George Allen of the Rams today announced that he has completed his staff of assistant coaches with the naming of an offensive coordinator - Richard Nixon.
"The former president and I worked closely together when we were in Washington," Allen said in the announcement. "I visited with him just before his China trip and he came to Redskin Park once.
"Yes, I know that play he called for us (a reverse to Roy Jefferson) didn't work in the ('71) playoffs, but, geez, none of us is perfect. He and I have faced adversity and, of course, this is another first for me.
"He knew our system from all the time we spent together in Washington and still feel he's got a lot of good years left. For all I know, he might even be younger than me. We called Deacon Jones 'Secretary of Defense' when I was there before and now we have the former Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces to run the Ram offense.
The air is thick with deja vu. Two of the most famous closet jocks of our time are reunited just down the pike from one another. And Nixon again has taken a firm stand on an issue of national significance - George Allen's chances of making the Super Bowl.
It's even money Allen leads the Rams to the Super Bowl this season. Nixon told the LA Herald Examiner the other day. He called up a reporter and said so - and also to compliment him on a story about Allen's charitable nature.
Well, Allen had better hope Nixon is as right on this prediction as he was on his first. Surely you recall the scene: Allen had just completed that blockbuster of a deal with the Rams not long after being named Redskin coach in '71 when a telegram arrived from the White House.
"Great trade," Nixon said of the deal that brought such as Diron Talbert, Jack Pardee, Myron Pottics and John Wilbur east and sent seven draft choices west. "I am betting on the Redskins for the THE championship, victory in the Super Bowl, never materialized. But a championship did - and jut within the Presidential timetable.The Redskins whipped the Cowboy for the NFC title in '72, in what proved to be the zenith of the Allen year in Washington - his China trip you might say. All else was a gradual slide backward.
In LA, all Allen has to do is win another National Conference title this year to keep his job. The ever kindly Ram owner, Carroll Rosenbloom, said Allen need only get the team to the Super Bowl, not win it, to stay employed. If Allen merely wins the NFC West title, as Chuck Knox did five straight years, Rosenbloom hinted, he will be selling maps to movie stars' homes. Or some such.
And now that Allen has the job cynice insist he began to covet shortly after agreeing to - but not signing - that four-year Redskin contract six months ago he might well be hunting one of those Hollywood public-relations types for an image rehaul.
The Allen you saw a decade ago in Los Angeles and the one you saw in Washington is not the same Allen you will see with the '78 Rams. No Over-The-Hill-Gang moves west. No backs against the wall every game. No "the whole world is against us" talk.
Not even Billy Kilmer. Contrary to popular thought, Kilmer is not likely to be joining Allen, unless the Rams are willing to part with more than seems probable at the moment. Like it or not Joe Theismann fans, Kilmer is the Redskin starter of record - and will be even more valuable during the upcoming 16-game regular season.
And the Rams are not going to swap Pat Haden to Tampa Bay for the right to Earl Campbell. Even Allen would not trade a yound, mobile, intelligent quarterback with a fine arm to somebody for even as gifted a runner as Campbell. The Rams already have enough ground troops to set sights on the Super Bowl.
Indeed, Lawrence McCutcheon might be ready to taper off slightly in his sixth season as the Rams' Larry Brown, but Allen said Wendell Tyler scared him more last year. And Tyler was a - pardon the expression - rookie, though a swift one with durability.
Also remember Allen is taking over a team that had a better record than his Redskins the last five years. Yes, incredible as that say seem, Rosenbloom forced out a coach with a 54-15 record - and five divisional titles - for a coach with a 47-23 record.
Unlike his tactics when he assumed the Ram job in '66 and the Redskin jon in '71, Allen cannot remold this Ram team in his own image - even if he wanted to. It needs only the sort of tinkering the draft ought to provide and the sort of special-teams attention Paul Lanham ought to provide, assuming that skilled assistant follows Allen.
The Rams' special-teams coach will be as valuable as their offensive coach, because kicking-game errors have been more troublesome than they should have been under Knox.
There are enough runners and throwers (the backup quarterback, Vince Ferragemo, is a fine prospect), blockers and catchers for the Rams to dominate the squish-soft NFC West even with RMN designing the offense.
The defense is fine even by Allen standards. In fact, the personnel is the second-best in the entire conference, behind the team Allen essentially was hired to beat, the Dallas Cowboys.
Ironically, the Rams are in the position of being able to cast a skeptical eye toward their new coach, even though they lost a meaningless game to him last season, and say: "you're the one with something to prove."
It would have been better for the Redskins had Allen wanted more authority and more money and opted to open another swap shop in New Orleans. The Redskins might have grabbed some decent draft choices for veteran players - and made their own rebuilding process less complex.
But George Allen a Saint? The human mind can grasp only so much.