I rush into print today to say, at the top of my voice, that I didn't mean any such thing. Some dear readers believed my midweek column on Billy Kilmer was an endorsement of George Allen. They believed I was saying George Allen should return as the Redskins' coach. No, no, no. George Allen deserted the Redskins when he lined up a better deal. Leave him in the wilderness of videoland. He is Nixon with a whistle.
I have a letter from an attorney in Bethesda, Samuel Intrater, who is concerned about my health. "I read your column this morning, in which you mentioned George Allen a half dozen times without once blaming him for the sad state of the Redskins," he wrote. "It is quite apparent that you are ill and that the disease has advanced to the stage where your thinking has become muddled."
The counselor advised rest and aspirin. "I am confident that you will soon return to normal, when you can resume castigating Allen for all the Redskins' woes ranging from their inept offense to their ineffective underarm deodorant."
It is discomfiting, I confess, to agree with anything George Allen says. When Allen saw the Redskins smiling and shaking hands with the Atlanta Falcons after Sunday's 10-6 loss, the old coach said he didn't like it. I didn't like it, either. And when Kilmer said he thought all that smiling was sign that the Redskins weren't "taking their jobs seriously," I quoted the old quarterback as confirmation of my feeling that the current Redskins simply are not passionate in pursuit of victory.
The problem with quoting Kilmer is that it implies purchase of the whole package. If I agree with Kilmer, and if I use him to build my case, then the reader easily makes the leap to a conclusion that I accept the whole Kilmer philosophy, which is, as all Washington knows, the Allen philosophy: losing is dying, and winning is so important that any means to victory is acceptable.
I don't buy the whole package.
I like Kilmer. I admire the way he moved a football team, physically and mentally. Maybe it was a cheap shot by Kilmer, delivered with my help, when he said his old buddies on the Redskins told him about a plane full of players "laughing and joking, like they don't care if they won or lost," That's damning by generalization. Still, I felt that losing for the 10th time in 13 games ought to bring a certain depression that I don't see in the glad-handling.
Depression, surely. Death, not at all.
Losing is not dying. Designed to forestall this "dying," George Allen's obsessive behavior is ultimately destructive of everything that is good and nice. The owner of the first team Allen ever coached, Dan Reeves of the Los Angeles Rams, fired Allen twice. "It was more fun losing," Reeves said, "than it was winning with George."
The most telling Allen story is this: In the Super Bowl of 1973, Allen instructed a linebacker to do the illegal trick of flicking the end of the football at the precise moment the Miami center would snap it for a punt. The idea was to cause a bad snap and hope the referee didn't notice. So what if you got caught? A five-year penalty wouldn't hurt. Worth the risk, right? And who executed the dirty trick for Allen? Only the nicest guy in town, Harold McLinton.
I want Kilmer's passion on a football team, but not Allen's deceit.
What reasonable player wants to work for a coach who has said this: "The worst moments in my life are when I wake up in the middle of the night and can't remember whether we won or lost our last game. If I remember then that we won, I get on my knees and give thanks. If, however, I remember that we lost, I am destroyed by the thought of it and regret that I ever woke up at all."
Don Meredith, looking from his broadcast booth down on George Allen, once said, "George says he would give up a year of his life to win a game. Makes you wonder what he'd do with his players' lives, doesn't it?"
As the counselor Intrater must notice by now, I am feeling real good today. So good, in fact, that I will document my belief that Allen, by trading away virtually all the Redskins' draft choices, left the franchise in shambles.
By hook or crook, and probably by both, Allen is so creative a football coach that he might have the current Redskins at .500. But no better, not now and no time soon, because the nucleus of solid young players that sustains all pro football franchises isn't there. Such a nucleus is built through the draft system -- and the draft couldn't help the Redskins because George Allen, in his obsessive desire to win quickly, gave it away.
The Redskins did not have a pick in the first four rounds of the draft in Allen's last four years here, 1974 through 1977. All those choices had been traded away as Allen continued the mad dealing that combined with his motivation of veteran players to produce a Super Bowl team in the 1972 season.
What did the Redskins get in all those trades for all those draft choices of '74 through '77?
The Redskins obtained 11 players in return for those 16 draft choices.
Only two are still playing: Joe Theismann and Dave Butz. The rest are retired: Duane Thomas, Dave Robinson, Rosey Taylor, Bryant Salter, Deacon Jones, Jim Tyrer, Richie Petitbon, George Nock and George Burman.
The counselor, Intrater, might ask that this be put in perspective, and I would be happy to oblige.
Consider what the Dallas Cowboys, to name a standard of excellence, did with their first four choices in those same '74 to '77 drafts.
They picked Randy White. And Danny White and Ed (Too Tall) Jones. And Bob Breunig and Pat Donovan, Glenn Carano, Butch Johnson and Tom Rafferty. They also have kids named Tony Dorsett and Tony Hill.
The Steelers won the last Super Bowl with 45 men who had never played for another organization. In those '74 to '77 drafts that were Allen's contributions to the current Deadskins, the once woebegone Steelers picked up some help that has stayed around: Lynn Swann, for one. Jack Lambert came in, too, along with John Stallworth, Bennie Cunningham, Theo Bell, Robin Cole, Sidney Thornton and Jim Smith.
Remember one more thing about Allen's Redskins, too. The NFC championship game of 1972, in Allen's second season here, was the last postseason game they ever won. They lost four straight after that. They lost the Super Bowl to Miami that season. And they lost the first playoff game in 1973, the first in '74 and the first in '76.