Imagine if your favorite team went a decade without drafting a player in the first round.

Your team wasn't making canny draft-day trades every year, perhaps dealing next year's first rounder for a sleeper at the top of the second. Those first round picks were shipped away years in advance. Most of the second rounders were gone too; in a typical season, your favorite team might not draft before the fifth round. And what did they acquire in exchange for that bounty of top picks? Defenders in their 30s, notorious troublemakers, damaged-goods prospects, and not one but two scrambling collegiate superstar quarterbacks with sky-high contract demands who would start their NFL careers at other positions.

If all of these things happened today, you might give up football in disgust. You would certainly expect your team to wind up in the cellar due to age, expense and a lack of front-line talent.

But this really happened. The Redskins went from 1969 to 1979 without a first-round pick, and with very few top picks at all. They did not collapse. Instead, they reached the Super Bowl, hovered in the playoff picture for many years, and then set the stage for a decade of dominance. It was all made possible by a unique era in NFL history and an even more unique football visionary named George Allen.

This is the story of a decade without a first-round pick, a coach who followed his own rules, and the players who became Redskins during an era when draft day was practically a vacation day.

"The Great One"

The Redskins traded their first top pick of the era before George Allen even arrived, but Allen did eventually benefit from the trade.

Gary Beban's nickname was The Great One. He was UCLA's Heisman Trophy- and Rose Bowl-winning consensus All-America quarterback during a Bruins sports golden age: Lew Alcindor and John Wooden were holding court at the same time. Professional teams were wise to the fact that Beban's arm did not match his press clippings, so the Los Angeles Rams waited until the second round to draft The Great One. But Beban and the Rams could not agree to contract terms that spring.

During a three-day flurry in mid-June of 1968, Beban got married, got traded and flew to Atlanta for the Coaches' All-American game; yes, Senior Bowl-type events were held after the draft in 1968. Beban was so famous that his marriage to Kathy Hanson received RG3-marriage level publicity. The trade, approved by Redskins co-owners Ed Williams and Jack Kent Cooke, cost the Redskins their first-round pick in 1969 and a three-year, $350,000 contract.

The Coaches' All-American Game practice week was a disaster for Beban, as Sports Illustrated reported. "The first pass he threw wobbled like a Wiffle Ball in a fraternity pick-up game," wrote Gary Ronberg. "By the end of the week it was headlined that Heisman Winner Beban hadn't thrown two spirals. 'Look,' he said, 'they all count the same. I threw a lot of wobblers for touchdowns at UCLA and they all counted six points.'"

Beban came back for a solid showing in the game itself, but the Redskins soon discovered that they had acquired a wobble-armed scrambler who could barely crack the third string behind Sonny Jurgensen and Jim Ninowski. They probably should have realized they were being bluffed when Allen, then the coach of the Rams, asked for a first-round pick in exchange for a player selected in the second round just weeks earlier (or, as we will soon see, that Allen suddenly had interest in a first-round pick at all). "Poor Gary," Williams said in The Redskins Book. "He just couldn't cut it. I don't know why. George doesn't talk about it. He probably doesn't want to embarrass me."

The Redskins slid Beban to running back and defensive back before quietly giving up. Instead of dwelling upon their mistake, Williams and Cooke decided to hire the guy who caused them to make it, bringing Allen to Washington in 1971. But first, they had one more first-round pick to trade away.

The Door Man

Walt Rock played five seasons on the 49ers offensive line, reaching the Pro Bowl once, before the glamorous garage door industry nearly lured him away from the NFL. Rock took over his father-in-law's garage door business in Maryland following the 1967 season, and apparently installing automatic doors around the Chesapeake Bay paid more back then than starting on an NFL line. Rock asked the 49ers to trade him to the Colts or Redskins, but offers were not encouraging. "I read that [Redskins coach] Otto Graham... says he wants me but the 49ers want too much for me." Rock added that the Redskins were "offering only garbage." With his door of opportunity slowly lowering, Rock considered retirement.

