The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced their list of 17 finalists, and the 49ers have several connections in the group. Former owner Edward Debartolo Jr. and linebacker/defensive end Charles Haley have made the finalists. This marks the second consecutive year DeBartolo and Haley have made the final 17. The selection committee will cut down that group to ten, and then make a final cut to the class of inductees.
Last year, I wrote about how DeBartolo was in a fairly rare position. All the previous owners to be inducted into the Hall of Fame purchased their teams before the AFL-NFL merger. That likely made it easier for the selection committee to select them given the ability to point to their apparent impact on the merger. We'll see if they give Eddie D the honor he deserves.
This year's finalists include a few other players with 49ers connections. Guard Larry Allen is in his first year of eligibility, having wrapped up his career with the 49ers in 2006 and 2007. Kevin Greene is back as a finalist, having spent one season (1997) with the 49ers. I think most fans remember him best for head-butting Jim Druckenmiller after Druckenmiller scored a touchdown against the Rams. Mind you, Druckenmiller was wearing a helmet and Greene was not.
Unfortunately, Roger Craig did not make this year's group of finalists. Although Craig put together a great career, and was doing the rushing/receiving thing long before Marshall Faulk and LaDanian Tomlinson, he faces an uphill battle for enshrinement. Here is the full list of finalists:
Edward J. DeBartolo, Jr.
It's going to be a tough class to break into with Allen, Ogden, Strahan and Sapp all looking like strong candidates. That leaves limited space for Eddie DeBartolo, but fingers crossed that he can find a way in.