Their personalities could hardly have been more different, but Buddy Ryan and the late George Allen built their teams on one striking philosophical cornerstone: They led the planet in inspiring small but frenzied followings with the it's-us-against-the-world line of thinking.
It is no coincidence that only two assistant coaches in memory were carried off the field by the defensive squads after winning world championships: Allen with the 1963 Chicago Bears and Ryan with the Bears in 1985.
The head coaches who stood by and watched those demonstrations were merely Hall-of-Famers George Halas and Mike Ditka.
Did Allen and Ryan feel sympathy for them? Are we kidding? Pioneering legend Halas was beloved but clinging to the past. Some members of the Bears defense were openly disdainful of the team's stale offense. Allen said all the right things about Papa Bear at the time. But soon they were in court in a bitter fight over the contract that George broke so he could take over the Rams.
Ryan didn't bother saying "the right things" about Ditka. The Bears seemed to thrive on their open warfare in meetings and on the sideline. The players thrived with them. When Allen and Ryan circled their wagons for battle, the owners fared no better than those head coaches. Allen worked for one of the most brilliant and charismatic attorneys in history. But to him Edward Bennett Williams might as well have been a law clerk. George was so impressed with him that he went over budget and seized Washington's spotlight. Ryan has no new contract from Eagles owner Norman Braman. So the players have united behind him: win a Super Bowl to save Buddy's job.
The rules and etiquette of the NFL? Forget about them too. Allen traded draft picks he didn't own. Ryan allegedly has placed bounties on the heads of players on specially hated rival teams.
There the similarities seem to cease. Enough has been written this week about Allen's commitment to aging rejects. Ryan's creative system is based largely on brilliant youths.
But one thought lingers. Wouldn't it have been a joy to have once staged a televised debate between Allen and Ryan? The topic, of course: Who hates the Dallas Cowboys more?
I wanted to salute Allen this week, because I was around him at the start of his exciting Washington years. Unlike the true masters of football, such as Paul Brown and Halas, he left no special legacy on the field. He squeezed every lemon dry before he fled the grove. But love him or hate him, he was one of a kind.
So is Ryan, although it is hardly worth asking whether Redskins fans love him or hate him.
By Saturday night, Washingtonians will hate him even more. Nothing is ever easy when the Eagles brawl with the Redskins. Both tend to win the hard way. This time the Eagles should be hard as tempered steel.
The Eagles are favored by 4 at the Vet. There's a curious thing about the Eagles' progress. From the start of his five-year tenure, Ryan convinced them that they were unappreciated underdogs who had to fight for every yard. But the flip side of that was that they became somewhat complacent as home favorites. This year that has changed. At home Philadelphia scored 24 touchdowns and yielded 14. I like the Eagles minus the 4.
In Miami, the Dolphins are favored by 2 1/2 over Kansas City. This is a game with two intriguing matchups. Kansas City's once-vaunted pass defense unraveled a fortnight ago against Houston. Will Dan Marino have his way with them as Warren Moon did? I suspect not. The Chiefs tried a strange gimmick defense in that game. This time they will go back to basics.
The Dolphins on the other hand have a rushing defense that seems to be running out of gas. The linemen may rise up one more time to stop Barry Word and Christian Okoye. They may also get flattened. I'm taking the Chiefs plus the 2 1/2.
The Bengals are favored by 3 1/2 over the Oilers in Cincinnati's Jungle. Houston almost never plays well in Cincinnati. The Bengals are a very good home team in division games. Take the Bengals minus the 3 1/2.
The Bears are favored by 6 1/2 over the Saints in Soldier Field. The Saints are lucky to be in the tournament. But they'll bow out quickly. It must have been a diabolical man who arranged for an indoor team from New Orleans to play in Chicago in a 4 p.m. game. By halftime, as the wind whips off Lake Michigan, the Saints should be thinking about a warm place to recuperate on Bourbon Street. The key here will be turnovers, and the Bears have a giant edge in that department. Bears minus 6 1/2.
Last week the Seahawks, giving 2 1/2 to the Lions, routed them, 30-10. The Chiefs, pick 'em in Chicago, beat the Bears, 21-10.
Then the roof fell in. The Eagles, giving 7 1/2, had the game locked up in Phoenix. Then Ryan started yanking his starters. By the end I think some of those subs were regulars from the Pottstown Firebirds. The Eagles won 23-21. Obviously their supporters lost. The Bills, getting 5 from the Redskins, failed to show up and lost by 29-14. And the Niners, favored by 3 at Minnesota, managed to pull out a push, 20-17.
Total for the week 2-2-1. Total for season: 42-42-1. A mere prelude to the first act of the playoffs.