We talk today to a businessman who once was a professional football coach.
He is not surprised that Carroll Rosenbloom fired George Allen after only two exhibition games.
This old caoch is not surprised by anything an owner does.
He believes owners ought to have keepers.
Of his last boss, a millionaire, the coach says, "He's a rotten person, a pathological liar."
But the pay was good.
Owners, the coach says, are flaming egomaniacs.
They all want the coach to be a Charlie McCarthy," he says.
But this coach refused to sit on the owner's knee. He also did not have a wooden head. Knowing you can't trust an owner any farther than you can throw Giants Stadium, the coach signed a contract in which the owner agreed to keep paying him even if he fired him.
The pay is still good, the coach is working at another job and his old team is wreak.
He is, in short, tremedously happy.
We're not going to use his name here. Allen was fined $3,000 for saying naughty things about his old boss, Edward Bennett Williams. Hard telling what Pete Rozelle would fine a guy for saying his boss is a pathological liar. Rozelle might send the coach to Siberia inexchange for a Soviet dissident.
That's because Rozelle believes NFL owners are saintly figures above public criticism. Some people suggest Rozelle protect the owners because the owners pay him about $300,000 a year to stay tan and buy the TV boys lunch. But you know how some people are. Allen ought to be happy, one supposes, that he was not stuck by lightning when he said Williams was petty, mean and vindictive.
"Allen, getting fired didn't surprise me at all," our happy former coach said. "He went out to Los Angeles and took a job that was against all the principles he ever had, and anytime you compromise on your principles, you're in trouble."
The coach meant that Allen always had total control of his football organization and yet he took the Rams' job knowing he was to share responsibilities with a general manager and an acitve owner, Rosenbloom. With the Redskins, Allen ran everything, even to the extent of ordering underlings to fetch him a chocolate milkshake at midnight (now, no one said football coaches are without sin, but this column is about owners and we'll get to the coaches another day).
"You must have total control," our former coach said, "and I thought I had it, but then when I wanted to do things, I found out I was surrounded by piranha. That's all right if you know how deep the water is, but if you don't know who the piranha are or how many there are, you better get out of th water in a hurry."
The coach's owner knew nothing about football except that he like the aroma of locker rooms.
"Owners are influenced by the craziest things," the coach said. "There are petty jealousies going on in the organization. A coach's fate often depends onwho last had the owner's ear.
"It's unbelievable that a business worth $20 million can be run the way the owners run these football teams. They only survive because of the TV money ($5 million a year per team). There's a complete lack of loyality. Secretaries, the goundskeepers, the owner - they all have to be on the same page to win.
"But owners will be told something at a cocktail party - some misrepresentation about the coach - and all of a sudden you've got a problem that wasn't there before."
"Some people get pumped up on this stuff of winning. They want to be part of the football thing when they don't know whether a football is pumped up or stuffed. I had a general manager who wasn't satisfied to do his job, he wanted to walk the dog. He should've been locked up in a closet with a secretary and an adding machine.
But the owner was listening to him."
And what would be said?
"All any coach can want is to talk one-to-one with the owner. Cut out any middle men. As soon as you get athird guy in there, you're in trouble. Let's say you need a blocking sled that's going to coast $5,000. So you say, 'Hey, Joe, we need this sled because it's really going to help.'
"And Joe says, 'Fine, I'll talk to the boss, no problem."
"Then Joe goes to the owner and says, "Jeezus, this guy wants to spend more money. Hell, we don't need any sled."
"And then Joe comes back to you and says, 'Coach, I talked until I was blue in the face, but the boss said no way on the sled.'"
Meanwhile, the owner wants the coach to produce a Super Bowl champion so he can wear that big ring to owners' meetings. And when the coach loses a few games, the owner gets resltess.
"It becomes a memo thing," the coach said. "The owner was writing me memos all the time. You never saw so many memos. Finally, I told him we ought to change the name of the team to the Memos."
It wasn't long after that the coach became a ex-coach.