George Allen is thinking in public again, which means that what leaves his mouth just might not be what fills his mind. The notion here is that his Crusade in Canada will be one last attempt to get back into the National Football League.
Resurrecting the Alouettes is that final way, all his other tireless efforts having failed. Allen has been the most visable ex-coach in memory since being fired by the Rams four years ago. If he did not quite beg for an NFL job on the air in his role as television analyst, an I-can-do-better attitude intruded all too often.
Undoubtedly, he can do better than most coaches in the NFL; he did for the better part of two decades with the Rams and Redskins.
Now Allen is determined to show the league that wouldn't let him in that he belongs. Possibly, it is coincidence that Allen's ownership deal with the Alouettes gives him the flexibility he needs to return to the NFL in a hurry. Or, eventually, with his entire team.
Allen needs to reestablish his impressive credentials as a builder of teams, and he can do that in the CFL this season whether he decides to coach or not. Everybody knows the man is a brilliant coach; what scares NFL owners is Allen's reputation for creating front-office friction and spending too much money, exceeding unlimited budgets.
If what he has planned takes place, if the Alouettes affect the sort of on-the-field and box-office turnaround he knows is possible, Allen can say to an NFL owner in need of a victory fix: "I got it done up here, with my own money."
Allen says he already owns 20 percent of the Alouettes, and that he has an option to buy another 31 percent by Dec. 31. Which means he can leave quickly, selling that 20 percent for a tidy profit, if he performs an athletic miracle and the NFL beckons.
Frank Kush was spectacular during his one season in the CFL, using it as a springboard to the Colts' job. Bud Grant and Marv Levy used CFL success to get their NFL starts. So did one of the best executives in the NFL, Jim Finks. There's no reason to believe Allen will be any less successful in the CFL.
In Los Angeles and Washington, Allen showed his special flair for selecting fine coaches. His assistants included the Eagles' Dick Vermeil and the Chiefs' Levy, and a half-dozen more who have not been as fortunate as head coaches. With the Rams and one or two other NFL teams currently in disarray, several very good assistant coaches are free.
Nearly all of us assume Allen will search the universe for a coach for the Alouettes and eventually conclude he is best qualified. And he will be. If he surprises us and decides to stay off the field, however, Allen still will be the franchise's dominant figure, its Al Davis.
Let's speculate a bit more. Let's say Allen does a wonderful job with the Alouettes this year, but the fuddy-duddy NFL owners still won't hire him. He still can get back in, with a Northern invasion by his whole team. Here's the scenario:
With his own financial finagling or somebody else's money, Allen gets total control of the Alouettes. Saying over and over "the future is ours," he builds the Alouettes into a franchise so powerful and successful the NFL admits it during expansion.
That sounds fanciful, but it's the reason Nelson Skalbania bought the team.