Williams was assuming power from Graham at that point, and the Redskins eventually upped their offer from "garbage" to a 1970 first-round pick, their 1969 first-rounder already traded a few months earlier for Beban. In Rock, the Redskins got a solid tackle for six seasons. Rock later played in Super Bowl VII for the Redskins. His NFL career lasted until 1973, when injuries and a disastrous defection to the WFL forced him out of the lineup and charter Hog George Starke in.

But Rock could do little for Graham's 1968 Redskins. The team finished 5-9, and Williams (who made most decisions for Cooke at the time) fired Graham in favor of Vince Lombardi. Lombardi was ill and succumbed to cancer after just one season. An assistant named Bill Austin trudged through the 1970 season as the Redskins head coach. In need of better organizational vision, Williams hired Allen, the Rams coach-personnel man who snookered him in the Beban trade, and gave him considerable roster control.

allen_george
George Allen had a reputation for preferring experienced players over younger ones, especially rookies. (Getty Images)

The Ramskins

Allen was outspoken and unapologetic about his preference for veterans over rookies, both with the Rams (where he earned a reputation as a whirlwind wheeler-dealer) and the Redskins (where he got a little carried away).

Allen's win-now, grab-a-30-year-old philosophies look to modern eyes like the early 70s version of Dan Snyder at his absolute worst. There was actually sound reasoning behind Allen's older-is-better rationale. The AFL had just turned the draft process into a decade-long scavenger hunt/sheriff's auction. Scouting was less scientific then than now, and the gap between college and professional styles (and quality of play) had been widening for years by the early 1970s. And as Rock illustrated in the last segment, a good contracting job could still be more lucrative or enticing than a football career, though that was rapidly changing. Allen felt he was better served by committed veterans who had proven their NFL worth than Beban types whose expectations were high and bona-fides were low. In the merger era, he had a point.

Plus, Allen at his best had a gift for fine print. When he traded the Redskins' first-round pick and a rucksack full of lower picks to the Rams for several of his veteran defenders in 1971, Jack Pardee, Maxie Baughan and Myron Pottios were the names that made headlines. But the key to the trade for Allen was Diron Talbert, a 26-year old defensive end who had worked his way onto the fearsome Rams front four.

Baughan was already planning his retirement when Allen made the trade, and both Pardee and Pottios were on the downsides of their careers (though both had a solid year left in them). But Talbert played for another decade and became a notorious thorn in the side of the Dallas Cowboys, famously threatening to knock Roger Staubach out of games. The Redskins also acquired starting guard John Wilbur in the deal; Wilbur had three seasons left in him. As we will see in future trades, Allen liked most of his veterans in their mid-20s, in much the same way modern successful general managers try to target free agents just entering their primes.

Late in the summer of 1971, Allen raided the Rams for another of his old defenders, trading a 1973 second-round pick for safety Richie Petitbon. Allen then learned that he had already traded his 1973 second-round pick, so the NFL fined him $5,000 and the Redskins adjusted their offer to a 1974 first-round pick. Like Pardee and some other "Ramskins," Petitbon only had one productive year left, but he cost the team a prospect three years in the future.

How did Allen lose track of his draft picks? Why was he trading assets from three-years down the road for aging safeties? It was that kind of offseason. The Over-the-Hill gang still had a lot of hill to climb before it even took the field. Read on.

The Stealth Jet

In between trades, Allen found time to exchange first-round picks for veterans from some other teams. As mentioned above, it all happened so frenetically that even Allen lost track of what picks his Redskins still possessed in what years. Can you imagine a modern general manager saying, "Oh snap, we don't even have that pick anymore! Our bad!" That's how it went in 1971.

Allen was always willing to pursue players who might not be available in the traditional sense. Allen traded some lower picks to acquire pass rusher Jimmie Jones from the Jets in 1971. Jones brought a little pass rush ability and a lot of information with him: Defensive end Verlon Biggs, a hero of the 1968 AFL Championship game and starter in Super Bowl III, was unhappy in New York and in the process of playing out the option period of his contract.

