George Allen is second only to Florida congressman Claude Pepper in his regard for the rights of the aged. In a new league stocked with scores of rookies, Allen made sure to assemble a Chicago Blitz team that is about as over-the-hill as any you are apt to find in the U.S. Football League.
Today, Allen returns after an absence of more than five years to RFK Stadium to play the Washington Federals at 3 p.m. Those who tune in on television (WJLA-TV-7) and those who make it to RFK (Federals owner Berl Bernhard is predicting a crowd of 30,000) will find out how Allen, the perfectionist, will fare in a league that promises to be anything but flawless in its first season.
Oddsmakers who have had the steady hand to set a line for the game without ever seeing either team under regular-season conditions, have made the Blitz favorites by as much as a touchdown. The forecasts are based almost solely on roster sheets and, truth be told, the Blitz does feature a combination of young and experienced players who may well make it one of the best teams in the league.
Greg Landry never set the world ablaze in his 14 years in the National Football League, but the 36-year-old former quarterback for the Baltimore Colts and Detroit Lions will bring direction to an offense laden with rookie talent at the skill positions.
Landry's primary receivers will be Trumaine Johnson, a first-round draft choice from Grambling, and Wamon Buggs, a highly regarded first-year player from Vanderbilt. Johnson was considered the best receiver available in this year's draft.
Tim Spencer, Chicago's other first-round choice, will his team's primary ballcarrier. Ohio State's second all-time leading rusher, with 3,553 yards, he is a powerful halfback similar in style to the Federals' Craig James.
The Blitz will have to play without tight end Tim Wrightman of UCLA. He injured his knee and will be sidelined three weeks.
Mike Faulkiner, who recently left the Federals to join the New York Jets as an assistant coach, had his first job in the NFL with George Allen's Redskins. Faulkiner said that from what he has seen of the Blitz, it will not be as strong on defense as it appears to be on offense.
"Everybody is saying the Blitz will be great, but I think they'll just be good," said Faulkiner. "They still have a long way to go on defense."
Allen used to take special pride in his defenses and special teams when he was coaching in the NFL, but he admitted in training camp that his defense was behind his offense.
Allen will depend on 11-year veteran linebacker Stan White, who signed with the Blitz after playing out his option with the Detroit Lions, to stabilize the defense. Federals Coach Ray Jauch said he is wary of Junior Ah You, the Samoan defensive end. Ah You played 11 years in the Canadian Football League, where Jauch coached for 12 years.
The Federals' primary talent on offense is, of course, James, the team's first-round draft choice. At Southern Methodist, he shared the tailback position with Eric Dickerson, a faster if less versatile runner. But with Washington, James will carry the ball often. Opponents also can expect to see him used frequently as a receiver.
In all likelihood, the Federals' passing will improve as Joey Walters, the all-CFL wide receiver acquired last week, becomes accustomed to his new quarterbacks, starter Kim McQuilken and backup Mike Hohensee. Tight end Phil Dubois, a former Redskin, has played well but wide receivers Marc Brown and Reggie Smith--the smallest player in the league at 5 feet 4--have been less consistent.
While the Federals' offensive line is young and still learning to protect the passer, the defensive line is led by the experience of end Coy Bacon and tackle Ron Estay. The linebackers remain a problem, but the secondary, led by Donnie Harris, is developing into one of the most promising in the league.
"We've said all along that we were going to build a football team," said Jauch. "That means that we'll be strong in some spots and try to fill in the holes as we go along. We expect to be around for a while, not just for one game or one season."