The Pioneer

The Pioneer

Voters fumble induction for running back

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Voters fumble induction for running back

Infographic by Tam Duong Jr./The Pioneer

Infographic by Tam Duong Jr./The Pioneer

Infographic by Tam Duong Jr./The Pioneer

Infographic by Tam Duong Jr./The Pioneer

Shomari Block,
Contributor

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On Jan. 7 the Professional Football Hall of Fame announced the finalists for the 2016 class and once again this list did not include former San Francisco 49ers running back Roger Craig, who played with the team from 1983 to 1990. And once again, the selection committee got it wrong.

What it means to play running back in the NFL now means something different thanks to Craig and the Hall of Fame should tell his story.

Many consider 1,000 yards rushing in one season a success for a running back. The same holds true for 1,000 receiving yards for a receiver. Craig reached both of these totals in the 1988-1989 season.

The only other player to have such a season, Marshall Faulk, entered the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 2011. Faulk has more career total yards than Craig. He also has Super Bowl and league MVP awards, Craig does not. Faulk flourished in a role Craig popularized while contributing to three Super Bowl championships.  However, Craig’s three Super Bowl rings are two more than Faulk and second among running backs. Only Franco Harris, another Hall of Famer, has more.[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#b7912a”]”Craig proved the perfect model for what became the fashionable type of running back in the NFL”[/mks_pullquote]

In today’s NFL, a running back must have the ability to catch the ball as well as run it. During the time Craig won three Super Bowls as a 49er, running backs typically served as blockers on pass plays. It took a legendary coach like Bill Walsh to recognize the potential of Craig and the position, to use his running back in ways no other coach had before.

Craig proved the perfect model for what became the fashionable type of running back in the NFL, what would later get the name “every down back,” which is someone useful in running and passing. With Craig on the field, the offense had not only a running threat but also a threat in the passing game.

If only he had done these things with the mediocre Los Angeles Rams during the 1980’s, things might be different. Unfortunately, voters view Craig as less worthy than other running backs of the mid-80s because he’s been outshined by Hall of Fame 49er teammates like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott.

Imagine if the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame said, “Sorry George Harrison, you were great but those other two guys were the ones responsible for all that magical music.”

They wouldn’t. The Pro Football Hall of Fame has done that for too many years now. The time has come to end this foolish thinking.

Craig holds a position on the 1980’s All Decade team. The institution that selects this team clearly views Craig as one of the four best running backs of that decade. The Pro Football Hall of Fame created this team. Craig represents the only skill position player on that list not in the Hall Of Fame. Also, all of the running backs from the 1970s All Decade team have Hall of Fame credentials as well. So why not Craig?

Even the Hall of Fame seems confused about Craig’s place in football history. The story of the NFL needs the story of Craig.

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Voters fumble induction for running back