Bruce Allen? George Allen? Memories…

Washington Commanders

All I can say is wow. Cerrato. Gone. Poof. I sure didn’t see it coming. Of course, in hind sight… there have been a number of Daniel Snyder – Bruce Allen sightings… and I think that there have been a couple of quickly dismissed rumors… We all wished… but no one expected… for Cerrato to leave the scene.

So, there is delirium… rumors continue to swirl… it seems that most money is on Mike Shanahan to become the next HC… but, who would expect that to be announced before the end of the season?

Anyway, I’ve found the thought of Bruce Allen (whom everyone, by now, is aware is the son of Hall of Fame Redskins coaching legend George Allen) has provoked some very old memories…

really good, for the most part… but, some, bittersweet. One thing the George Allen era had plenty of was personalities. I’ve been surprised at the flood…

Sonny and Billy…

AKA “Hobble and Wobble”

Billy Kilmer glances at Sonny's ankle, as he comes in to replace him

Kilmer had come into the league in ’60, and was tearing up the league as a tailback… a very serious car accident and a very improbable recovery turned him into a quarterback… behind the legendary John Brodie.  In high school and college, he was one of those athletes who could do anything he wanted.  He was offered a contract to play for the Pirates out of high school (a .525 batting average will get those kind of offers).  He loved, and excelled, at basketball.  He didn’t think of himself as much of a football player. Kilmer was one very tough son of a gun… who threw the ugliest pass in NFL history… and, therefore, Wobble.

Billy liked to party.

Hobble was Sonny Jurgensen… Where Kilmer made his mark as a quarterback primarily through grit and determination, Sonny was easily the best pure passer in football. NFL Records fell to his arm. No one’s release was quicker, and no one could thread a needle better than Sonny. Why “Hobble”? Ever see Sonny run? (Of course, in 1971, Kilmer wasn’t much of a runner either… but that is part of the greatness of Billy, that I’ll try to write about some other time.)

Sonny liked to party.

While Coach Allen appreciated Jurgensen’s skills, Sonny’s style of play caused him some concerns. Sonny was not above taking major risks… and was known to improvise. While that could result in some VERY exciting plays, it did not exactly jive with Allen’s conservative, ball control philosophy… That’s where Billy came in. When Archie Manning was drafted by the Saints, Kilmer (then their QB) became expendable. He was George Allen’s first player acquisition.
When Billy came to Washington, he wasn’t immediately happy, and, in fact, asked Allen to trade him. He wanted to play for a team where he had a shot at starting… but, he sucked it up. He met Sonny, and immediately asked “Where can a guy get a beer around here?” Sonny just happened to know a place. A friendship was started.

Both could be seen all over town… anyone who lived in DC during the 71 and 72 seasons remembers the bumper stickers… “I follow the Redskins, and I like SONNY”… “I follow the Redskins, and I like BILLY” There are stories of them being in a car together, and pulling up next to a car with one sticker or the other, and feigning offense toward the driver… Apparently, they found it most amusing. While the “controversy” was hot, the two, despite their very different games and skills, were very much alike.

Personal experience… I can remember driving home from class at Washington Technical Institute (now the University of DC). I was going a bit out of my way to drop off a friend. Driving along Nebraska Avenue, NW, we came upon an accident at the intersection with Military Road… there, directing traffic (and getting a lot more attention than he wanted) was Sonny Jurgensen. He had stopped to help… but, I’m pretty sure that his presence was causing a worse problem…

During the 1972 season, Sonny snapped his achilles tendon… an injury that effectively ended his career… while he did play a couple of games after healing, he was never the same. Following Sonny’s injury, Billy’s guts and leadership led to Washington’s first trip to the SuperBowl. The Miami Dolphin’s year of destiny.

Unfortunately, Billy’s guts could not overcome the very skilled Miami defense. Would the outcome have been different were Sonny availible to play? Obviously, we’ll never know…

At least we got to see Garo Yaprenian demonstrate why he was a kicker…

The memories are flooding back… more later.

BTW, my bumper sticker said “I like Sonny”


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1 thought on “Bruce Allen? George Allen? Memories…

  1. As I remember, Don Shula shook hands with Sonny after SB 7, and added, “Sonny, I would have been a different game with you out there!”.

    As I also remember, Sonny was completing about 2/3 of his passes in ’72 when his achilles tendon snapped. He couldn’t fire the ball 90 yards anymore, but he was so quick and accurate that he just gobbled up any sort of “modern” zone defense. I think Sonny would have destroyed the Dolphins…I remember the two interceptions Billy threw in the endzone…after field-long drives. With Sonny, that’s two TDs.

    About two seasons later, when Sonny’s ankle was shaky, he beat the Dolphins with a last drive, passing on every play even though the champion Dolphins expected it. There was just no stopping Sonny to Charley, Roy, Jerry, and Larry (Brown).

    Corner blitz? Ha! Instant ten-yard completion to Taylor or Mitchell or Jefferson. The receiver simply knew that Sonny would hit them if their CB blitzed…and it was dangerous for a defense to leave Charley Taylor or Bobby Mitchell covered by a linebacker.

    Oh, and there was another game in Sonny’s last year when Sonny was sitting out with his bad ankle. The Giants had run up a 10 or 17 point lead, and then hurt Billy. The RFK crowd cheered (gulp…unfortunate reaction), but Billy limped off the field, Sonny hobbled on, and proceeded to slice the Giants into midgets. I think he completed 15 consecutive passes, got the lead, and watched as Mike Bass went high to intercept the Giants last hope pass.

    My Dad saw Sammy Baugh, but I have never seen a QB as good as Sonny Jurgensen. The classic play: Smith down and out, sidelines, 20 yards. Sonny has lumbered to the line of scrimage, pulled his belt over his pot belly, looked at nothing and seen then entire defense, and snapped a pass with a quicker release than any passer since. If you saw Sonny, you’d forget Marino or Favre, and no-one compared Namath to Sonny in their day. The saying was more like, ” reminds me a little of Sonny Jurgensen”.

    Of course, I always thought that Sonny scared Old George. Sonny ran the offense the way he wanted, and usually kept the defense off-balance.

    Meanwhile, Billy was good enough. Which Manning has a backup with the winning grit that Billy had? A send rounder would be a good deal for another Billy Kilmer.

    Good memories, Mike!

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