If Bruce Allen is to be trusted, and he isn’t, the Washington Redskins “are close” to becoming a contender. The unembarrassable huckster who serves as president of the Washington Redskins answered questions publicly for the first time in well more than a year, and it went about as you’d expect. According to Allen, sales are up, and morale is at an all-time high. Next, he’s going to tell you to buy a Veg-O-Matic or dial 1-800-Mattress.
It was pure pitchman spiel. Allen fancies himself the big closer, but in fact he is a decade-long loser with a 59-84-1 record who has presided over a decline in attendance so precipitous, it has alarmed the league office. All he has to sell is something old as something new. In answer to fans’ irate questions of what entitles him to keep his job under these circumstances, Allen just pattered and declared his “passion for the franchise.” Hey, you know what? I have a passion for cooking. Maybe I’ll take over a local restaurant, so I can give the entire community ptomaine poisoning.`
Unhappily for all, Allen remains more firmly in charge of the Redskins than ever, and he isn’t going anywhere, except maybe to the bottle-christening of owner Daniel Snyder’s new monster yacht. That means the Redskins aren’t “close,” not at all. Not really. They are stuck where they’ve always been with Allen: in mediocrity. Worse, you sense they seriously could deteriorate given the front office disorder he has created. The really good teams thrive on emotional truthfulness. Allen is nothing but an empty sloganeer and office politicker, and you can bet the professionals in the building hear his jargon for what it is.
At the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., on Tuesday, Allen grinned and chuckled, and uttered cliché after buzzword. But everyone in the organization has to wonder who will get it next. He’s like Stephen King’s clown Pennywise, holding out a string and saying, “You want a balloon?”
He professed a smiling confidence in vice president of player personnel Doug Williams, yet it was reasonable to hear a distinct note of setting him up as a fall guy, using him as a human shield. Williams and his staff “have to find some better players. We have to find some healthy, better players to come in,” Allen said. This is the man he left totally out of the decision to trade for quarterback Alex Smith, thus making Williams a bagholder for decisions he is not even empowered to make.
Allen was full of toothy optimism about Smith, though a day earlier Smith appeared at a Washington Wizards game wearing that medieval-looking brace and thick bandages on his badly broken leg. “He is moving around and well on his way to a recovery,” Allen said brightly. Asked if Smith is expected to undergo additional surgery, Allen looked the truth firmly in the eye and said, “I’m not a doctor. That’s one thing I will declare right here.”
He simpered with support for Coach Jay Gruden, even as he opened a trapdoor under him. Good young position coaches are fleeing the Redskins in droves, and no quality coordinators want to come near the place. But . . .
“We have given him the opportunity to build a staff and hopefully have a healthy team for 2019,” Allen said.
Whatever happens next season, it won’t be on Allen; it will be on someone else. After a solid nine years of failure and two straight 7-9 seasons, they’ve never been closer to a breakthrough, he’s got them right on the verge.
“We’re in the middle of the pack,” Allen said. “It means you’re close. It means you’re close to being better.”
As for the tanking ticket sales, the toxic dump of consumer rage and disenchantment at FedEx Field, according to Allen, it’s all a lovefest. He seemed to suggest that empty seats only were an issue in the final game, when the injuries piled up and they finished last in the division, and the Eagles beat them to make the playoffs.
“Our fans are passionate,” he said. “When we went deep into our depth chart, I’ll say it that way, they didn’t want to be there for the Eagle victory, maybe . . . I think you’re going to see a great change in 2019.”
In fact, they couldn’t sell out this past home opener.
As for those livid fans with their hashtag #firebruceallen campaigns, according to him, they were just showing their dedication: “The passion of our fans is fantastic. They want us to win. We hear from them. I know exactly what they want. . . . I share their passion for this franchise and for the things we can accomplish. And we’re going to get this whole organization believing in it.”
The problem, see, is just a lack of belief. If only everybody in the Redskins building would take an Amway training seminar.
What Allen either will not acknowledge, or is too self-regarding and oblivious to realize, is that the hostility to him is not really so much about losing. It’s about how he takes people for such saps. The Redskins have had low cycles and even bad decades before, without alienating their season ticket base and incurring such anger. The current regime’s fakery and the cheap flimflam — the notion that people will buy anything — is what’s so riling. Because what lies underneath it all, at the bottom of Allen’s jabber, is contempt for the customer.