Football will not soon forget George Allen. Perhaps never.

The first reminder of the coach who died Monday at 72 was early afternoon yesterday when the Redskins took their initial postseason step toward the Super Bowl.

The playoffs now are treated rather casually by Washingtonians, it being cause for alarm when the Redskins fail to be involved. Allen got the town dreaming his first year as coach, 1971, leading the Redskins past the regular season for the first time in 26 years.

Allen also will slip into many minds today when two of his former players, Jack Pardee and Sam Wyche, lead the Oilers and Bengals in a playoff game in Cincinnati. The team with the best record in the American Conference, the Bills, are coached by a former Allen aide, Marv Levy.

Need a catchy phrase to rekindle interest in a going-nowhere team? Someone may have said it earlier but "The Future Is Now" long ago became attached to Allen.

How about a succinct way to describe an executive too generous with the company's money? Handy is what Edward Bennett Williams said of Allen: "He was given an unlimited budget -- and exceeded it."

Romance? Allen returned to coaching last fall, at Long Beach State at age 71. Immediately, he became the oldest active coach, moving past Grambling's Eddie Robinson by nearly a year. Long Beach State was 32 years younger than its new coach.

Long Beach State had not had a winning season in four years. Finances nearly caused football to be dropped. Under Allen, the 49ers posted a 6-5 record that included a 59-0 blowout in the season opener by Clemson.

Allen was fond of making lists and the last one son Bruce found by the home phone. It read: "Win the championship. Every player graduates I've recruited. Build a stadium. Then take a tougher job."

In a career that linked six decades, Allen coached under close to the best conditions possible and close to the worst conditions possible. He had the vision to create first-of-its-kind Redskin Park, which ironically the Redskins have outgrown and are expected to vacate before next season.

Technically, Allen, as an assistant with the Bears in the early 1960s, got most of his defensive ideas from one of football's genuine geniuses, Clark Shaughnessy. Still, Allen's teams always were more than a match for the latest in offense. He was among the first coaches to use situation substitutions and a pioneer in time devoted to special teams.

"We sort of expected him to show up and give everybody a project," Mike Allman said at a memorial service Friday for Allen in California. Allman is a former Allen aide with the Redskins who runs the personnel department for the Seattle Seahawks.

Long Beach State was a sad program to which Allen gave enormous energy and which, almost surely, sapped much of his own immense vigor. An NFL official said Bruce Allen told him not long ago that the coach had slept for almost three straight days after the season ended. A pathologist said Allen died of a cardiac spasm.

"I respected him like my father," said Long Beach State wide receiver Mark Seay, whose own story is inspirational. He was shot protecting his niece from gang gunfire at a Halloween party, lost a kidney and was declared fit to play last March after earlier being denied.

Seay added: "Whatever I do the rest of my life, he'll always be a part of me."

Allen's special teams coach at Long Beach State, Gary Zauner, wore a T-shirt under his dress shirt that read: "We Play Tenacious Defense for George Allen."

"He's the one who gave me all my theories about special teams," said Zauner. "Giving a scholarship to a snapper, that kind of thing. And he had a way of cutting things before the worst ever happened."

Allen was fond of signs -- and this one in a room adjacent to his university office was appropriate for him:

"Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.

"Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.

"{So} it doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you'd better be running."

With Morningside College in the late '40s, Whittier in the early and middle '50s, the Rams in the late '60s, the Redskins for most of the '70s, the USFL for two years in the '80s and Long Beach State in 1990, Allen ran.

He even conducted an interview while jogging. That was in 1969, with the Rams, when the coach would not alter his postpractice two-mile run and an eastern reporter was pressured by a three-hour time difference. At about the three-quarter-mile mark, the reporter had enough quotes to huff off to type.

The season the Super Bowl came into being, 1966, was Allen's first as a National Football League coach. There was no wild-card dilution of the playoffs then. In 1967, Don Shula's Baltimore Colts missed the playoffs though they had an 11-1-2 record. The next season, the Rams stayed home despite going 10-3-1.

Allen's win-in-a-hurry policy was unusual in pro football -- and nearly worked. His were the only teams routinely dealing draft choices for veteran players, which made sense. But it never won the ultimate game. Only once in 12 years, in fact, did it get a team -- the 1972 Redskins -- into a Super Bowl.

Still, few players on any team at any time were more appealing than the Over The Hill Gang that Allen brought to Washington:

Ron McDole, the surprisingly agile 288-pound defensive end Sonny Jurgensen called "the dancing bear." Billy Kilmer, the feisty quarterback whose passes wobbled so much that John Unitas said receivers had a choice of which end to grab for.

One of Kilmer's favorite Redskins was a part-time pro wrestler, Verlon Biggs.

"Through that face mask, Biggs {then with the Jets} actually scared me," Kilmer said in an early '80s book about the Redskins. "First time I saw him with the Redskins {after a trade} was in training camp, about midnight. He was coming down the {dormitory} hall with two Dobermans and two gals . . . taking up the entire hallway. I slammed the door shut and put some furniture in front of it. But he turned out to be one of the greatest guys in the world."

Like the others, he performed well. More than his considerable skills at motivation and tactics, Allen's greatest gifts were being able to determine who could play and who could teach those players.

Fourteen of his aides became NFL head coaches; many of the players Joe Gibbs coached to victory in Super Bowl XVII, among them Joe Theismann, John Riggins and Dave Butz, were brought to the Redskins by Allen.

The future-is-now attitude that made him so successful also may have contributed largely to his not coaching in the NFL after leaving the Redskins following the 1977 season and lasting only months on a second tour with the Rams. Friction was an Allen staple. Owners were reluctant to consider him for vacancies. His being four years older than what he put on his NFL resume' also didn't help.

Allen's final college job reminded him of his first NFL head coaching post. His late '60s Rams had trained a few miles away, in Long Beach.

"He planted the seed for success here," said Jeff Severson, a Redskin under Allen and Long Beach State alum. "It was so nice he could go out a winner."

"The first 40 years of his life were without luxury," Allen's son Greg said. "At 12, he started having to help the family get by. His first job was planting flowers along a road. . . . When he heard no, it meant maybe."

The president of Long Beach State, Curtis McCray, recalled sitting next to Allen on the plane back from a loss this season. It was nearly 10 p.m. McCray was tired as Allen peppered him with an idea about the stadium. "Can't it wait till tomorrow?" McCray said.

"If I don't worry about the future," McCray quoted Allen as saying, "who will?"

Tribute Here Tuesday: The Touchdown Club of Washington will commemorate George Allen at noon Tuesday at 2000 L St. NW. The tribute is open to the public and will feature speakers familiar with Allen during his Redskins years, including players and coaches. For information call (202) 296-7200.