George Allen is a Hall of Famer known for a few things. Not only was he an excellent motivator, head coach, and defensive coordinator, but he also invented the special teams coaching position.
He was also known as the leader of the “Over The Hill Gang”, which was a ensemble of veterans put together on his Redskins teams in the early 1970’s. These were mostly players he had worked with while coaching with the Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams.
George Allen was not only the the head coach of the Washington Redskins then, he also happened to be the fifth general manager in franchise history. In his seven years at the helm, the Redskins did not experience a losing season under him, made the playoffs five times, and appeared in a Super Bowl.
Now his son Bruce Allen is the eighth general manager in Redskins history. He is being paired with new head coach Mike Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls as head coach with the Denver Broncos. Before Denver, he had been head coach of the Oakland Raiders for 20 games between 1988 and 1989. He won just eight games before being fired.
Six years later, the Raiders hired Bruce Allen. He worked his way up the organization, culminating in his being named the winner of the George Young Executive of the Year award in 2002, the year the team reached the Super Bowl. He joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2005, but did not enjoy the same level of successes as he tried to get the team younger by releasing established veterans.
Now, with the Redskins, it appears he is taking the opposite approach. An approach made famous by his father. He has signed or traded for 12 players who will be over 3o years old by the time opening kickoff approaches for the 2010 season. He signed two wide receivers recently, Joey Galloway and Bobby Wade, who will be 39 and 30 by the time the season concludes.
One of the criticisms Vinny Cerrato faced while calling the shots, before being replaced by Allen, was he wasn’t getting the team young enough. He had a propensity of signing veterans who were viewed to having seen the best playing days behind him.
Men like Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, and Jason Taylor are just a few veterans who came into Washington with graybeards and contributed next to nothing while wearing the burgundy and gold. This has helped the team swim in mediocrity for the most part since they last won the Super Bowl in 1992. Washington has made the playoffs just three times since then, and had just five winning seasons over that time.
The new duo of Allen and Shanahan are being counted on to reverse these lack of fortunes. Trading for quarterback Donovan McNabb, who enters his 12th season and will soon be 34 years old, was considered a great move to start things off.
McNabb, who has not been a Pro Bowler since 2004 and has played a full season just four times, will have his contract expire at the end of the season. This, combined with the impending players strike before next year, makes the move perhaps a tremendous gamble since the team is not really grooming a blue chip prospect at quarterback for the future.
Signing aged players like running backs Willie Parker and Larry Johnson, along with guys like Galloway, also symbolize gambles. None of these players have had a impactful season since 2007. It is viewed as highly unlikely that they ever will again. Allen is hoping they all find the fountain of youth, but history says that it will not happen.
Though the seemingly inauspicious start of Bruce Allen can be viewed as a mixed bag right now, time will have to play out before history can put a final stamp on his beginning. Using a large group of veterans to try to get this franchise back to winning football can be considered smart, as it is a time tested formula.
The difference between Bruce Allen and his dad was that George knew what his veterans would give him by having coached them. Bruce, however, had just a minuscule contingent of veterans he has worked with before. His knowledge of knowing what they will contribute comes via old game films and reputations from the past.
What he has built is a wobbly ship with a foundation to gamble on. A unit that may have nothing left to pull the team out of their much too long lived mediocrity. Lets just hope dad wont end up rolling in his grave, alongside the Redskins 2010 season, when all is said and done.