Fred Dean became the 14th 49er elected to the Hall of Fame in one of the few upset victories San Francisco has recorded during the past few years.
Dean, whose stellar career ended in 1985, beat out guys like Cris Carter, Derrick Thomas, Randall McDaniel, and Richard Dent. He is the fifth Niner added this decade, joining the 2000 trio of Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, and Dave Wilcox and the 2005 election of Steve Young.
That's a pretty good run of Hall of Famers, and there are more to come.
In 2010, Jerry Rice will join the club and in 2013 Bryant Young should be added as well. Somewhere in between, or after, Roger Craig might find his way in.
It's all the fruit of seeds sewn in the 1980s, when the 49ers were the best team in the NFL, and the 1990s, when coaches George Seifert and Steve Mariucci stretched Bill Walsh's streak of six straight 10-win seasons to 16. Montana, Lott, Rice, Craig, and both Youngs were all a big part of that unprecedented run of success.
All but Rice, Craig, and Bryant Young are in the Hall. Rice—the best wide receiver in the history of the game of football—will go in as soon as he is eligible in 2010. Bryant Young, the 49ers' defensive anchor for 14 years, will merit first-ballot consideration in 2013.
Craig has already been eligible for 10 years and has yet to sniff the finalists list. Maybe he never will, but he certainly should be considered. He's just as deserving as Terrell Davis, who has been a semifinalist in each of his two years of eligibility.
Let's say this: If Davis gets in, Craig should too.
Davis' resume is short but quite impressive: seven seasons, three Pro Bowls, two Super Bowl titles, 1996 offensive player of the year, 1997 Super Bowl MVP, 1998 NFL MVP after rushing for 2,008 yards, and a member of the NFL's all-decade team of the 1990s.
Craig was never an MVP or 2,000-yard rusher, but he can rival Davis in all of the other accolades. Over 11 seasons, Craig went to four Pro Bowls, won three Super Bowls, was named offensive player of the year in 1988, and was voted to the league's 1980s team.
While Davis became the third man to rush for 2,000 yards, Craig became the first running back to tally 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in one season (1985). He also led the NFL with 92 receptions in 1985 and eclipsed 2,000 total yards again in 1988.
So MVPs aside, Craig was every bit as productive as Davis. If the former Denver Bronco is eventually inducted, the guy who did everything for the 49ers' dynasty of the 1980s deserves to be there too.
But even if Craig has to wait a little (or a lot) longer, the 49ers have Rice and Bryant Young. The Niners already have had a pretty good Hall of Fame run, and they aren't done.
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