Roger That:  The Missing Case of Roger Craig

Being elected to the Hall of Fame in any sport is considered perhaps the highest honor for any athlete.  It not only recognizes the level of achievement that one attained, it also shows a tremendous level of respect.  In the case of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the obvious selections have all had their day to stand on the platform in Canton, Ohio, and deliver a once in a lifetime speech.  On the other hand, there are those who await a phone call each year hoping to finally receive the ultimate message of “welcome to the brotherhood.”

In one specific case, there is an individual that many believe is a head-scratcher as to why he has not received the call.  One of the most productive running backs in NFL history is Roger Craig, a player who revolutionized the position.  Yes, revolutionized.  Initially a fullback, the San Francisco 49ers recognized early that the second round pick out of Nebraska needed to get more touches as he possessed the skills that could make their high-octane offense even more formidable.  It did not take long before Craig was an integral part of every offensive play.  Opposing defenses fear his high knee running style and had to account for what may have been his greatest asset, catching the ball out of the backfield.  In 1986 he became the first player in league history to rush and catch for 1,000 yards each.

Roger Craig's career rushing numbers are deceptive: 8,189 yards on 1,991 carries and 56 touchdowns. So are his receiving numbers: 566 catches for 4,911 and 17 touchdowns. One must instead see the whole picture to understand the scope of his impact on the field—13,100 total yards from scrimmage.

The running back position was never the same after Craig as players coming from the backfield were expected to do more than take hand-offs. RC was often imitated, but only once duplicated. He paved the way for cumulative yard backs like Barry Sanders, Marshall Faulk and now LeSean McCoy.

And although Craig played with the likes of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, sharing the ball was never an issue, as he understood that the ultimate goal in the NFL is to win the Super Bowl.  And that he did, being a part of three 49ers teams to claim the trophy. In 11 NFL seasons, Craig made the postseason all 11 times. 

His absence from the Hall of Fame is an insult to the game of football as it mocks an honor that is supposed to be the highest recognition of brilliant careers.  It took ten years for Craig to even get nominated.  Sure, there are bigger injustices in the world every day, but this is an easy fix. Roger Craig was a revolutionary running back, a perennial winner, and a class act; and his greatness needs to be recognized, remembered, and enshrined.