Damon Allen contemplates Retirement*

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The discomfort comes now for Pinball Clemons and friends.

Finding the right time, the right way, the right words to say goodbye and thanks to Damon Allen.

The time has come for a parting of coach and quarterback, as emotional as that will be, as troubling as it may seem for the ever-optimistic Clemons.

It may come at lunch with team president Keith Pelley in two weeks time. It may come before that.

There is no need to wait any longer.

The Argonauts are not going to the Grey Cup this year and it is not necessarily Allen's fault. He didn't lose them the game yesterday. He just didn't help them accomplish much of anything.

This was one of those good, old-fashioned team defeats, no matter what kind of rose-coloured glasses the Argos choose to view the Eastern final through. Almost everybody messed up somewhere.

At times, the vaunted Argos defence couldn't stop the run or the pass. Ricky Williams ran with purpose in his Argos finale, but fumbled away a crucial and controversial ball. Andre Talbot didn't make catches he should have made. Allen was hit so often he was treated almost like a tackling dummy.

It was anything but succinct.

But the awkwardness seemed most evident at quarterback: What happened and didn't happen, what was possible when Michael Bishop was in the game and improbable when Allen playing.

It took only 22 seasons for Allen to hit the proverbial wall. But when he hit it, he hit it hard. Two years ago, Allen had a miraculous playoff run and led the Argos to an unlikely Grey Cup. Last year, he followed up all that by just being the best player in the entire league.

This year, he never found his way. There was an injury, a finger that never healed, an offence that never quite connected, and then this.

One of Allen's worst days as an Argo. Probably his last game as an Argo.

He ran eight series yesterday afternoon -- six in the first half, two in the second -- before mercifully being relieved in favour of the unpredictable Bishop.

In all, Allen went, punt, punt, field goal off an Orlando Steinauer interception, missed field goal, punt, punt, interception thrown for a touchdown and punt.

He accounted for three Toronto points and six Montreal points in a game made for scoring. When he left the game, the Alouettes had 14 first downs, the Argos seven. The Alouettes had 247 yards, the Argos had 112.

And the Argos trailed 23-3.

"He is still a great quarterback," Clemons said.

He was a good quarterback who lasted forever and sometimes played great. Forever came to an end yesterday but the evidence already had been mounting.

Last week against Winnipeg, the Argos were trailing by 10 when he left the game.

Over the final four games of their season -- two of them playoff tilts, two of them meaningful home games -- Allen managed to generate only two touchdowns. On any scale, and by any kind of evaluation, that simply isn't enough.

Not when the backup Bishop played part of a quarter last week and part of a half yesterday and accounted for five major scores.

Whether Bishop is part of the changing of the guard will need to be addressed. Whether there is place for Casey Printers, should he find his way back from the National Football League, also will be addressed.

"He did an outstanding job," said Allen of Bishop. "He played very well, once again."

Two weeks ago, after a regular season home defeat to Montreal, Allen sat forever at his locker, head in hands, not moving, not removing his equipment. He was frozen by the defeat, not certain what would follow.

Last week, he put on a brave face when the Argos won and he had little to do with it. Yesterday, he almost seemed resigned to his fate, not tipping his hand about his future, but admitting a decision will be coming shortly.

"Obviously, this year didn't go as well as I wanted it to," said Allen. "As of right now, (my future) is all speculation. As much as people say you can play until you are 50, my time is soon. Soon could be one more year. Who knows?

"The question I have to ask myself is: "Can I still play the game?"

The question has now been answered.