Although his final memory to some 49er fans is a costly fumble that enabled the New York Giants to beat the San Francisco 49ers in the 1991 NFC Championship game, Roger Craig and his distinctive high-knee running style was no doubt an integral part of the innovative San Francisco offenses during the 1980s.
Craig's numbers and three Super Bowl rings should qualify him to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was the first running back to be elected to the Pro Bowl at both fullback and halfback, the first offensive player to run and catch for a thousand yards in a season and he also appeared in the playoffs every year of his illustrious career.
He was the Marshall Faulk of his era.
The San Francisco 49ers drafted the versatile Craig in 1983 out of Nebraska, where he held the Cornhuskers' record for longest run from scrimmage, a 94-yard scamper against the Florida State Seminoles in 1981.
During his extremely productive rookie campaign, Craig scored 12 all-purpose touchdowns as the 49ers reached the 1984 NFC Championship game against the Washington Redskins.
A year later in Super Bowl XIX at Stanford Stadium, Craig caught seven passes for 77 yards, added 58 yards on the ground, and became the first player in Super Bowl history to score three touchdowns as the 15-1 San Francisco 49ers dominated the highly publicized Dan Marino and his 14-2 Miami Dolphins, 38-16.
The following season, Roger Craig re-wrote pro football's record books, becoming the first player in NFL history to rush and receive for 1,000 yards in the same season. He led the NFL with 92 catches for 1,016 yards and added an impressive 1,050 yards on 214 carries, scoring a team-high 15 touchdowns in the process.
In 1988, Roger Craig was named the Associated Press NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Craig put the stumbling 49ers offense on his shoulders as he ran for a career-high 1,502 yards and caught 76 passes for 534 yards.
He went on to assist the inconsistent 10-6 49ers to a Super Bowl berth by amassing 262 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in their two playoff games against the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears.
In the 49ers' 20-16 last minute victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII at Joe Robbie Stadium, he caught eight passes for 101 yards and added 71 yards rushing. Craig made clutch play after clutch play on the final drive, which culminated with Joe Montana's touchdown pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds left in the game.
San Francisco advanced to the Super Bowl for the second year in a row the following season, aided by Craig's 1,527 rushing and receiving yards, along with his 240 combined yards and two touchdowns in their two dominating playoff victories over the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams.
Craig caught five passes for 34 yards, rushed for 69 yards, and scored a touchdown as the 14-2 San Francisco 49ers annihilated John Elway and the Denver Broncos 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV at the Louisiana Superdome.
The 49ers went 14-2 in 1990 during their quest to become the first team in NFL history to win three consecutive Super Bowls but in the 1991 NFC Championship Game as San Francisco held on to a slim 13-12 lead, Craig put the ball on the ground late in the fourth quarter and Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor alertly fell on the football.
We all know the New York Giants won the game 15-13 on a last second Matt Bahr field goal, eventually winning Super Bowl XXV as Buffalo Bills' kicker Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal wide right, preserving the 20-19 victory in Tampa.
Some fans didn't forgive Craig for the mistake despite all his accolades and accomplishments he earned as a member of the world champion San Francisco 49ers.
In 1992, Craig moved down I-5 South and left for the Los Angeles Raiders with longtime 49er hero Ronnie Lott via Plan B Free Agency. He spent his final year in the NFL playing for the Minnesota Vikings in 1993.
In a move of touching symbolism, Craig would retire a 49er in 1994, signing a one-day contract during the offseason before Steve Young and San Francisco went on to a blistering 13-3 season, culminating in a 49-26 thrashing of the overmatched San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX.
Since then, Roger Craig has waited patiently to hear his name called as a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee.
Craig was finally selected as one of the 25 semi-finalists considered for the Hall of Fame in 2009 since first being eligible in 1999. It's a shame that for the last decade, such a key figure of the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980s continues to be overlooked by the voters.
For everything he has done for the San Francisco 49ers, Roger Craig deserves to have his No. 33 retired and a spot in Canton alongside Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, Fred Dean, Steve Young and Bill Walsh.
They couldn't have done it without him.
San Francisco 49ers in the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame
1969 DT Leo Nomellini (1950-1963)
1969 FB Joe Perry (1948-1960, 1963)
1970 HB Hugh McElhenny (1952-1960)
1971 QB Y.A. Tittle (1951-1960)
1985 RB O.J. Simpson (1978-1979)
1987 FB John Henry Johnson (1954-1956)
1990 OT Bob St. Clair (1953-1963)
1993 Head Coach Bill Walsh (1979-1988)
1994 CB Jimmy Johnson (1961-1976)
2000 QB Joe Montana (1979-1992)
2000 CB/FS Ronnie Lott (1981-1990)
2000 LB Dave Wilcox (1964-1974)
2005 QB Steve Young (1987-1999)
2008 DE Fred Dean (1981-1985)
2009 CB/FS Rod Woodson (1997)