Earlier this week, I was writing an article for the Raider Ramble about whether or not I believed Chandler Jones had done enough to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. As part of my research, I realized that every eligible pass rusher with more sacks than Jared Allen was enshrined in Canton. There were a couple of others, John Abraham and Leslie O’Neal, in the same category, but then iconic Hall of Famers Lawrence Taylor and Derrick Thomas followed.
So I looked a little deeper, thinking that perhaps Allen was the NFL’s Mario Mendoza, where any rusher better than him belongs in Canton, and anyone worse is eligible for the “Hall of Very Good.” But when I looked deeper, I discovered that Allen’s career was nothing short of spectacular.
So today, we take a closer look at why one of the NFL’s last true characters hasn’t heard his name called to Canton, Ohio.
Jared Allen and the Pro Football Hall of Fame
If you’ve read my articles about Hall of Fame consideration before, you’ll know that I think Canton calls those who A. has the numbers, B. was, at least at one point, considered to be among the very best at their position in the entire league, and C. made a historical impact, namely, can you tell the story of the NFL without this player? Anyone who is immortalized as one of the greats should be able to easily clear all three boxes, otherwise it would just be the home for anyone who stuck around for ten years.
Does Jared Allen check all three? Lets take a closer look.
Jared Allen absolutely has the numbers. His 136 [official] stats are the 12th most all-time, his 171 tackles for a loss are the fourth most all-time, and nobody in NFL history has forced more safeties (4). Over the course of his career, Allen averaged 11.3 sacks per season, and that’s including a rookie year where he only started 10 games and the last two campaigns of his career, where he only mustered up seven sacks over 30 games. His numbers are high in all the places that count, and when you consider the proximity to other Hall of Famers, he’s done enough.
The Elite (The, The Elite)
Can you honestly say that Jared Allen was in the conversation for best pass rusher in the league at some point during his career? Absolutely. A five-time Pro Bowler, a four-time first-team All-Pro, and a two-time sack leader, Allen was easily among the elite at his position. He led the league in tackles for a loss once, and was always good for a few forced fumbles. A menace of a pass rusher, Allen averaged 14 sacks a season in his prime. He belongs in the conversation with the elite pass rushers of his era.
The Historical Impact
Sadly, this is where Allen’s chances at Canton take a big hit. Because as dynamic and consistent as Allen was, his teams didn’t always follow suit. In a 13 year career, Allen’s teams only made the playoffs five times. During those five post-season berths, Allen’s teams went 2-5. At 33 years old, he was on the Carolina Panthers squad that went to the Super Bowl, but he was essentially a non-factor as his prime had sadly passed him by.
Allen was never the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, and while his sack celebration still lives in the hearts and minds of his fans, there wasn’t a singular moment in his illustrious career that stands out. Von Miller has fewer career sacks than Allen, but his performance in that very same Super Bowl performance will likely see him enshrined in Canton someday. J.J. Watt will likely retire with fewer sacks than Allen, but as a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, he’s firmly entrenched in the history of the sport.
Allen made hundreds of plays during his career, but none of them are James Harrison’s 100 yard pick six. None of them are Richard Sherman batting the ball away from Michael Crabtree. Allen never had his big career-defining moment, and I think it’s slowed his march to Canton.
That’s the big hold-up for Allen. He’s right on the brink. He was really good for a long time, even elite for periods, but never had his second in the spotlight, and now he runs the risk of being left out in the cold. I thoroughly believe that Allen will end up in Canton, but I think it will depend on someone banging the table for him. Because in a passing era, the only position as important as the quarterback is the men who chase them, and a new elite pass rusher springs up every day.