The finalists for the NFL Hall of Fame class of 2012 were announced on Saturday. Among the nominees are former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo, Jr. The Bay Area was represented besides DeBartolo, with several former players for the Raiders nominated for the upcoming final vote. To be sure, the list of the 17 finalists is comprised of worthy and lofty names, players and contributors to the sport of football who are all extremely worthy of consideration for induction into the Hall of Fame. But for the longtime residents of the Bay Area, one name from the semifinalists list was glaring in its omission.
Roger Craig, the running back who played for the Niners from 1983-1990, was not on the list of finalists. Craig was part of a team that included Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. A team that defined football in the 1980s and won three Super Bowls. For 49ers fans, Craig was every bit as integral to that dynasty as were Montana and Rice.
Craig made the Pro Bowl four times, as well as being selected four times as an All-Pro. He made the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team. He was the Offensive Player of the Year and the NFC Player of the Year in 1988. Perhaps one of the most impressive stats about Craig is that in the 11 years that he played in the NFL, for each of the three teams he played for, Craig made the playoffs in every year of his career.
When he retired, he was the 49ers franchise leader in rushing yards (although Garrison Hearst and later Frank Gore broke that record). Along with Chuck Foreman, Craig is one of only two running backs ever to lead the league in receptions in a season. He is one of only two NFL players to be elected to the Pro Bowl at both fullback and halfback.
In 2008, Craig was elected to the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame, which for the time being, will be the only Hall of Fame in which he resides. It is true that Bay Area residents may look at the running back with rose-colored glasses. Like all local fanbases, the Northern California fans hold the former Niner in higher esteem than do many other NFL pundits. But when you discuss Roger Craig, you must view him within the context of that dominant San Francisco team of the 1980s. For eight years, he played on one of the most iconic football teams in history and was integral to their continued success and lasting legacy.
We'll all keep hoping that one day, Roger Craig will find his way into the Hall.
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