State Your Case: Eric Allen

Started 14 seasons in the NFL at cornerback

(Published September 2019)

Cornerback Eric Allen intercepted Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly, Troy Aikman, Steve Young and Brett Favre in his career and went to six Pro Bowls.

Allen intercepted as many passes (54) as Hall of Famers Willie Brown and Darrell Green and one more than Hall of Famers Ty Law and Deion Sanders. Yet those four cornerbacks are all enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and most went in on roller skates. Allen can’t even get into the discussion. He’s never even been a semifinalist, much less a finalist.

There’s a logical explanation. Brown, Green, Law and Sanders all have championship rings to go with their gold jackets and busts. In fact, all won multi-Super Bowls. Allen’s teams never won a title. In fact, his teams never even reached a title game.

There are 281 players in the Hall of Fame. Only 103 of them failed to win a championship. Of that number, only 39 played defense. Of that number, 15 played in an NFL title game. That leaves 24 defensive players enshrined in Canton without a ring who never played for a championship in their careers. Of those 24, eight were elected as senior candidates.

That leaves only 16 defensive players in Canton who failed to win a title and never reached a championship game. That’s the fraternity Allen seeks to enter as his candidacy chugs into its 14th year of eligibility. Players have a 25-year window of modern-era eligibility before they plunge into the senior pool.

Eric Allen deserves better.

Allen played 14 seasons and ranks third all-time among pure cornerbacks in starts (214) and 12th in interceptions. He intercepted a career-high eight passes in 1989 and returned a career-high four picks for touchdowns in 1993, both seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. He also returned three interceptions for scores in 2000 with the Oakland Raiders. Allen remains the only player in NFL history with two seasons of at least three touchdowns on interceptions. He scored nine defensive touchdowns in all in his career and went to his Pro Bowls with the Eagles and New Orleans Saints.

Maybe if Allen had stuck around one more season, there’d be a brighter light shining on is career. He retired from the Raiders after the 2001 season…and Oakland went on to play in the Super Bowl the following year. But Allen knew it was time.

“I started for 14 years and was never approached to play (another) position,” Allen once told the Talk of Fame Network. “The reason why I retired is that I didn’t think I played up to my standards.

“I told myself long ago, `If you can go through a complete season and can’t get more than two interceptions, it’s time to go.’ So I walked into Al Davis’ office and told him, `Thank you. I really appreciate it. This was an opportunity for me to play for one of my favorite teams of all-time, the Oakland Raiders, and I had a great time. But I’m gone.’ I probably could have played another 3-4 years. But my standards had to be met for me to play.”

Allen intercepted only one pass in his final season. He also scooped up a Shaun Alexander fumble and returned it 26 yards for his final NFL touchdown. Credit Allen for leaving the game on his own terms.

Defensive players who failed to play on a championship team in their careers have discovered the road to Canton to be a long one. For most, it’s been a dead end. It shouldn’t be for Eric Allen. His career deserves Hall of Fame discussion. It screams out for consideration, in fact.


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