explain the unexplainable, and the longer he went on, the more his listeners thought of the old Green Bay Packers.
In the early 1960s, everyone wondered how Vice Lombardi did it. How did he take a nothing team and win championships? The quarterback, Bart Starr, was a 17th-round draft pick. The halfback Paul Hornung, would rather have carried a blond than a football. Yet Lombardi's Packers were winers. And analysts, searching for the reason why, came back with reports of magic. Lombardi somehow moved his men to performances beyond their apparent ability. He did it by screaming cajoling, begging, frightening, loving. Magic.
"George was a winner," Brunet said. "It was the intangibles. Every team takes on the temperament and philosophies of the head man. And George is so dedicated. He's the most disciplined man I ever knew. He went into every game with such intensity, whether it was the NFC championship against the Cowboys in 1972 or whether we were playing a team that was 2 and 10. It was all natural for him and that intensity permeated the whole organization."
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Brunet first met Allen in the spring of 1971, shortly after the forgettable. He was the Redskins' second-leading running back in his rookie season, 1968, gaining 227 yards on 71 carries for Coach Otto Graham.
In '69, with Lombardi replacing Graham, Brunet walked out of camp. He refuses, even today, to say why he sat out that season. Lombardi died before the '70 season and Bill Austin took over. For Austin, Brunet carried nine times for 37 yards.
"The three years before George came, I'd have my car packed at the end of the season and be ready to go home," Brunet said. "I just wanted to get out of there. Then, George's first year, it was such a great experience, so exhilarating, I didn't want it to end. George helped us achieve what the called 'warm regards' for our team-mates. He changed my life."
Used only a few times each season as a running back, Brunet prospered under Allen as a special-teams player, a ferocious tackler under kicks.
"The biggest thing George does is make everybody on the team feel important," Brunet said. "The year before he came in, I wasn't used. It felt left out. I was on the bench and not contributing. George gave me a chance. He made the special teams feel very important - and we were, because we won a lot of games! We were as important to him, if not to the general public, as the superstars, a Sonny Jurgensen or a Larry Brown."
Brunet said Allen is an emotional man, yet very rational when it comes time to make a decision. "And most of his decisions have turned out for the good of the Redskins, haven't they?" Brunet said. The words were a challenge, not a question. Brunet also likes Allen's philosophy of, "Forget the past. Too many people dwell on last week, moping around, frowning, or too many people bask in the glory of last week. Forget the past - that's tremendous."
Brunet said Allen called him twice while he lay in a Dallas hospital. "He's very concerned about his players. He turn. Obviously, listening to me, you are hearing a loyal man and a biased man. But these are things I believe in."
Some who knock Allen say the coach buys loyalty, that he pays players more than they are worth. So why shouldn't they say nice things about him?
"I don't think loyalty can be bought," Brunet said. "You can't buy emotion. It's like buying love. It's not for sale, not real love. Either you have it or you don't."
Then Brunet said he wouldn't have played these last two seasons if he hadn't been paid well. He has business interests in Baton Rouge that could support him. "To be awfully frank about it, I didn't think I was playing up to my capabilities of before," he said.
A laugh moved along the phone line. "But remember, there were times in the past when I would have played for George Allen for nothing but expenses."
Otto Graham, Vince Lombardi, Bill Austin and George Allen. "There's no question about who's number one," Brunet said. "George Allen is the best coach in professional football."