Last year during an interview with Viking Update, Jared Allen was asked if he thought he has a Hall of Fame career. He said he had started giving it thought because he was getting closer to his early NFL hero – Derrick Thomas of the Kansas City Chiefs. Allen was quick to admit that sacks are the universal measuring stick of defensive ends and outside linebackers, and seasons with double-digit sacks are the bar that those players need to exceed to be viewed as Hall of Fame material.
Sacks didn’t become an official NFL statistic until 1982, so players like the late Deacon Jones, who was credited with inventing the term “sack,” aren’t on the all-time list. However, many teams, including the Vikings, have gone back in their history books to come up with stats for the players who pre-dated the official sack statistic. In the Vikings record book, Carl Eller holds the franchise record for sacks with 130, even though he doesn’t show up in the official annals of the NFL records. Jim Marshall is close behind on the Minnesota list with 127, but, like Eller, doesn’t exist in the “official” numbers of the NFL. Allen does and he is climbing the charts in a hurry.
By any measure, Allen has met and exceeded those lofty numbers in his career. In nine career seasons, his annual sack totals have been 9, 11, 7.5, 15.5, 14.5, 14.5, 11, 22 and 12. He has a career total of 117 sacks, which may already be enough to assure that he will make the Hall of Fame, but Allen isn’t done yet. He has a few good years left in him and, when all is said and done, he could find himself near the top of the all-time NFL sacks list.
As things currently stand, Allen is already 17th on the all-time sacks list, rising from No. 50 just two years ago. The only current NFL player that is ahead of him on the list is John Abraham, who, at age 35, remains unsigned and ahead of Allen with 122 sacks. He is the only wild card in the chase toward the top, but it seems clear that Allen will eventually pass Abraham – whether he plays in 2013 or not.
If Allen records 12 sacks again this year, he would finish the season with 129 career sacks and that would leave him in 11th or 12th on the all-time list (depending on whether Abraham returns and has a strong sack season). He would pass Clyde Simmons (121.5 sacks), Simeon Rice (122), potentially Abraham (122), Allen’s hero Derrick Thomas (126.5) and Rickey Jackson (128).
If Allen records 25 more sacks throughout the rest of his career, he will vault all the way to No. 5 on all-time list, passing Lawrence Taylor (132.5), Leslie O’Neal (132.5), John Randle (137.5), Richard Dent (137.5), Jason Taylor (139.5) and Michael Strahan (141.5).
The top end of the scale will be more difficult to catch. He will need 34 sacks to pass Chris Doleman (150.5) in fourth place and 43 to catch Kevin Greene (160). He has no chance of getting any higher than third since the top two – Bruce Smith (200) and Reggie White (198) are virtually untouchable.
When one looks at the names on the list ahead of Allen, he is putting himself into position to virtually assure his selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He has already put together a body of work worthy of getting the call to Canton and, at age 31, he likely still has three or four seasons left playing at an elite level. By the time all is said and done, Allen may find himself in the top handful of sack artists in the 30-plus years the stat has been official. Given that sacks are how players at his position are measured, that should be enough to have the first bust in the Hall of Fame to be adorned with a manly bronze mullet.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.