So now that Bill Belichick has gone part Bill Nye the science guy and part Roger Ebert with a “My Cousin Vinny” reference as he defended his team in Deflategate, it’s time to look back on a coach who really did cheat – and got away with it.
His name was George Allen, father of current Redskins president Bruce Allen and coach of the Skins from 1971 to 1977. As a matter of fact, George once denied knowing Bruce when a referee wanted to give the Redskins a 15-yard penalty because Bruce was on a spot on the field he shouldn’t have been. But that was only lying, not cheating.
The cheating was so blatant, 40 years later, the most amazing thing is how George Allen got away with it, not to mention the chutzpah to even try it. Author Jonathan Rand laid out the story quite well in his book, “300 Pounds of Attitude”, a collection of behind-the-scenes stories of the NFL. Rand writes:
“In his first six months with the Redskins, Allen acquired 15 players and four draft picks. He made 19 trades before his first season, and 81 during his seven years in D.C.
Before his first season, Allen twice traded his second, third and fourth round picks for 1973. He used his legitimate second rounder to compensate the Jets for the signing of free agent Verlon Biggs. He then traded that same pick again to the Rams for Richie Petitbon. The two other picks went to Buffalo for Ron McDole. And he used those picks again to get Speedy Duncan from San Diego.
The Redskins made the playoffs before Allen was caught double dipping. Caught red handed like George Costanza, Allen tried ignorance as an excuse (I threw in the Seinfeld reference). Said the coach without the slightest bit of regret, “There was no intent to deceive. It was just a matter of a million and one things to do with a team we had just taken over and trying to do them all at the same time.”
Commissioner Pete Rozelle didn’t buy that explanation. He said Allen had traded draft choices twice when he coached the Rams, but wasn’t penalized because his trading partners would always agree to quick settlements. Rozelle fined the Redskins $5,000 dollars, made Allen compensate the Bills and Chargers with legit draft picks and dressed down Allen at an owners meeting in New York.”
Even then, five grand wasn’t going to break the Redskins bank. And what the heck, Allen never gave a damn about draft picks anyway. Biggs, Petitbon, McDole and Duncan were all big contributors to the Redskins Wild Card spot in ’71 – their first trip to the playoffs in a quarter of a century. I’d call it a win, win for King George.
Espionage was another favorite tactic for Allen. Besides bringing a bunch of his Rams players with him soon after arriving in Washington (they called them the “Ramskins”), Allen brought his own security guy from the west coast. Ed Boynton was his name. They called him “Double O”, a reference to James Bond. Boynton’s job was to circle the practice field both at training camp and at Redskins Park to make sure nobody was spying on the team. Though he was in his 70’s, “Double O” made his rounds on a bicycle.
But while Allen may have been paranoid of being spied on, he didn’t mind doing some spying of his own. And he got caught, too. Before the Cowboys moved into their current training facility that they call Valley Ranch, the team trained at a spot on the north side of Dallas. A high-rise hotel faced out on to the practice field. As I was told when I worked in Dallas in the early 80’s, one year, the week before playing Dallas, Allen had one of his scouts check into a room that had a view of the practice field. Furious Cowboys coach Tom Landry got wind of it and tried to get Rozelle to do something about it. Apparently there were no rules in place forbidding scouts from certain rooms in certain hotels. For the rest of the time Allen coached in Washington, every time the teams played, the Cowboys would buy out all the rooms that faced the field.
Allen’s been dead for nearly 25 years. Somewhere he must be laughing about all this fuss over deflated footballs. He must think it’s so minor league.