Niner Noise adds yet another spark to the argument former San Francisco 49ers running back Roger Craig needs to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
It’s no new argument, but former San Francisco 49ers running back Roger Craig deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Earlier this January, ESPN’s Nick Wagoner reported on how Craig missed out yet again on the list of finalists destined for Canton this year. Despite a storied career, Craig has been a finalist just once.
And with the NFL’s annual Hall of Fame game just around the corner, it’s time to relight this argument once more.
San Francisco 49ers
It shouldn’t be too hard for San Francisco fans. Anyone who watched the Niners during the 1980s can attest to Craig’s abilities on the field.
Who can forget 1985?
That season, Craig emerged as the first real dual-threat tailback — the first 1,000-runner and 1,000-yard receiver in NFL history. He was Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk before Faulk became famous. And Craig didn’t just make this impressive mark, he led the entire league in pass receptions (92).
All from a fullback.
Roger Craig Stat Comparisons
Despite a historic season, Craig wasn’t even named a first-team All-Pro after 1985. A Pro Bowler, yes. But it should have been more.
He did, however, manage his one and only first-team All-Pro nod in 1988 after leading the entire NFL with 2,036 yards from scrimmage. That was part of an impressive career totaling 8,189 rushing yards, 56 rushing touchdowns and 13,100 all-purpose yards in his stellar career.
So where does that stand?
Well, Bleacher Report’s Scott Fingerhut had the comparison with other Hall of Famers back in 2008:
"Total Rushing Yards: 8,189Almost half of Walter Payton’s career yards, but more than HOFers Larry Csonka, Gayle Sayers, Lenny Moore and Ollie Matson.Total Receiving Yards: 4,911Less yards than Marcus Allen (Roger’s 4911 was over 11 seasons and Allen’s 5411 was over 16 seasons), but more than HOFers Thurman Thomas, Barry Sanders, Eric Dickerson, Tony Dorsett, Walter Payton, John Riggins, and Franco Harris. Roger’s 4911 receiving yards are just 551 yards less than HOF WR Lynn Swann’s career total.Total Yards: 13,100Only 278 total yards less than O.J. Simpson but more than HOFers Earl Campbell, Larry Csonka, Gayle Sayers, and Lenny Moore.13,100 total yards are also more total yards than HOF wide receivers: Steve Largent (played 14 years vs. Roger’s 11), Paul Warfield, Lynn Swann (more than double), John Stallworth and Michael Irvin.Touchdowns: 73Only two less than O.J. Simpson but more than HOFers Ollie Matson, Gayle Sayers, Larry Csonka."
And if we’re comparing Craig to the player he blazed a trail for, Faulk, all we have to do is mention the former achieved most of his yards at Candlestick Park — a field below sea level and dangerously close to the water table.
Faulk, meanwhile, enjoyed the majority of his numbers on turf.
Some Ringing 49ers Endorsements
Sure, quoting some former 49ers greats is a little biased. But San Francisco surely has its fair share of Hall of Famers.
And almost all of them feel Craig belongs in the hall.
“He was the first 1,000/1,000 guy,” quarterback Joe Montana noted. “There are people in there that didn’t have near the statistics or the records that he set. My fingers are crossed for him. He’ll make it.”
Montana isn’t the only one.
“We want to get Roger into the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” wide receiver Jerry Rice argued. “His training regimen, what he brought to the game, his high-knee action – he was one of those real physical runners on the football field. The numbers he put up were amazing, also. He put up 1,000/1,000, and that had never been done.”
Rice knew a thing, or two, about hard training.
But perhaps the best endorsement comes from the late Bill Walsh:
"Roger Craig is one of the great players of our era. He was the best all around running back of his time. A great receiver, one of the finest open field runners and power runners we have seen in recent years, a fine blocker and a tremendous competitor.He’s takes his team to the world championship a number of times and I don’t know if there’s ever been a more talented running back, or utility running back, that’s ever played the game."
That’s a pretty solid backing.
What’s Holding Roger Craig Back?
For whatever reason, the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the decision-makers who make the call have left Craig off the final list.
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One could argue Craig’s costly playoff fumble against the New York Giants back in the 1991 NFC Championship game — the one that cost the Niners a shot at three consecutive Super Bowls — left a sour taste in critics’ mouths.
Craig’s numbers certainly took a dive after that, but it shouldn’t be a mark against his career.
More likely, critics look at Craig’s 8,189 rushing yards, which rank only 44th all time. But Craig rushed for 582 more yards than former Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis, and Davis found his way into the Hall this year.
Davis did have 2,008 yards rushing and a league-leading 21 touchdowns in 1998 though.
Still, leaving Craig off the list is about as silly as it gets. So let’s get to moving, 49ers Faithful. It’s time to add even more spark to this argument on social media, message boards, your local elected representatives or wherever.
Get Craig in the Hall of Fame.