There was no free agency as such in 1971. Players finished all the options on their contract, then waited for their team to either release them or offer a new contract. Biggs was disenchanted with the Jets for a variety of reasons, including his feeling that his contributions to their championship run were overshadowed by Joe Namath and company. So he did not sign his contract after the 1970 season. Jones knew this, but the media and fans did not. In fact, as Marv Levy explained in his book (Levy was an Allen assistant then), the Jets led the rest of the football world to believe that Biggs was under contract. The team even announced that Biggs was under Jets contract, according to AP reports from that summer.

Thanks to Jones, Allen knew better, and he aggressively pursued Biggs. Since teams held all rights in perpetuity to players back then, and the Rozelle Rule gave the league the right to impose compensation if a team signed a rival's free agent (more on that later), Allen decided to trade for the rights to a player the Jets had no contract with but were pretending they did. So the Jets got a 1972 first-round pick and 1973 second-rounder in exchange for the services of a player whose contract status they had blithely misrepresented. Fun times.

Biggs, a 275-pound behemoth for the era, joined Talbert and fellow trade acquisition Ron McDole on a completely rebuilt defensive line that vaulted the Redskins to the Super Bowl in 1972. Only McDole was over 30; the others (including Manny Sistrunk, the fourth starter) were all young veterans. The Over the Hill Gang was not quite as over-the-hill as advertised in the trenches.

Biggs was not the last defensive lineman Allen acquired by testing the edges of the old free agent systems. He was also not the last veteran exchanged for a first-round pick in 1971.

The Renegotiator

Levy jokes in his book that Allen would spend Redskins staff meetings in the spring of 1971 clamoring that the team needed one more veteran player. As soon as the Redskins traded for that player, Allen would arrive at the next staff meeting clamoring that the Redskins still needed one more veteran player.

Roy Jefferson was like Biggs in many ways. He had recently come off a Super Bowl season with the Colts (Super Bowl V), but he was angry with ownership. Jefferson had been a star for the Steelers for several years, but Pittsburgh traded him to Baltimore for Willie Richardson (a good-but-inferior receiver) and a draft pick because the Steelers were still a horrible organization at that point. Jefferson signed a three-year contract with the Colts, but told Carroll Rosenbloom that he wanted an opportunity to renegotiate if he played well in his first year. According to Jefferson, Rosenbloom said yes, and Jefferson inexplicably believed him.

The Colts won Super Bowl V, Jefferson caught 44 passes and seven touchdowns (competitive numbers back then), and Colts coaches praised his efforts in the passing game. But as you might expect, Rosenbloom was not forthcoming with a new contract. In an era when owners could just make believe they had contracts with unsigned players, no one was renegotiating anything. Jefferson demanded a trade and held out.

Allen looked deep into his day planner, realized he still had a 1973 first-round pick that he had not dealt, and packaged it with sundries to pry Jefferson away from the Colts. "I was elated!" Jefferson said in "Then Gibbs Said to Riggins:" The Best Washington Redskins Stories Ever Told. "Allen never told me what my role would be. He just mentioned the fact that he enjoyed having veteran receivers."

Allen likes veterans: got it! But Jefferson was just 28 years old. He made the perfect complement to Charley Taylor for the Redskins Super Bowl team and stayed in Washington until 1976.  

The Enigma

By the start of the 1971 season, Allen had traded away all of the Redskins' first-round picks through 1974. His deals paid off in a 1972 Super Bowl run. So there was no way he would wait until 1975 to indulge his habit of trading future considerations for disgruntled or undervalued veterans.

Now, Duane Thomas, a running back for four seasons with three teams, is a challenging character. Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman wrote a whole book centered upon Thomas, yet it is still hard to pin down exactly what was going on during those 1970-71 seasons. There were actual rumors that he was conspiring with members of extremist movements to kidnap Tex Schramm, for heaven's sake.

