RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

Steve Young and Larry Krueger looking to champion cause to get 49ers great Roger Craig in the Hall of Fame

Sep 14, 2019 at 11:00 AM--

Five years after former San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore retires, he will likely hear his name called as an inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Of course, who knows when that will be? He is on his third NFL team since his time in San Francisco and has given little indication that he is even thinking about hanging it up.

Another former 49ers running back who should be in the Hall of Fame is the player who changed the way many looked at the position, Roger Craig. The 49ers great wasn't just great carrying the football, rushing for over 1,000 yards three times and once for 1,502 yards, but he was an excellent receiver.

Craig became the first NFL player to have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season (1985). He also had 2,036 total yards from scrimmage in 1988 with 1,502 of those yards coming while rushing the football. It's hard to believe the versatile running back's bust isn't already in Canton.

"You go to the All-Decades Teams, running backs in the All-Decade Team from [the 1980s], Walter Payton, Eric Dickerson, John Riggins, Roger Craig," Krueger told former 49ers quarterback Steve Young during a KNBR interview this week. "Those three guys are in, and Roger should be in, and I'm just kind of wondering if you think it's a doable thing and what it would take to get him in."

Young said there are three guys he would love to see get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame — Craig, former executive John McVay, and former tight end Brent Jones. He also went on to add former offensive lineman Harris Barton to the list.

"Roger is the obvious one," Young continued, "so Larry, if you want to start it and I'll jump in, or you want me to start it, and you jump in."

Craig rushed for 7,064 yards on 1,686 carries with 50 touchdowns and had 4,442 receiving yards with 16 receiving touchdowns during his eight seasons with the 49ers. He went on to spend a season with the Oakland Raiders and then two with the Minnesota Vikings.

Current 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan would probably love to have a player as versatile as Craig within his offense. His ideal running back is one who is a threat, both rushing and receiving out of the backfield.

Craig himself thought he would have been inducted into the Hall of Fame by now.

"I thought I'd go in a long time ago," Craig said last year. "It's kind of funny all these other guys went in before me when I kind of changed the game for the millennials today. You think of the millennials today; you have to catch the ball. They're running our system -- the West Coast offense.

Added Craig: "For me, being the first to do the thousand-thousand and being an all-purpose kind of running back, I see a lot of those guys today, and I'm like, 'Wow, man, that's what I used to do.'"

Young, who currently works for ESPN, believes there is an innate bias against West Coast players, like Craig.

"I just feel like it's harder to get in from the West Coast," Young said. "[...] I always feel like we're pushing a little uphill to get the 49ers of that great era of the '80s and '90s, to get them in the Hall of Fame, but we should push all we can, no question about it."

If Craig is to get in, it will have to be as a senior candidate now, which is a much tougher path to the Hall of Fame thanks to the logjam of deserving former players. Craig, however, is a three-time Super Bowl champion, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, a first-team All-Pro, and was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 1988, so the push is deserving.

Craig is already in the Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame.

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