Does anyone else find it strange that not one but two Hall of Fame coaches had their NFL careers end in training camp? One was George Allen, who returned to the Rams in 1978 — after seven seasons with the Redskins — and was canned after just two preseason games, both losses. (The veterans balked at his strict regimen and were weirded out by some of his idiosyncrasies, such as the compulsive neatness that caused him to “be distracted . . . by the sight of crumpled paper cups strewn across the practice field.”)
Allen later coached in the USFL (Chicago Blitz, Arizona Wranglers) and at the college level (Long Beach State) but never got his hands on another NFL club. UPI summed up the Rams debacle nicely:
[Owner Carroll] Rosenbloom and Allen simply was not a match that was going to last. Rosenbloom has spent his entire NFL existence alienating himself from his coaches, and Allen has spent his alienating himself from his owners.
Then there’s Packers icon Curly Lambeau, who had moved to the Redskins in 1953 — only to be dumped in the ’54 preseason after a run-in with owner George Preston Marshall over team discipline. Accounts of the episode vary. According to the Associated Press’ version, two players had shown up in the hotel bar following a 30-7 loss to the 49ers in Sacramento, and Marshall was upset that Lambeau had merely “shooed them out” without fining them. (Drinking while in training was a big no-no with George.) A summit meeting was hastily convened in the lobby, and “the conversation soon degenerated into a rowdy near-fight” that cost Curly his job.
Lambeau went on to coach the College All-Stars in some of their annual games against the defending NFL champs, including a 30-27 win over the Browns the next summer, but he was through in the league he’d helped build since Year 2. What an exit.
Yup, training camps sure could be eventful back in the day. Now, of course, they’re usually so quiet you can hear a chinstrap drop.