Redskins first round picks,
1969-1979
Year Traded to
1969 Rams, 1968
1970 49ers, 1968
1971 Rams, 1971
1972 Jets, 1971
1973 Colts, 1971
1974 Rams, 1971
1975 Chargers, 1973
1976 Dolphins, 1974
1977 Cardinals, 1975
1978 Cardinals, 1975
1979 Bengals, 1978

Those rumors were not true, and charges of drug abuse from the era were trumped up. But what we do know, and have space for here, is that: a) Thomas was amazing in two seasons with the Cowboys, one of which culminated in Super Bowl V; b) Thomas was an iconoclastic personality in that turbulent era who sure as heck did not fit in with the Schram-Landry power structure; c) Thomas divorced young and got bilked by an agent, forcing him to go scraping to the Cowboys for a contract re-draw, which worked as well for him as it did for Jefferson and every other player who tried it and left him even bitterer than he started; d) Landry singled out Thomas for fumbling during Super Bowl V, even though the entire Cowboys team played terribly; and e) Thomas hated speaking to reporters and would veer between long periods of silence and nasty tirades.

The Cowboys finally traded Thomas to the Chargers, but Thomas refused to report and sat out the entire 1972 season. Everyone else saw a troublemaker (with at least some justification), but Allen saw his favorite catnip: a former playoff star feeling underpaid and underappreciated. In July of 1973, he sent his 1975 first-round pick and 1976 second-rounder to the Chargers for Thomas.

Allen then shielded Thomas from reporters, allowing the former star to skip press conferences and keeping the locker room buttoned-down. Thomas had a great training camp, but the cracks started to show during a preseason tune-up on the road against the Bills. Thomas played well in the exhibition rout, but the Bills played terribly, and Bills fans were notorious rowdies back then. They began to heckle Thomas, and Thomas responded by charging toward the seats. "He got one leg over a six-foot-high concrete wall," teammate Ron McDole told SI, "but we got him down."

Thomas had not changed much: he barely talked to teammates and still argued with coaches. While his Cowboys talent was undeniable, it was hard to see what Allen saw in Thomas that was worth two high draft picks. Thomas was the exact same age as incumbent Larry Brown, who was just as gifted (being named the NFL's MVP in 1972) and a solid citizen -- though embroiled in a holdout at the time of the trade -- so Thomas was a poor fit as a running back of the future. Brown kept Thomas on the bench in 1973, they split time in 1974, and Allen tired of Thomas when the running back argued with an assistant. Allen released Thomas before the Chargers had a chance to spend those draft picks. Thomas spent a season in the WFL and a lifetime since trying to explain what happened in the early 70s and what lessons he learned from it.

The Border Crosser

The football landscape of the early 1970s might look a little like the surface of Venus to readers who are under 40 and/or do not search sports archives for fun and profit. Since you have gotten this far, a brief primer:

  • The AFL's success had raised both salaries and revenues but caused much organizational and competitive upheaval. Not every team was on equal footing when it came to finances or managerial talent.

  • The World League appeared in 1974 with a business model that would make the later USFL look like a best practices seminar. The WFL threw a lot of money at a lot of veterans, and since the AFL had just merged into the NFL, there was no initial reason to believe that another upstart league would automatically fail, so many veterans took the bait.

  • The Canadian Football League was still a viable alternative to the NFL, with its own history and established media markets, plus salaries in the same broad pay range. A decade later, cable and satellite television made it easier for Canadian fans to follow NFL teams, and ever-increasing television contracts would widen the salary disparity to the point where the CFL was a quirky minor league in the hinterlands. But CFL teams could still sometimes outbid NFL teams for talent in the early 1970s. (They have still done so on rare occasions since, like in 1991, when Bruce McNall splurged for Rocket Ismail) The decision to play for the CFL was not met with immediate snickers back then.

  • Vietnam, Watergate, cultural upheaval, etc.

