The Washington Redskins remembered George Allen yesterday as an eccentric genius, a man not only obsessed with winning games, but with the power and wealth and fame that went with it. They remembered him as a man who would stroll through the front offices, approach a secretary and abruptly ask: "Is what you're doing helping us win football games?"

More than one staffer stammered to come up with an answer when the task might be making copies of press releases or eating lunch. Several of them remember a meeting when Allen said no one would get raises that year, since the Redskins hadn't won enough games.

The Redskins remembered him as obsessed with detail, a man who would walk down the hallways at Redskin Park, point to a picture hanging crooked on the wall and shake his head.

"Sometimes I wonder if the organization knows what winning is all about," Allen would say.

He once patrolled the sidewalk near a practice field looking for the pull rings from soda cans. He was convinced receiver Roy Jefferson had slipped and fallen because of one of those tops and he wanted to make sure it didn't happen again.

He would send staffers out for midnight milkshakes and once when Charley Casserly, then a rookie intern in the front office, had done the advance work for a game in New York, one of his instructions was that when the team bus pulled up to the hotel, someone should be waiting for Allen with a chocolate milkshake in hand.

Allen died Monday at 72, and Casserly, now the Redskins' general manager, laughs about the milkshake, admitting he never exactly knew whether it was for thirst or good luck. What he does remember more precisely is that the Giants beat the Redskins, 20-17, that weekend in the opening game of the 1977 season.

It was the only opening game Allen lost with the Redskins, and when it was over he told Casserly he wouldn't be advancing any more games.

"Just go back on the road and scout," Allen said.

Mostly, the Redskins remembered Allen as a man who was given complete control of the team and who spent millions of the team's dollars. Few NFL coaches had ever had such authority and no one had ever used it as Allen did.

He dreamed of a secluded, modern practice facility, and he got it. When then team president Edward Bennett Williams and the board of directors told Allen they would try to budget for Redskin Park in a year or so, Allen told them: "Gentlemen, the future is now."

That became a catch phrase for his seven seasons in Washington, for teams that made the playoffs five times and got to one Super Bowl.

The Redskins had been NFL whipping boys for 25 years before Allen's arrival, but since the day he arrived in 1971 the Redskins have been to the playoffs 11 times in 20 seasons and played in four Super Bowls.

Coach Joe Gibbs, the Redskins' coach for the last decade, credits Allen with creating a winning atmosphere and building an organization that expected to win. Gibbs has said many times that Allen made his job easier in many ways and more difficult in others.

"People expect to win in Washington," Gibbs said. "That wasn't true before Coach Allen arrived."

The Redskins owe more than their 20-year tradition of winning to Allen. For one thing, they can thank him for their general manager.

Casserly was a high school coach in Massachusetts in 1977 when he applied for Allen's internship program. He wrote Allen because he had been trying, without success, to break into college coaching. His plan, if he was accepted into the program, was to work for the Redskins a year, then use the experience to land a college job.

Instead, he arrived at Redskin Park and has drawn his check from the Redskins ever since. He met his wife through the Redskins; he climbed the organizational ladder from scout to assistant general manager to, finally, general manager in the spring of 1989.

But he remembers those early days. He had written Allen at a time when he was earning $10,000 a year and living on a mattress he had purchased from the Salvation Army.

"I'd lost everything I owned in a fire," he said, "and I had no insurance. When I applied for the internship, I didn't know there was no salary involved, but I told Tim Temerario {Allen's administrative assistant} it would not be a problem. I had $500 to my name and a Chevy Nova with 110,000 miles on it."

He wrote the Redskins and was invited to come for an interview that May. Temerario eventually took him to meet Allen, who was headed out for his daily workout.

The interview was a bizarre experience, a mixture of hearing the gospel and being hit with a machine-gun series of questions. Before going out for his daily jog, Allen gave Casserly a project: Write a paper on three ways you could help the Redskins.

Casserly would later learn that that was a standard Allen technique, and that he was challenging people while perhaps picking up something he could use. Allen and Temerario eventually hired Casserly, and after a year he was given a paid job with the organization.

"People focus on the fact that George was eccentric," Casserly said, "and he certainly was that. He wasn't like anyone you'd ever met in your life. But what sometimes gets overlooked is that he was a great, great football coach. He could coach Xs and Os with anyone and was really a defensive genius. His defense would give a team all kinds of different looks. George also knew personnel. He knew good players from bad players."

The Redskins up and down their organizational ladder respect Allen for transforming a loser into a winner after illness and death intervened against Vince Lombardi. But they also laugh at some of the Allen stories, claiming that Gibbs probably packs more work into a week than Allen did in two weeks.

They remember Allen telling staffers, "I'd sleep in a mop closet if it'd help us win." Several of those staffers had seen his hotel rooms on the road and he insisted on the biggest suite and that it be stocked with sodas, fruit, a refrigerator, projector and a whole list of things.

He boasted of working almost around the clock. But often when he carried a stack of playbooks to a dinner with assistants, the books would go unopened. Allen worked, but sometimes his workday never got cranked up until 9 p.m.

Then again, he might keep his players on the field for a three-hour practice the day before a game.

Some staffers swear that Allen would be sitting in his office and when the telephone rang he would turn on his film projector before answering. "What was that?" he'd yell into the phone. "Wait a minute. Let me turn the projector off."

But Allen won and won and won, and he changed the Redskins forever. He offended a lot of people, but when he left Washingtonians were addicted to their football team.

He left in a bitter dispute, claiming he was fired and the Redskins saying he was out looking for another job. He lasted a month back with his previous employer, the Rams, then never coached again in the NFL.

"He's a guy that truly should have been an NFL coach someplace," said Redskins assistant coach Richie Petitbon, who played for Allen with the Rams. "I don't know why he wasn't."

Did he make enemies?

"I would have to say he must have made some," Petitbon said. "It certainly wasn't his coaching that kept him out of the league. I thought he was nuts when I heard he was going to coach this college team. But in the final analysis, it might have been his best coaching job," his 6-5 resurrection last fall of a moribund Long Beach State program.

Another star under Allen was Hall-of-Famer Charley Taylor, currently the Redskins' receivers coach, who said he owed Allen a debt.

"When he came in, you felt that a winning atmosphere came with him," said Taylor, a Redskin for seven years before Allen and another seven under him. "He did it several ways. He understood people very well and he had a way of relating the game to life. Those two things go hand in hand, and we had a complete team. To play for a coach like him was one of my great thrills. He surrounded himself with people who loved to play the game and preached that you win as a team and you lose as a team."