Eric Allen was one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks on one of the NFL’s best defenses ever. That would be the 1991 Philadelphia Eagles, an intimidating unit that led the league in virtually every defensive category and sent five of its players to the Pro Bowl.
Allen was one of its centerpieces, a cornerback so accomplished that he played that position … and only that position … for 14 years. When he retired from the Oakland Raiders following the 2001 season, he had 54 interceptions, including eight returned for touchdowns, six forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries and the respect of virtually ever wide receiver in the game.
Yet he can’t get the attention of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and I’m not talking about an induction. I’m talking about a conversation. Eric Allen has never been discussed as a finalist for Canton, and if you think that bothers him … well, you’re more wrong than right.
“I think the first couple of years I was hurt and frustrated,” he said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “But, as time goes, and you get older … to be honest, I’m a little more worried about getting tickets to Comi-Con than I am the Hall of Fame. I have four sons, so that’s the most important thing for me right now.
“Listen, if I had to do it all over again, I would do it the same way. I have great respect for the game of football. I love it to this day. With so many things going on at this point, it never once made me waver from my love of the game. Not being inducted into the Hall of Fame, not being on the final panel … none of that has really changed who I am and how I looked at the game.
“My sons all play, (so) there’s no frustration at all. Once again, it would be an outstanding honor. But, to be honest, at this point it doesn’t really move the needle very much for me in how I look at my time in the National Football League.”
Like former tight end Mark Bavaro, who appeared on the same Talk of Fame Network broadcast, Allen said his opinion of players is not affected by Hall-of-Fame candidacies. There are plenty — including former cornerback Everson Walls, whom he cited — deserving of Canton but who haven’t been enshrined.
Then, of course, there’s himself — a three-time All-Pro so accomplished he was elected to the Eagles’ 75th Anniversary squad and their Hall of Fame and who was never, ever, budged during his career from his job as a starting cornerback before bowing out in 2002.
“When you’re talking about the position on defense at cornerback,” he said, “being able to play the position for 8, 10, 13, 14 , 15 years starting … I started for 14 years at the cornerback spot. I was never approached to play any position. The reason why I retired is that I didn’t think I played up to my standards.
“I told myself long ago, ‘If you go through a complete season, and you can’t get more than two interceptions, it’s time to go.’ And (so) I walked into Al Davis’ office, and I told him, ‘Thank you. I really appreciate it. This is 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.’ And I probably could’ve played another three or four years. But my standards had to be met for me to play.”
Allen checked most of the boxes necessary for Canton, but missing out on a Super Bowl — especially on a defense as effective as the 1991 Eagles — probably hurt his chances. And he acknowledged that when asked if a championship might already have him … and others … in Canton.
‘Yeah, I think so,’ he said. “I think Seth (Joyner, former star linebacker) would probably have a little more juice. I think I would be in. So that’s how it goes.”