We have seen all of these factors in play at various times on this list. Allen's veteran policy was shaped by the AFL, as was the sense from players like Biggs and Jefferson that they deserved some negotiating leverage and mobility. The WFL and CFL provided some meager negotiating chips for players and a set of worries for owners. The tumultuous times directly shaped Duane Thomas and indirectly shaped every player willing to challenge the authority structure. There are still other background factors; the unimpressive Colts and Cowboys teams of Super Bowl V and the Over the Hill Gang were products of the sudden smashing together of NFL and AFL teams that often had massive financial and managerial disparities.

The Dolphins powerhouse of the early 70s was also a byproduct of that strange era. If you want to go undefeated, it helps to share a division with the near-bankrupt Bills and Patriots and a Colts team built for a last 1970 hurrah. Miami drafted Joe Theismann in the fourth round of the 1971 draft that saw Jim Plunkett, Archie Manning and Dan Pastorini taken first, second and third overall. Theismann was a Heisman Trophy runner-up from Notre Dame, but he was a scrambler entering a league full of pocket passers trying to survive against increasingly brutal defenses. Theismann was an NFL square peg, but he was also drafted by the Minnesota Twins as a shortstop, giving him a little bit of negotiating leverage.

Theismann nearly struck a three-year deal with the Dolphins worth much more than the typical fourth-round pick earned, but he wanted an up-front signing bonus, while Joe Robbie offered only a deferred, conditional bonus. Theismann was worried about a very different draft: if he missed time because of military service, he would be forced to return his Dolphins bonus money. So Theismann went to Canada instead.

The Toronto Argonauts paid handsomely for a well-known Heisman runner up who fit the league's wide-open style perfectly, and Theismann played three productive seasons north of the border. Meanwhile, George Allen made it all the way to January of 1974 without trading away his 1976 draft pick. With Bob Griese leading the Dolphins to Super Bowls in his late 20s, the Dolphins had no need for a quarterback of the future who seemed happy and well paid in Ontario. But Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer were 39 and 34, so the Redskins needed a young quarterback, at least theoretically. The Dolphins got a future first-round pick from the Redskins for a player the team had all but forgotten about.

Of course, Allen did not like rookies (which is what Theismann was, despite the CFL service), so Theismann was shuttled off to punt return duties. Jurgensen and Kilmer also conspired to be as unhelpful as possible to the cocky kid with Notre Dame fame and a savings account flush with loonies. Allen would be gone by the time Theismann became a starter, and the whole command structure would change before Theismann became truly great. Who would have thought that trading first round picks for veterans would actually pay far-flung future dividends? With Allen, anything was possible.

butz_dave
Acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals, Dave Butz would play 14 years in Washington, finishing his run in Super Bowl XXII. (Getty)

The Not-So-Free Agents

Baseball players finally earned the right to true free agency in 1975. NFL players still have not quite earned that right (see Franchise Tag, Transition Tag, etc.), but they did acquire something close to true free agency in 1993, nearly 20 years after courts struck down baseball's reserve clause. Why the two-decade disparity?

That's another story for a much longer essay, but here are the basics. 1) The NFL's answer to baseball's "reserve clause" was the Rozelle Rule, which allowed Pete Rozelle to grab assets from any team that signed a free agent and award them to the team that lost a free agent. 2) Courts struck down the Rozelle Rule not long after making mincemeat of the reserve clause. 3) After a brief flurry of transactions, most of which involved players returning from the smoldering WFL, the NFL went a'bargaining with the NFL Players Association, which was also smoldering after a halfhearted 1974 preseason strike. 4) The NFLPA was not exactly loaded with firebrands (a high percentage of players were not even members), so they agreed to a compensation system which was even more restrictive than the thought of Rozelle reaching down like a hand from heaven and taking away your draft picks.

Hundreds of players became free agents between 1977 and 1982, but none of them changed teams without getting a full and public release from their old clubs. Walter Payton hit the open market at one point and received zero offers.

