- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 3, 2002

NEW ORLEANS George Allen's beverage of choice was milk. He was so obsessed with winning football games that he considered taking the time to swallow food a distraction.
So Allen undoubtedly didn't enjoy New Orleans, where football is a distraction from a "let the good times roll" lifestyle. But the late Washington Redskins coach probably would have made an exception yesterday for the city where he was finally elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his 24th year of eligibility.
Allen, who died at 72 on New Year's Eve 1990 while coaching at Long Beach State, finished with a winning record during each of his 12 seasons with the Los Angeles Rams (1966-1970) and Redskins (1971-1977). His .681 winning percentage is third among coaches who won at least 100 games.
Allen's teams made the playoffs five times, topped by the Redskins' first Super Bowl appearance in January 1973, when they lost to the unbeaten Miami Dolphins. Washington had missed out the postseason for 25 years before Allen's arrival.
Los Angeles had endured eight consecutive losing seasons when it hired Allen, a defensive genius who had masterminded the last of legendary coach George Halas' six NFL championships with the Chicago Bears in 1963.
"To my dad, George Halas meant just about everything, and now that he's going to be enshrined with him he would be very proud," said Oakland Raiders senior vice president Bruce Allen, who skipped a fundraiser for his brother, Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), to attend the Hall of Fame news conference while wearing his father's 1963 championship ring.
"People called my dad a boy scout, a straight arrow," Allen said. "He was a guy who loved football and wasn't afraid to express himself. His players and coaches became almost his second family. My sister [Jennifer] named her sons after [Rams stars] Deacon Jones and Roman Gabriel."
Allen also is generally credited with developing the nickel defense as Chicago's defensive coordinator and being the first coach to hire a special teams assistant.
"George was totally dedicated to the game," said Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy, Allen's first special teams coach with the Redskins. "His practice structure was different than anything I had seen. He was extremely organized. There was no wasted time. Everything took on meaning. George was unyielding in doing whatever it took to win."
Including, in the famous words of Redskins president Edward Bennett Williams, "taking an unlimited budget and exceeding it." Allen alienated many in the NFL by trying to trade draft picks he didn't have and paying good salaries to supposed malcontents and has-beens on his "Over the Hill Gang" in Washington.
Allen, twice fired after posting five straight non-losing seasons Tony Dungy is the only other coach to suffer that fate even once was dismissed by the Rams in his second tenure there in 1978 before preseason began and was never hired by another NFL team.
But Allen's legacy will be complete when he's inducted in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 3 along with Raiders tight end Dave Casper, Bears defensive tackle Dan Hampton, Buffalo quarterback Jim Kelly and Pittsburgh receiver John Stallworth.
Redskins receiver Art Monk was eliminated when the field of modern candidates was cut from 11 to six. Allen, the 15th Redskin elected, was the Seniors Committee nominee.
"The guy was an innovator," said former Redskins coach and defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon, a safety under Allen in Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington. "The nickel defense really made sense. We were having trouble in Chicago covering backs out of the backfield, so George started taking a linebacker out and putting an extra defensive back in on third downs. And George was one of the first guys to realize the importance of special teams. That gave us a tremendous advantage.
"The only knock on George is that he didn't win a championship, but he took two franchises that hadn't won in years and made them winners right away. And he made the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry what it is."
Allen was consumed by beating Dallas, which captured the NFC title the year before his arrival in Washington and won the Super Bowl the next season. The Redskins' 26-3 conquest of the Cowboys in the 1972 NFC Championship game was his signature victory. Allen once memorably injured his hand while attempting to karate chop a wooden board to show his players what he would do to Cowboys coach Tom Landry if given the chance. And when the Redskins signed Dallas Hickman, Allen wouldn't refer to the defensive end by his first name.
"To George, beating Dallas was a mission," said Houston general manager Charley Casserly, who began his NFL career as an intern for Allen in 1977.
As creative a strategist as Allen was, he was an even better motivator.
"[Allens motto] 'The Future Is Now' just wasn't a phrase," Bruce Allen said. "It meant if you worked hard and worked together, you could win today. He believed that with enthusiasm you could succeed at anything."


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