Bruce Allen was able to walk out on the field Thursday when Washington Redskins training camp opened in Richmond, look out on all he saw, and say to himself, "This is my kingdom." His father, George Allen, would be proud.
Bruce Allen has become the most powerful person owner Daniel Snyder has ever employed since he purchased the team in 1999. He arrived here in the final weeks of the 2009 debacle, the valet for soon-to-be-hired head coach and executive vice president Mike Shanahan, and now rules over everything Redskins.
It was Bruce Allen who made this Bon Secours Redskins training camp possible. He was the one with the political contacts who convinced former governor Bob McDonnell to get the state to spend $6 million on the new training complex. It is his version of Redskins Park — the original training facility his father got owner Edward Bennett Williams to build soon after being hired to run the Redskins following the 1970 season.
Bruce Allen has managed — or mismanaged, perhaps more accurately — the Redskins' strategy for fighting the movement to change the franchise name, and has been the front man for the team's public statements about the name.
He is very much involved in finding a new home for the Redskins to play. You remember that trip in 2011 that District Mayor Vincent Gray took to Tampa to look at the Buccaneers stadium and training complex? That was a Bruce Allen — the former general manager in Tampa — engineered trip.
Here is what he told reporters following completion of the team's first training camp in Richmond, when asked if the state of Virginia could someday be the home of a new Redskins stadium:
"This has always been Redskins nation," he said. "And the Redskin nation really runs through the Carolinas going back to when the Redskins were really the only southern team. We've been looking at different options with a stadium. Our lease isn't up until 2027. But as we notice with other NFL teams, it really is a 10-year process when you're going to build a new stadium these days. We have plenty of time to discuss that down the road. There's people — Prince George's County loves us. Obviously the District would like to have us. And we love our home in Ashburn too."
That was when Bruce Allen was equipment manager in charge of uniforms and chairman of the homecoming committee.
Now he rules over all — personnel, football, facilities, the works. While Mike Shanahan spent four years pushing everyone away, Bruce Allen spent that time cultivating relationships, rebuilding the connection between the franchise and its alumni, connecting in a way that Mike Shanahan could never understand.
Bruce Allen loves this franchise. He loves it like you do — perhaps more. He grew up on the sidelines with this team as his father ruled over all from 1971 to 1977, just like the son does today. Like you, the Redskins were part of his childhood memories — fond memories, during the time when those times are the ones you yearn for 40, 50 years later, when nothing seems as good as it once did.
Except, for Bruce Allen, it goes beyond that. He is the son following the father, finally, after stints in Oakland and Tampa, back home. And now he has the power — and Daniel Snyder's confidence — because Bruce Allen comes from Redskins royalty, and speaks the same language.
After all, if Vinny Cerrato could manage to survive as Snyder's confidant for nine seasons, imagine the influence Bruce Allen has with the owner.
When he was hired by Snyder, Allen spoke about "the history, the tradition, the comfort of coming home."
Mike Shanahan never spoke that language. Bruce Allen was supposed to be the gatekeeper between Snyder's office and the locker room, which freely swung open in the old days. But when Robert "SuperBob" Griffin III arrived, Allen either failed to do so or chose not to, perhaps, coming from a family steeped in politics — his brother, George, has served as both Virginia governor and a U.S. Senator for the state — watched the dysfunction evolve into an opportunity.
Mike Shanahan is gone. Bruce Allen is here. And, like his father was, he is large and in charge, baby.
• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com.
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