The Rozelle Rule was still in place when Allen pried Jefferson away from the Jets and solved the Chargers' Duane Thomas problem. Had he signed those players outright, Rozelle would have taken something away from the Redskins, though it is arguable that Allen gave away more than he would have been forced to. In 1976, during that brief window of true free agency, Allen signed John Riggins away from the Jets without bundling a bunch of draft picks. In 1975, the Rozelle Rule was in legal limbo, and Allen could have attempted to challenge the rule as it was getting run through a legal wringer or simply waited before rushing to market with first-round picks flying from his pockets.

But that was not Allen's style.

Dave Butz was a 290-pound monster selected fifth overall by the Cardinals in the 1973 draft. Butz played well as a rookie but suffered a serious knee injury early in his second season. His contract expired, and the Cardinals tried to lowball him. Butz negotiated with the Raiders and Redskins, but Allen made the best offer, and they no doubt made a better offer to the Cardinals as well: first-round picks in the 1977 and 1978 drafts (still several years away, or course), plus a 1979 second rounder, for Butz and some paperwork picks. The deal was finalized days before the 1975 season, and Butz was in uniform (though mostly coming off the bench) for all 14 games.

Now, both the Rozelle Rule and 1977 compensation schedule were pretty regressive and extreme. But neither of them suggested that the proper compensation for a damaged-goods third-year defensive lineman involved three high draft picks. As fate would have it, Allen left the Redskins after the 1977 season and never had personnel control over an NFL team again, meaning that he had no real time to kick the tires on the 1977 CBA and its picks-for-free-agents system. Had Allen remained a general manager, it seems almost certain that he would have signed some free agents, perhaps dealing draft picks that extended through 2012.

Also, Allen was not the only exec in the NFL who treated draft picks like arcade tokens, so as severe as the CBA compensation rules were from 1977 to 1982, they were not out of character for what some teams would routinely trade for coveted veterans. The Eagles traded two first-round picks and a second-rounder for linebacker Bill Bergey, not yet a Pro Bowler, in 1974. The Packers traded two first-round picks, two second-round picks and a third-round pick for 34-year old John Hadl in 1974: the famous Lawrence Welk Trade (if you are under 40... don't ask). Teams did not avoid free agents in the late 1970s because the compensation price was crazy. They avoided free agents because they hated free agency. The NFLPA also did not completely give up the ship in negotiations: they just gave the owners a more convenient excuse for what they planned to do anyway.

The Butz trade was highly criticized at the time, not so much because the compensation was so extreme but because Butz was injured and untested, unlike a healthy veteran of Bergey's stature. Of course, he played for the Redskins for more than a decade and contributed to two Super Bowl champions -- after the coach who traded for him was long gone.

The New Wave

The Redskins fired Allen after the 1977 season. Despite all of the draft picks Allen traded away -- we have not even mentioned many of the second-through-fifth round picks dropped into deals like ketchup packets into a Happy Meal box during the 70s -- the Redskins finished over .500 in all of his seasons. It was a particularly remarkable achievement when you realize that some of the biggest names from those early trades, like Pardee and Petitbon, were long gone by 1977, while the fruits of recent deals like Theismann and Butz had not yet blossomed.

Technically, Pardee was not totally gone; he replaced Allen as head coach. Jack Kent Cooke took a more active role with the team, and Ed Williams was still around, but the team hired Bobby Beathard, a scouting guru from the Dolphins, to handle the nuts-and-bolts personnel decisions.

Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, another NFL legend was wearing out his welcome. Paul Browns's 1940s coaching style was not going over well with 1970s players. "Paul never showed any affection for the guys," said Lemar Parrish, star cornerback for a playoff-caliber Bengals team. "I don't care how good you are or how good you play, a guy likes to hear something from the coach." Brown was also not the NFL's freest spender. "If they can't meet my salary standards, I got to move." Parrish said at the time. "I can't spend glory."

