"Don't cut my throat,"Casey Stengel said to a barber in a moment of disappointment. "I may want to do that myself later." With Sunday's firing, George Allen has been canned four times, moving him even with Billy Martin, but this one must have hurt most of all. He coveted the Ram's job while working for the Redskins and now he has been fired, even before playing a game for real.
Allen had no Stengelese lines to laugh through the pain. Having it to do over again, he said, he would take the Redskins' offer and not leave Washington. But his once-total authority here was being cut down and he didn't like it because he believed a coach's success earned unaccountability. Though the Rams' job was advertised as coaching only, with the coach a contributor to other decisions but not the final word. Allen was a happy man when hired. He called it the realization of a dream.
So many times George Allen deceived us that we came to expect the devious. Only innocents believed Allen would go to Los Angeles and work happily as part of management team. What would happen is that Allen, once on the job, would go screaming to management about what he needed to win. COnfrontations would be inevitable. The surprise is not that Carroll Rosenbloom fired Allen, but that he had the nerve to fire him so quickly.
Rosenbloom said only Allen was adjusting slowly to his situation. That is code, meaning Allen had been screaming about what he needed to win, about how he needed total authority, how he had to make the trades, write the contract. Rosenbloom didn't put up with it. The owner said he'd made a terrible mistake in hiring Allen.
How that must have hurt. Allen said only that he, too, had made a mistake leaving Washington. His mistake, of course,was in so coveting the Rams' job that he sliced forever the thread of goodwill binding him to the Redskins. Just as one of the Rams' past owners. Dan Reeves fired Allen twice because Allen turned dictator, so did Edward Bennett Williams, the Redskins' master tell the coach to get lost.
Those instances were different from Sunday's humiliation. Allen's teams were successful the first three times he was fired; the Rams' players so admired Allen they threatened to quit on the occasion of his first firing, a threat that moved Reeves to rehire the coach. The last three firings have produced no such similar mutiny, and Sunday's was met with undisguised celebration by some Rams.
How that, too, must have hurt Allen, for whom the players, his men, were always the most important part of the organization.
And even those who long have been turned off by Allen's insistence that "losing is like dying" - just last week he said, "The pursuit of victory is my religion" - even those critics must be sympathetic to Allen today, for this time the coach has been mistreated.
Rosenbloom botched the whole thing and now blames Allen. "I made a terrible mistake," the owner said.
It is inconceivable that Rosenbloom could hire Allen and not know would want to stretch his areas of responsibility. That is Allen's history, as much a part of him as the baseman cap he wore on the sidelines, and for Rosenbloom to fire Allen on that account is to compound the "terrible mistake" he admits.
He has fired a coach that likely would have taken his team to a Super Bowl.
Whatever may be said of Allen, it must be said he is a great coach. The record shows it. No arguement allowed. With a superior football team, and the Rams have won five straight division champions, Allen likely would have reached the Super Bowl inside three years.
Only Rosenbloom had no patience.
He didn't like Allen being Allen. Williams of the Redskins didn't like it, either, but he put up with it for 105 games over seven seasons because Allen won 69 of those games and made it to the Super Bowl with a team he built in two seasons.
Rosenbloom couldn't wait three exhibiton games.
Either that, or he listened too well to the petty griping of his player. No professional football player loves training camp. And no camp is harder work than in Allen camp. So the Rams, who operated in a vertible country club atmosphere under the previous coach, moaned and groaned to high heaven about Allen's demands.
In any case, Rosenbloom comes off the loser here, either characterized as witless (some reports say he was unhappy with the Rams' offense; had he ever seen Redskins' razzle-dazzle) or gutless (whoever caved in to players who didn't like to work hard?).
We might add that this is not the first time Rosenbloom has been a loser. It was only two years ago that he hired Joe Namath with the demand the old quarterback guide the Rams to the Super Bowl - at once. As it happened, Namath quickly played his way onto the bench, causing Rosenbloom to go looking for another messiah - this time George Allen.
And now Allen has benched for good by Rams. The difference is that Namath was given a chance to succeed. Allen never was.