The NFL's Forgotten Stories, Pt. 3: George Allen

Thaddeus YeiserCorrespondent IApril 15, 2009

Pop Quiz:


Which NFL Head Coach had the third-highest career winning percentage ever?


The following answers might come up: Chuck Noll? No. Don Shula? No. George Siefert? Close. Everyone knows John Madden ranks No. 1, but it comes as a surprise that the  third-highest winning percentage by an NFL coach belongs to a man named George Allen.


That’s right, George Allen.


He is a long-forgotten NFL coach. He not only had an incredible winning percentage, but  in twelve seasons as a head coach, he never once had a losing season. On top of that he led his teams to a total of seven playoff appearances. Those stats are all good and well, but stats don’t tell a story, so here we go.


In 1966, George Allen took over as the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, who were in the midst of some hard times. In fact, they had gone eleven straight years without reaching the postseason.


Allen would be the savior to lead them out of the darkness. After a stunning 1967 season in which they won their division and reached the playoff, he was almost unanimously named Coach of the Year.


In his four years with the Rams, he was able to lead them to two playoff appearances, but they never got out of the first round. A dispute between Allen and the ownership led to his firing following the 1969 season.


That’s when he received a call from the Washington Redskins offering him the head coaching job. He immediately took it and got to work.


Once again, Allen was faced with a daunting task. He took over an abysmal team. Washington had not been to the playoffs since 1945, but like he did with the Rams, he was able to turn the Redskins around, and in 1971 was named Coach of the Year for a second time after leading the Redskins to the playoffs.


However, his team again fell in the first round. At that point he was 0-3 in playoffs, but all that would change the next year, in 1972.


During that season, he led the Redskins to a division title with a record of 11-3 and then went on to beat the Packers 16-3 in the divisional round before blowing out their rivals, the Dallas Cowboys 28-3 in the Conference Championship. It should also be noted that the Cowboys were the defending World Champions, and this would’ve been considered a big upset.


After the magical '72 season, Allen would continue to try to get the Redskins back to the Super Bowl, but never could. Under his leadership, they would go to the playoffs three more times. They were eliminated in the first round every time.


He was let go after the 1977 season and would never coach again. In his twelve seasons, he compiled 118 wins, compared to only 54 losses. He led his teams to the playoffs seven times, and never had a losing season.


In fact, he never even went .500. That alone is incredible. His résumé becomes even more impressive if you account for the fact that he had this kind of winning with teams that were awful before his arrival; consider the fact that the Rams and Redskins were both awful for decades before he showed up.  Imagine if he were to have inherited a group of veteran winners: who knows how much more he could have accomplished?


Allen's critics cite his poor playoff record as the reason he does not receive as much recognition. In seven appearances, he managed only two playoff wins, and compiled an overall 2-7 record. Although it is unremarkable, he did still manage to reach a Super Bowl, and is one of only two Redskins coaches to reach that plateau.

To add to that, you should consider that in the entire Super Bowl era of the NFL, only three coaches have even taken the ‘Skins to the playoffs.

Now it would be foolish to think that he is anywhere near as great a coach as Joe Gibbs. It’s no contest, but I still feel that he is worth remembering. Just consider the fact that he made several impacts on the NFL that are still around today.


For example, he helped to popularize the 16-hour work day that many head coaches still are known for utilizing. He was also known for being very fit and ran several miles every day. He would eventually be appointed, by Ronald Reagan, on the President’s council as the Physical Fitness and Sports.

So why would he not be remembered? Some reasons could be that he only made a deep playoff run once or that he coached in the same era with men like Lombardi, Noll, Shula, etc. You could also say that the incredible success that Joe Gibbs had after Allen’s tenure had a lot to do with it, and it certainly did. In a way, this reminds me of the Bledsoe/Brady scenario, and provides a lesson that we, as NFL fans can again try to learn.

Always cherish the great ones who took you to the Promised Land, but never, ever forget the ones who brought you out of Egypt.

—Quote me on that.