Is Roger Craig a Hall-of-Famer?
The former Niners running back won’t be this year. And former owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. won’t be either.
But Charles Haley could be enshrined in Canton, which could make for a much-anticipated induction speech from the eccentric and dominant defensive end. Haley collected a record five Super Bowl rings and was a five-time Pro Bowler during a 13-year career with the 49ers and Cowboys.
Of the 15 modern-era HOF finalists announced today, Haley and three cup-of-coffee Niners, Chris Doleman (1996-98), Deion Sanders (1994) and Richard Dent (1994), made the cut. Craig and DeBartolo were among 11 semifinalists who didn’t advance.
The other finalists include Curtis Martin, Marshall Faulk, Jerome Bettis, Willie Roaf, Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, Cortez Kennedy, Andre Reed, Shannon Sharpe and filmmaker Ed Sabol.
The inclusion of three first-year-eligible running backs – Faulk, Martin and Bettis – hurt Craig’s candidacy. Craig was a finalist last year.
Based strictly on numbers, the first-year trio deserves consideration ahead of Craig.
But Craig, a do-it-all running back in the West Coast Offense, was a revolutionary player in a pioneering system. In 1986, he became the first player to have 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season. Faulk (1999) is the only other player to do so.
It can be argued Craig was Faulk before Faulk was Faulk. (OK, at least a poor man’s Faulk).
If nothing else, Craig is an intriguing candidate, although it’s not hard to see some cracks in his candidacy (only three seasons with more than 830 rushing yards).
Here’s a look at Craig’s career statistics compared with the three running-back finalists:
ROGER CRAIG (49ers 1983-90, Raiders 1991, Vikings 1992-93)
Overall: 13,109 yards and 73 TD
Rushing: 1,991 Att, 8,189 Yds, 4.1 Avg, 56 TD
Receiving: 566 Rec, 4,911 Yds, 8.7 Avg, 17 TD
MARSHALL FAULK (Colts, 1994-98, Rams 1999-2005)
Overall: 19,154 total yards, 136 TD
Rushing: 2,836 Att, 12,279 Yds, 4.3 Avg, 100 TD
Receiving: 767 Rec, 6,875 Yds, 9.0 Avg, 36 TD
CURTIS MARTIN (Patriots 1995-97, Jets 1998-2005)
Overall: 17,430 yards and 100 TD
Rushing: 3,518 Att, 14,101 Yds, 4.0 Avg, 90 TD
Receiving: 484 Rec, 3,329 Yds, 6.9 Avg, 10 TD
JEROME BETTIS (Rams 1993-95, Steelers 1996-2005)
Overall: 15,111 yards and 94 TD
Rushing: 3,479 Att, 13,162 Yds, 3.9 Avg, 91 TD
Receiving: 200 Rec, 1,449 Yds, 7.2 Avg, 3 TD