Brown was the anti-Allen in many ways. His Bengals acquired rafts of draft picks from the Eagles for Bergey and were as known for grabbing an extra pick as Allen was for dropping them on the supermarket floor. The Bengals had a disgruntled cornerback and a defensive end named Coy Bacon that they felt they could replace on the cheap with recent draft choice Ross Browner. Beathard had a 1979 draft pick that Allen had never gotten the chance to trade. In June of 1978, the Bengals gave the Redskins Bacon and Parrish for the 1979 selection.

This was obviously not your Allen-era trade. Instead of tossing extra picks on the table to dislodge a disgruntled veteran, Beathard forced the other team to add value. It was a phenomenal trade for the Redskins and a disaster for the Bengals. Parrish, a near Hall of Famer who should get onto the Veterans Committee agenda soon, had two All-Pro seasons left in him and anchored the Redskins secondary as it transitioned toward the Super Bowl era. Bacon still had three more productive years as a starter for good teams. As for the Bengals, they selected Jack "The Throwin' Samoan" Thompson with their own pick and running back Charles Alexander with the Redskins' pick. Thompson was a disaster. Alexander, one of the best collegiate running backs of the 1970s, was strictly an NFL role player.

Beathard's approach to the draft was much different than Allen's. Both were willing to trade first-round picks for value, but Beathard used the middle and later rounds to create a developmental pipeline from smaller colleges to the Redskins bench. The only missing ingredient in the Redskins' rise to a decade of prominence was a similarly detail-oriented coach. A Chargers assistant named Joe Gibbs was on his way. But first, the Redskins were going to ring in the new decade by actually drafting a few first round picks.

The Aftermath

The Redskins drafted Art Monk 18th overall in the 1980 draft. He was their first first-round pick since Jim Smith in 1968. He started for three Super Bowl winners and reached the Hall of Fame.

The Redskins drafted Mark May in the first round of the 1981 draft. May started at guard for two Super Bowl winners and another NFC champion. The Redskins drafted Russ Grimm in the third round in 1981 -- the team did not select before the fourth round at all during Allen's tenure. Grimm made the Hall of Fame playing for the same teams May and Monk played for. Grimm and May were charter members of The Hogs, history's most famous offensive line.

After taking a year off from selecting first rounders, the Redskins drafted Darrell Green. You know the deal with Darrell Green.

The Redskins then returned to their habit of trading first rounders, this time with the Beathard-Gibbs spin. The powerhouse team was selecting late in the first round, anyway. Beathard and Gibbs worked their late round developmental magic with players like Rich Milot, Charlie Brown, Clint Didier, Monte Coleman and other sleepers from schools like Portland and Central Arkansas. They took a page from the Allen playbook by trading for troubled and disgruntled players like George Rogers. They made draft-day deals to get second rounders they coveted (most of which were regrettable). And they benefited from Allen's daring decisions to acquire Theismann and Butz.

Looking back on the period now, it seems impossible that Gibbs and Beathard had the raw materials available in 1982 to build anything close to a Super Bowl winner. Eleven years of conscientious objection to the draft should have gutted the roster of depth and youth. Yet there was no epic rebuilding required: Theismann, Butz and Riggins bridged the Allen-Gibbs gap, with acquisitions like Parrish keeping the Redskins competitive in between. It would never work today, for about 100 reasons, but it worked then.

Meanwhile, Allen became an executive for the USFL and used his unpredictable player-acquisition style to help the new league raid NFL rosters. But that is yet another whole other story.

The Redskins will not draft in the first round this year. They spent the pick on a scrambling collegiate superstar, Griffin, two seasons ago. They just acquired a talented, disgruntled troublemaker of a veteran from another organization. Redskins fans approach the new season with their usual mix of hope and dread. The team's roster-development model is high-risk, veteran-heavy, and dangerously outside the box of NFL right-think.

Allen would have approved. And succeeded. But then again, his son Bruce is one of the guys running the show.