Former San Francisco 49ers running back Roger Craig is a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018, but I’d be surprised if he makes it. He should make it for various reasons, but if he hasn’t in the last 10 years of being a semifinalist, what makes now any different?
Craig was important in the development of the modern running back, one of the few to truly evolve as a rusher and receiver, and well ahead of his time. He ended up being the first player in NFL history with 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season. On top of that, he was a great blocking back and finished his career ranked among the top 20 rushers of all time.
He was NFL offensive player of the year in 1988 and had four Pro Bowls and and three Super Bowl wins to his name. He was on the NFL All-Decade team for the 1980’s.
But he’s only been a finalist once in nine appearances as a semifinalist. He’s made it 10 years in a row now, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame is still more concerned with first-time eligible players, creating an exclusive club within an exclusive club.
Craig is out-gained by running backs right and left in today’s NFL, but the game was a much different place back then. When Craig retired, he was legendary, and has been beaten to the Hall by players who were able to put up huge yards, like LaDainian Tomlinson.
As pointed out the Talk of Fame Network, Craig is joined by guys like Everson Walls, Bill Fralic, Phil Simms, Keith Millard and Joe Jacoby. Craig hasn’t been a finalist since 2010, while Jacoby has made it the past two years, but received much fewer votes in 2016. He’s going in the wrong direction, as Craig has been for several years.
Can Craig make it?
There are several first-year guys that could get in his way. Of the announced semifinalists, linebacker Ray Lewis, linebacker Brian Urlacher, wide receiver Randy Moss, OL Steve Hutchinson, DB Ronde Barber and DE Richard Serymour are all first-year players who have a shot at making it, Urlacher and Lewis especially.