Published on May 28, 2008 10:52 PM by dbo.
As expected, Damon Allen announced today his retirement from football after a 23 year playing career in the Canadian Football League holding six regular season records, including career passing yards (pro football’s passing yards mark as well), career rushing yards for a QB, career pass attempts and career pass completions, and 4 Grey Cup rings. After a distinguished career in which Allen accomplished many personal and team goals, is called a CFL legend and predicted for both the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he still fails to get the respect he seems to deserve.
Allen’s retirement and career retrospective was well covered in the local and national media, with a Canadian Press story picked up by many outlets. CFL.ca posted a number of tributes from coaches, players and family as well as an opinion piece on the place Allen will have in the CFL. Media salutes started pouring in after word of Wednesday’s press conference got out, and continued after the announcement.
Nary a bad word is said about him. The worst thing said may be that Allen only ranks as one of the top ten quarterback’s to play in the CFL. There are insinuations that Allen was forced into retirement due to a lack of a place to play, which is likely true, but there does not seem to be any bitterness on Allen’s part. Comments to the online stories are mainly positive, with a few who are bold enough to state Allen was the worst player ever. So after a career that spanned two decades, four Grey Cup championships, six different teams, three Grey Cup MVP awards, one CFL Most Outstanding Player award and the pro football record for career passing yards why is Damon Allen not heralded as a legend, the greatest to have ever played the game? Did his longevity and career across six teams dilute his accomplishments? Did he not perform with enough flash and excitement, making it look too easy, to be noticed? Off-field, was his personality not charismatic enough to endear him to the fans?
For different people, any of these may be the reason. As Allen’s career evolved it was clear to me that he did not have the respect of fans. This may have been because he made it look easy, almost at time appearing to glide around in the backfield or on a naked bootleg for a first down. He was criticized for coasting through games and even parts of seasons to only turn it on in the fourth quarter or final half of the season. I know he was an extremely frustrating quarterback for your team to play against, because he could often pull games out that he had no business winning, especially in his veteran years in B.C. and Toronto. Allen did win games though, everywhere he went. His career records are in part due to the length of his career, but he played at a high level throughout his career noted by his only Most Outstanding Player award three seasons ago. His fitness level was also excellent, evidenced by the few injuries he withstood in 23 seasons, made further remarkable by his position as a running quarterback. Allen was also known as a finisher; when he made it to big games, he finished the job, as evidenced by his three Grey Cup MVP’s.
So Damon Allen seems like a complete package. Those that choose to minimize his accomplishments may change their minds as the years pass. As memories fade and the facts of Damon’s accomplishments become his record, Allen will become the CFL legend that will set the bar for quarterback careers. An election to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in a few years will be the first step to cementing Allen’s place in CFL history.