by Matt Minarik
Every year a storyline comes up that every football fan debates. Who should be in the Hall of Fame, and who should not be in the Hall of Fame? This discussion is usually between January when the new Hall of Fame finalists are announced and within the first couple weeks of training camp when the new inductees are enshrined. The Hall of Fame is for the best players in football history, right? Then why don’t some of the best own a gold jacket? This post would be about two players had Harold Carmichael not been inducted in 2021. Instead, it is about one of the greatest cornerbacks in football history, Eric Allen, who once again was snubbed.
In Case You Don’t Know…
Arizona State defensive back Eric Allen was taken in the 2nd round with the 30th overall pick in the 1988 draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. He was the fourth defensive back taken in the draft behind Bennie Blades, Rickey Dixon, and Terry McDaniel.
Hall of Fame Worthy Career
It didn’t take long for Allen to make his name known. In his rookie year of 1988, he started all 16 games intercepting five passes. He earned First-Team All-Pro honors in his sophomore year after intercepting eight passes. In 1993, Allen returned four of his six interceptions for a touchdown, leading the league. Only four years during his 14-year career did he fail to intercept at least three passes. He finished his career with 54 interceptions for 826 yards and eight touchdowns. He has four interceptions in nine career playoff games for 25 yards and a touchdown. He also led the NFL in interceptions during the entire 1990s.
He was also highly durable. Out of 224 possible games in his career, he played in 217. He missed one game with the Eagles in 1989 and six games with the Raiders in 1998 after blowing his knee out late in the year. The following year he came back and started all 16 games. He only retired because he felt he wasn’t playing up to his standards anymore. That says a lot about his character.
It isn’t all about his stats and durability that made him great. He was a member of Buddy Ryan’s attacking and aggressive Gang Green defensive. To refresh your memory, this should have been a championship defense. The defensive line was comprised of Reggie White, Clyde Simmons, Jerome Brown, Mike Golic, and Mike Pitts. The linebackers were Seth Joyner, Byron Evans, and William Thomas. This was a nasty defense, and that is just the defensive line and linebackers. Ryan’s style didn’t always allow for help in the secondary, so Allen and the other defensive backs were alone. It didn’t matter. Allen was a very smart and instinctive player. Not to mention fun to watch. In a 1993 game versus the Jets, Allen picked off Boomer Esiason and returned it 94 yards for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown. Steve Sabol of NFL Films once said it was the greatest interception return in NFL history. Check out the video here.
What’s the Problem?
If Eric Allen lacks one thing, it is a championship. That should not be held against him. A Super Bowl win is a team achievement, but I do understand how it looks on the resume. Eli Manning will probably get in the Hall of Fame because of his rings, not his mediocre career. According to Rick Gosselin of Sports Illustrated, 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. If Allen were ever inducted, he would, unfortunately, fall into that category. That shouldn’t matter because the Hall of Fame is supposed to enshrine individual greatness.
Now that we know why Eric Allen might never be inducted, let us compare his numbers to some Hall of Famers.
Every single one of these players is in the Hall of Fame except for one … Eric Allen. Two of these Hall of Famers do not have a championship so maybe that’s not why Allen is in the Hall of Fame. Aeneas Williams and Allen have almost identical careers. Allen arguably had a better career than Darrell Green. Ty Law was good, but he had Tom Brady. Not sure if he was a Hall of Famer without those three championships. Deion was great so I can’t argue there and so was Champ Bailey although he doesn’t have a championship either. Deion Sanders even argued that Allen should be in the Hall of Fame. So what’s the deal Hall of Fame voters? Maybe because he was an Eagle, he is forgotten just like Harold Carmichael was all those years. I have no idea, but I would love to know why Eric Allen isn’t in the Hall of Fame.