Canton will have to wait at least one more year to witness a 6’6″ man sporting a mullet and a gold jacket perform a calf-roping celebration.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its class of 2021 on Saturday night, and Jared Allen did not get the cherished call. He was the only one of the four first-year eligible players not to gain entrance, as Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson, and Calvin Johnson all made it in their initial year of eligibility. It was a loaded class, meaning Allen wasn’t the only worthy finalist to miss the cut. The rest of this year’s nominees: guard Alan Faneca, safety John Lynch, wide receiver Drew Pearson (he pushed off), coach Tom Flores, and contributor Bill Nunn.
As for Allen, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports he was eliminated early on in the voting process when considering the finalists.
But that’s why they do this every year. Football’s leading proponent of business in the front, party in the back will likely be a finalist again in 2022 and feels like a safe bet to eventually be enshrined.
Allen spent half of his 12-year NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings, arriving from the Kansas City Chiefs in one of the biggest trades in Vikings history. In his prime, Allen was the best pass-rusher in the NFL. The Culinary Academy alumnus finished with 136.0 career sacks, including 22.0 in 2011 – narrowly missing the single-season record held by Hall of Famer Michael Strahan (22.5). Allen had 10-plus sacks in a season eight times, including seven in a row from 2007-13, and set a Vikings record by recording a sack in 11 straight games between 2010 and 2011. After the 2015 season, following stints with the Carolina Panthers and Chicago Bears, he announced his retirement from the NFL.
It wasn’t just about sacking the quarterback for Allen. He swatted down passes, recorded dozens of tackles for loss, and tallied four safeties and six career interceptions. Heck, he even lined up on offense and caught two touchdown passes in 2007, and served as the emergency long-snapper throughout his career.
However, sacking the quarterback and busting out the calf-rope celebration was Allen’s calling card.
When voters evaluate defensive ends or edge rushers for the Hall of Fame, the first stat they consider is sacks. The NFL didn’t even start counting sacks until 1982. If they had, Vikings great Carl Eller (who unofficially had more than 130 career sacks) might have made the Hall sooner than he did. Regardless, sacks are what football card voters look to first when you’re a defensive end.
Sure, Pro Bowl honors and especially All-Pro honors (as an indicator of dominance compared to a player’s peers) are taken into account. Super Bowl rings also have weight, which is a big reason Richard Seymour was the other finalist among defensive linemen this year. Like Allen, he missed the call to the Hall. But you have to have the sacks. It’s not a perfect stat, but it’s a simple, time-honored way to quantify excellence in rushing the passer. And Allen has enough sacks on his resumé to gain entry to the Hall sooner or later. Only 11 players in NFL history have recorded more sacks than Allen. Of those 11 players, eight are already in the Hall of Fame, and the other three – Julius Peppers, Terrell Suggs, and DeMarcus Ware – will be someday.
Peppers, Suggs, and Ware were all contemporaries of Allen. All four will make the Hall. In fact, Ware will be eligible for the first time next year. Here’s a snapshot comparison of their similar numbers:
- Allen (136.0 sacks, 4x first-team All-Pro)
- Peppers (159.5 sacks, 3x first-team All-Pro)
- Suggs (139.0 sacks, 1x first-team All-Pro)
- Ware (138.5 sacks, 4x first-team All-Pro)
Only seven of the defensive lineman already in the Hall of Fame had 120 or more sacks: Bruce Smith (200.0), Reggie White (198.0), Chris Doleman (150.5), Michael Strahan (141.5), Jason Taylor (139.5), Richard Dent (137.5), and John Randle (137.5). Allen was named first-team All-Pro more times than three of them (Doleman, Taylor, and Dent) and the same number of times as Strahan.
Allen had a Hall-worthy peak of his career and certainly had a long enough run of greatness in his prime. Doleman was on the ballot seven years before making it into the Hall. Eller had to wait a disrespectful 25 years! The wait for the next great Vikings defensive end to be enshrined shouldn’t last as long as either.