George Allen, a coach in the National Football League for 11 years, seven with the Washington Redskins, is an owner, general manager and coach of the Chicago Blitz in the new United States Football League. Before Allen left for training camp last month, he was interviewed by staff writer Kathy Blumenstock.
Question: Is the fact that you've signed Tim Spencer (of Ohio State) and now Stan White (of the Detroit Lions) a signal to the NFL that you will be competing with it?
Answer: This is not a war with the NFL. The USFL is so different. Spencer liked what he saw and wanted to come; and he knew right away he'd be playing here. In the NFL, he wouldn't have any idea where he'd be playing. The whole basis of the draft was to get Spencer. Stan White was familiar with my system because some of my former players put it in (in the NFL). That's why he's here and is important to us.
Q: When you were with the Redskins, you were criticized for giving up draft picks in favor of veterans. Do you plan to operate the same way here?
A: I can't do that. There aren't enough (veteran) players around that I'd like to have. We'll have to use a different technique. But we'll have a sprinkling of the right kind of veterans--I've signed Greg Landry and he'll be our quarterback. We have that territorial draft in this league, of course, and our (Chicago) territory isn't very good. If we couldn't sign a few free agents, we'd have a tough time getting a team. If this franchise hadn't made a few trades, if it didn't have someone who knew what to do, this franchise could be way down.
Q: How long do you think it'll take the USFL to become accepted and respectable?
A: Six months ago this whole thing was a dream. And now look at what's been accomplished! I'm not sure how much time it will take, but my goal is that we have, for the opener at home, 68,000 people and a standing ovation--and that we win the game. I'd be disappointed if we didn't have a team here in Chicago that's competitive with most NFL teams within three years.
Q: Should the USFL be compared to the now defunct World Football League?
A: Anyone who compares them tells me he doesn't know what he's talking about. No sports league has ever begun with as much going for it as this one. We've started with good owners, while some of the WFL guys got in over the weekend. We've got proven winners in this league, major stadiums and major markets. The WFL was in Charlotte and San Antonio and Jacksonville. We aren't taking on the NFL head to head because we play at a different time of year. And the USFL isn't trying to build with players first, like the WFL did, signing (Larry) Csonkas and (Paul) Warfields and (Jim) Kiicks. We're at the tail end in signing a few name players. We're building from the ground up.
We have to win to survive. We can't be 2-14 and not worry. In the NFL you can be 2-14 and make a nice profit. Sit back and smoke a cigar. We have to fight for every ticket.
Q: How do you think Washington will accept its franchise?
A: The Washington fans are so enthusiastic, almost fanatic. Chicago has great fans, but it's different in Washington. I think they'll accept them if they're a good team. That doesn't mean they have to win a championship, but they have to be professional. If they're not, they'll be compared to the Redskins, and they'll lose out.
Q: Why didn't you go back to Washington with the USFL?
A: I had my choice of going to just about any city and I took this one (Chicago) for two reasons. I was here with the Bears for eight years and I knew the city. And my partners here are really great people, and I felt we could have a good relationship.
If I had gone to Washington, I would've had to have been the majority stockholder (to control the team). I wouldn't have gone back there in a minor role. I wouldn't have gone to any team if I weren't an owner.
Q: What happened last spring in Montreal, when you were trying to buy that team in the Canadian Football League?
A: The sale of the team was impossible to accomplish because so many other people (owning a piece of the team) kept turning up. It was just impossible. There was nothing I could do.