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49ers great Roger Craig not chosen for Pro Football Hall of Fame, but there is reason for optimism

Marc Adams
Aug 23, 2023 at 1:20 PM--

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With all due respect to 49ers reporter, Matt Maiocco, his text ruined my day. I knew today would be the day the Hall of Fame Seniors Class of 2024 would be announced. I had waited patiently but still had not heard anything, so I texted Maiocco, a Hall of Famer voter himself, to see if he knew when the news would drop. He replied, "In about 10 minutes. And it's not good news."

I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. So many people went to bat for Craig (which is ridiculous that we even have to do so) and were hopeful that this would be the year the 49ers great would be selected for enshrinement. But it just wasn't his year.

And yet, even in the disappointment, there was a glimmer of hope. It came first in Maiocco's follow-up text, in which he told me that it was close and that he believed next year could be the year. Of course, a lot can change in a year, but it's nice to hear a positive take.

And Maiocco has good reason to be hopeful.

Throughout this process, I worked with Valerie Panou, from Eddie DeBartolo's office. She works in the area of marketing. Not only does Panou work with DeBartolo, but her husband, Rick Stroud, covers the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the Tampa Bay Times. So Panou has a great understanding of how the Hall of Fame voting process works, and she's been very helpful to me from the time I started writing about Craig's Hall of Fame Case in 2021.

I spoke with Panou after the new senior class was announced, and she told me she spoke with a couple of Hall of Fame senior voters. The voters expressed to her how close the vote was. They told her Craig made it down to the final six. This is good news and shows progress.

How so? Craig made the final twelve of senior candidates. Last year, he did not. And this year, he made it to the final six, which he had not previously done. Additionally, Panou said the voters she spoke with told her that there was more discussion about Craig at the meeting than any other candidate. Each candidate has a voter who makes his case for the Hall of Fame. After the case is made, others can get up and add to the discussion. From what Panou was told, there were a number of voters who stood and helped make Craig's case.

This is really important because as Panou has been told, "If the talk about the candidate is dead, the candidate is dead." Meaning, it's a very good thing when there's a lot of discussion about a candidate, and it's bad when there's not any discussion. Not only was there more discussion about Craig than any other candidate, but the discussion was all positive.

Randy Gradishar, Steve McMichael, and Art Powell were the senior candidates who were elected to the 2024 Pro Football Hall of Fame class. And while I believe Craig should have been one of the three, that is no indictment on any of the selections. They all deserve it.

One interesting thing, about McMichael being selected, is when we recorded "The Hall of Fame Case for Roger Craig," I spoke with multiple Hall of Fame voters, including Clark Judge and Rick Gosselin. Both talked about the fact that, by and large, when a player ages out of the regular Hall of Fame candidacy, and into the senior candidacy, his chances of making it to Canton go way down. This is something the voters struggle with because so many of these players are worthy, but many will never make it.

Judge explained that they want to try and avoid situations like what happened with Ken Stabler, who passed away before he was enshrined. They want to get those players inducted while they're alive, so they can enjoy it. It's the main reason that up to three seniors can now be chosen. Previously, it was only one.

With McMichael's fading health, due to ALS, it's possible that some voters were swayed by the realization that the former Bears great won't be with us much longer. Panou said she was told the voter who made the case for McMichael was very compelling. Again, that doesn't mean McMichael doesn't deserve it. We can only hope the news that he has finally been selected has lifted McMichael's spirits, even if only a little.

And if what Maiocco, Panou, and others have said, Roger Craig may very well be elected a year from now. So there is reason to be optimistic...even on a day of disappointment.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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